For a few days each month, about 85% of women on their periods find themselves suffering from at least one PMS symptom. Whether it’s cramps that interfere with gym time or mood swings that take a toll on your social life, these symptoms can throw a wrench into our routines.
While exercise can do amazing things, we can’t ignore how powerful our diets are. On our periods, we crave things like chocolate, sugar, and salt in an attempt to meet our body’s fuel needs while it’s shedding its uterine lining, which is no easy task! We reward our body for its impressive feats with junk food -- but healthy foods are the real gold medal we should be awarding.
Keep your iron levels high. About 20% of menstruating women report iron deficiency -- a problem that’s notorious around that time of the month. Red meats will help you replenish your iron stores, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a burger or steak right before your period starts.
Look out for your other levels, too. Iron isn’t the only nutrient that women are often missing. Women in one study got at 1,200 mg per day reported a 48% reduction in their PMS symptoms. Loading up on almonds, broccoli, and a little dairy will help you hit this goal.
Beat the bloat. Caffeine, carbonation, and alcohol will bloat and irritate your stomach, elevating the pain that period cramps already cause.
As always, stay hydrated. A family-sized bag of potato chips may sound like the only cure for your cravings, but make sure you’re not just thirsty. We often crave salt as a way to help us retain water when we’re too dehydrated. Pass the giant pretzel in favor of a bottle of water.
Feed your placebo. Sometimes, even the thought of scarfing down a bowl of mashed potatoes is enough to make your body feel better. Swap out the starchy potatoes for cauliflower, or substitute other healthy options for your favorite comfort food recipes to keep your mind and body happy.
Avoid simple carbohydrates. Complex carbs like beans and whole grains will give you more energy than potatoes and white bread. Your skin is more likely to stay clear if you’re avoiding simple carbs, too.