Mood swings, irritability, bloating . . . who needs it? Premenstrual syndrome affects an estimated 40% of American women. Studies have found that eating certain foods may help decrease those pesky symptoms.
A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst found that women who ate the highest amount of calcium (around 1,200 milligrams a day) were 30% less likely to develop PMS than women who ate much lower amounts (530 milligrams per day). One cup of nonfat plain yogurt has about 40% of your daily recommended dose (400 milligrams).
Other calcium-rich foods: milk, calcium-fortified orange juice and soy milk, kale, bok choy
Vitamin D and calcium work together to help keep bones strong. The same study conducted at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst found that women who took in more vitamin D from food showed a similar risk reduction as when eating a high-calcium diet. Three ounces of cooked salmon has over 100% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin D.
Other vitamin-D rich foods: tuna, vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice, sardines
Vitamin B6 has long been studied in the fight against PMS with mixed results. Some studies do show that getting enough of the vitamin can help reduce irritability, breast tenderness, and depression. Whether or not the studies are conclusive, adding more vitamin B6 rich foods into your diet won’t hurt. Made from vitamin B-rich chickpeas, hummus is a wonderful ingredient to spread on sandwiches or for dipping.
Other vitamin B-6 rich foods: fortified whole grain cereals, lean meats, oatmeal, bananas, lentils
Magnesium is another nutrient that has been found to be lacking in women with PMS symptoms. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women with PMS who took magnesium supplements report being in a better mood than those who did not. But there’s no need to pop pills, you can get plenty of this mineral through food. One half cup of amaranth has 20% of your daily recommended amount of magnesium.
Other magnesium-rich foods: Cashews, spinach, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sweet potatoes, millet
Throughout the menstrual cycle blood levels of manganese fluctuate and developing research has found that manganese along with calcium can help improve PMS symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, depression and tension. More studies do need to be conducted to determine if it’s indeed manganese that’s helping, but in the meantime it’s a good idea to add foods rich in manganese especially during those times when PMS rears its ugly head. One cup of pineapple chunks has 76% of your daily recommended amount of manganese—top it on cottage cheese or yogurt or skewer and grill it
Other manganese-rich foods: pecans, wheat germs, peanuts, quinoa, brown rice
#6: Chamomile tea
Sit back and relax those cramping muscles with a warm cup of chamomile tea. This tea has been shown to relieve muscle spasms and can help reduce anxiety and irritability.
#7 Pumpkin Seeds
Studies have shown that zinc levels are lower in women who have PMS. One of the functions of zinc is to help control sex hormones. One quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has about 17% of your daily recommended amount of zinc. Add to a trail mix or top on yogurt or hot cereal.
Other zinc-rich foods: oysters, crab, fortified whole grain cereal, pork, almonds, yogurt
Foods to Avoid
These foods can worsen PMS symptoms—you’ll probably want to avoid them, especially when symptoms are at their worst.
- Alcohol: It can increase breast tenderness and lower blood sugar levels, making mood swings (if you get them) even worse. If you do choose to consume alcohol, your friends and family will probably benefit if you drank in moderation.
- Salty foods: They cause water retention and bloating.
- Caffeine: It can lead to increased irritability and breast tenderness. Choose decaffeinated or herbal varieties of tea and coffee instead.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »