If you're like 31 million women in the US, you suffer some level of discomfort, pain or bloating once a month––and are likely gripped by the need to eat sugary food as well, according to a  Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS). But here’s the good news––you can take healthy steps to alleviate your symptoms naturally through eating healthy plant-based foods.

Health professionals recommend lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment for PMS symptoms, such as daily aerobic exercise and dietary changes. Amanda Nicole, a registered dietician, recommends a nutritious diet to ease discomfort and nourish your body. “Reducing sodium and alcohol in your diet may lower the risk of PMS. Sodium can contribute to water retention, swelling, and bloating, while alcohol can aggravate PMS symptoms,” she says. Many health pros recommend switching to a plant-based diet for those suffering severe PMS due to the powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients and minerals present in whole foods.

Here are the 5 best foods proven to help fight PMS

1. Soy foods such as tofu and edamame, rich in calcium

Craving a warm bowl of noodles? Add some tofu and edamame since these foods are rich in calcium––a mineral essential to our bodily functions such as vascular contraction, nerve transmission, and hormone release. A 2019 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology Science found that low levels of calcium exacerbated PMS symptoms, suggesting that a diet rich in this mineral can reduce or even eliminate PMS symptoms. Studies have also indicated how calcium also is great for hair growth and bone health, which is found in many plant-based foods.

2. Mushrooms are packed with vitamin D

Mushrooms are one of the only good plant-based sources of vitamin D––a fat-soluble vitamin essential for bone health. A study found that when some mushroom varieties, such as fresh button mushrooms are exposed to midday sunlight, they generate significant amounts of vitamin D2,  which fulfills your daily requirement of vitamin D. Vitamin D is also helpful in reducing PMS symptoms, according to a 2018 study published in Gynecological Endocrinology. Research indicated that vitamin D supplementation is associated with a reduction of several PMS symptoms such as a backache and painful cramps.

3. Dark chocolate with flavonoids to lift your mood

Feeling unusually low right before your period? Break a piece of a dark chocolate bar for that ultimate mood-boosting treat! Dark chocolate with high cocoa content is filled with flavonoids, an antioxidant that protects your body against everyday toxins and stressors. A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition found a link between flavonoids in cocoa and improvements in general cognition, attention, processing speed, and working memory––all of which are connected to mood regulation. The best chocolate is one with at least 70 percent or more cocoa solids as it’s full of ‘feel-good’ flavonoids but lower in sugar and fat.

4. Nuts and seeds filled with omega-3 fatty acids

Healthy fats such as certain nuts and seeds are filled with Omega-3 fatty acids, which gives you that energy boost and benefits both the body and the brain. Walnuts, for instance, have 2.5 grams of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) per ounce, greater than the 1.1 gram recommended amount for women, according to the NIH (National Institutes of Health. A 2017 study published in the Scholars Academic Journal of Pharmacy (SAJP) found that omega-3 fatty acids led to PMS relief in females. Findings suggested that these good fats can result in improved uterus function by the making of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (lipid compounds involved in dealing with injury and illness) and suppressing inflammatory prostaglandin.

5. Antioxidant-rich berries for their anti-inflammatory properties

Oxidative stress is linked to premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Colorful berries are extremely beneficial for individuals experiencing PMS as they are filled with antioxidants that may help reduce oxidative stress. They also help control free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause damage to your body when in high amounts. Berries contain polyphenols, which have been shown to help in the management of weight, indigestion, and even boost mood––providing PMS relief. Highbush blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries have the most polyphenols out of all berries––so snack on these to your heart's content.

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