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Dairy is rich in calcium and vitamin D, which have been shown to prevent PMS symptoms. "One study (opens in new tab) found that women with the most vitamin D in their diets had a 40% lower risk for PMS compared to women who had the least D in their diets," says Julie Upton, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Appetite for Health (opens in new tab). She adds that skim and low-fat milk (opens in new tab) were also linked with a lower risk for PMS in the same study. "And since low-fat cheese is made from these milks, it's a great option for boosting the calcium and vitamin D in your diet," Upton says.
The same goes for this beloved breakfast and snack, says Upton. "For this purpose, you'll want regular—not strained Greek or other styles of strained yogurt—because straining reduces the calcium and depletes vitamin D," says Upton. "Just make sure that it's not loaded with added sugars," she advises. Also, researchers from UCLA (opens in new tab) discovered that the beneficial bacteria (a.k.a. the probiotics (opens in new tab)) in yogurt may alter brain function in a good way, due to the positive effects it has on the gut flora.
The slightly bitter, leafy green "is a terrific source of vitamin A, which may regulate hormone fluctuations (opens in new tab) that occur during PMS," says Erin Palinski-Wade, (opens in new tab) a registered dietitian and author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies (opens in new tab). "In addition, it's a great source of fiber, which can help prevent gastrointestinal-related PMS symptoms, such as constipation and bloat." And this nutrient-dense veggie is also loaded with riboflavin, (vitamin B2), which studies (opens in new tab) have found could reduce a woman's risk of developing PMS by 35%.
"Pineapple is a fabulous source of manganese, a nutrient that may help fight against PMS-related irritability," says Palinski-Wade. She adds that the tropical fruit also features potassium, which can fight bloating (opens in new tab). "And don't forget the sweetness from a fresh pineapple can curb those sugar cravings (opens in new tab)."
A popular pick-me-up in Asian cuisine, this soybean may lessen PMS-related bloat, thanks to its magnesium, says Palinski-Wade. A study (opens in new tab) published in the Journal of Women's Health discovered that a magnesium supplement reduced fluid retention during that time of the month. "Plus, it can help lift your mood and energy levels," adds Palinski-Wade. Research has found that magnesium deficiency can play a vital role in major depression and related mental health problems.
One bowl of fresh-cooked oatmeal (like steel-cut, which tends to be the least processed) provides a healthy source of magnesium, as well as vitamin B6, which encourages the body to produce dopamine (the mood messenger in the brain) and serotonin (the peaceful messenger). Researchers (opens in new tab) actually found this vitamin-and-mineral combo combats a number of PMS symptoms, from depression and anxiety to headaches, muscle aches and water retention.
Upton says this seafood is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D. "In fact, a 3-ounce serving of wild salmon packs in about 800 IU of it—that's more than the 600 IU recommended by the Institute of Medicine!" she says. Salmon's also a mood booster: Along with offering a good dose of vitamin B6, it's packed with omega-3 fatty acids, (opens in new tab) which have been found to be effective when treating patients with major depressive disorder.
A study (opens in new tab) that appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that women who ate about 20 mg of iron per day were 30% to 40% less likely to develop PMS compared to women who didn't. "That 20 mg per day is higher than the current recommended daily allowance, 18 mg per day, for premenopausal women," says senior study author Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson from the University of Massachusetts. You can hit that iron sweet spot in 1 to 1.5 servings per day of iron-fortified cereal. Bertone-Johnson and her colleagues say iron's ability to produce serotonin, a mood stabilizer, may be why it's helpful in the PMS battle.
One serving of these mildly nutty seeds contains about 80% of the recommended daily requirement of vitamin E, which may reduce menstrual pain. In a small Brazilian study (opens in new tab), women who received a higher dose of vitamin E saw the biggest improvements in their PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms. The study authors believe vitamin E reduced the effects of the hormone prolactin, which can contribute to cramps, weight gain and breast tenderness. And that's not all—sunflower seeds also contain the anti-belly bloat mineral magnesium and mood-regulator and -lifter vitamin B6.
Start brewing! According to a study (opens in new tab) published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, this soothing drink may relieve menstrual cramps. "This tea may increase levels of glycine, an amino acid that's been found to provide muscle spasm relief," explains Palinski-Wade. Another similar study (opens in new tab) shows that chamomile tea may reduce muscle spasms from gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders. Palinski-Wade suggests sipping 1 to 2 cups on cramp-filled days.
Amy Capetta has been writing health and lifestyle articles for over 15 years. Her work has appeared in Weight Watchers, Woman’s Day and Prevention, as well as on AOL, Redbookmag.com, TODAY.com and Yahoo Health. When she’s not on deadline or speaking with a nutritionist, doctor or wellness guru, she’s more than likely tweeting, power walking or creating a fruit and veggie smoothie.
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