Michael Glab MS, RD, LDN
3 Foods to Try for Your Next PMS
Guest blogger - Kai Nemoto, UIC Dietetic Intern
Do you experience food cravings during PMS?
The demands from your brain and body feel like they force you to go extra miles to get the food you crave.
The worst part? You don’t even feel that much better after indulging in the food you craved. You feel that you failed at being healthy (again). But most importantly, you feel manipulated and lied to by your own brain and body.
You are not alone! PMS brain and body ARE high maintenance!
You plan to do your best. You do the best you can.
What is PMS?
PMS is short for Premenstrual Syndrome which is a set of both emotional and physical symptoms that appear a few days before the period. Emotional symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, depression, social withdrawal, changes in sleep needs and crying spells.
Physical symptoms include changes in thirst and appetite, bloating, weight gain, fatigue, aches and pains, breast tenderness and digestive issues.
The Ideal Nutrition during PMS is complicated
Unfortunately, there is no one magical food list or meal plan that makes PMS go away. Every body is biologically different and everyone lives in a different environment. You are your body’s only advocate and the main caretaker.
You can only compare your PMS eating to other PMS weeks, not to non-PMS weeks.
With that being said, here are 3 foods you can incorporate that may tame your PMS. The best practice is to incorporate these foods before PMS symptoms begin.
1. Whole Grains
Why? Whole grain is a complex carb which may reduce food cravings (1). It is also more nutritious than refined carbs (like white bread) as whole grains naturally contain B vitamins, fiber, and minerals like magnesium and iron.
Whole wheat, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, corn, brown rice, spelt, millet and more.
100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain breads are optimal choices
Sprouted grain breads are also solid choices
Try a couple different whole grain products to see which one(s) satisfy you the most, while still tasting great.
2. Low-Fat Yogurt
Why? Yogurt is rich in calcium which may help alleviate PMS symptoms such as depression, anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness, pains and aches.
Try higher protein yogurt options such as Greek or Skyr as they may be more satisfying.
Mix and match different brands to compare flavors and textures
3. Dark Chocolate (70% or more cacao)
Why? Rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc which may reduce symptoms similarly as calcium above.
Dark chocolate can be 50-100% cacao. The higher the percentage generally equals more nutrients. But you have to be able to enjoy it! Eat with berries on the side for additional sweetness.
Again, try a couple different brands and percentages to see which one(s) you like best.
REMEMBER - dark chocolate is still a HIGH calorie food (150-170 calories per ounce), so it is best practice to exercise mindfulness and/or portion control when consuming.
To recap: PMS management is affected by so many factors. What worked in one cycle may not work in the other. Do the best you can! Sometimes, PMS just wins and that’s okay. Try again next time!
If you have other medical conditions or dietary goals, talk to your dietitian and/or doctor.
If your “PMS” is longer than a week and/or interferes with your everyday life, it could be PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). If you suspect PMDD, track your symptoms for 2-3 cycles and bring it with you to talk to your doctor.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Updated May 2021. Accessed September 29, 2022. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/premenstrual-syndrome?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=otn
Shobeiri F, Araste FE, Ebrahimi R, Jenabi E, Nazari M. Effect of calcium on premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Obstetrics & gynecology science. 2017;60(1):100-105. doi:10.5468/ogs.2017.60.1.100
Harvard School of Public Health. Dark Chocolate. The Nutrition Source. Updated September 15, 2022. Accessed September 29, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/