You can eat your way to clear skin, healthy hair, a better memory, and even a happier you. Food really is medicine. But is it better than Midol? Perhaps, if you're using—er, eating—it the right way. But on the other hand, there are several foods you'll want to steer completely clear of when your monthly bill comes in.
While it may be tempting to reach for a can of soda or a piece of fried chicken to comfort your raging hormones, you're actually doing a ton of harm both internally and externally (like even more period pain. No thanks). Scroll through to learn the best foods to add to your grocery list and which foods you should avoid during your period.
Sugary, carbonated drinks like soda contribute to bloating. Stick to water instead. Upping your water intake will actually ease water retention and bloating.
Avoid sparkling water too. Just like soda, the carbonation will increase bloating.
Another culprit in the bloating game? High-sodium foods. Processed foods are the biggest source of sodium in your diet. Avoid anything that comes in a package, and you'll keep salt intake down and your belly bloat, too.
Cut back on foods containing trans fats, which elevate estrogen levels, to reduce pain during your period. That means fried foods are out. Also, avoid anything with hydrogenated vegetable oil on the ingredient list.
Kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and all legumes cause bloating. Keep them off your plate to keep discomfort to a minimum.
Refined grains, like all processed foods, lose much of their nutrient content. This causes them to interfere with blood sugar and regular appetite control. Both factors are concerns during your period. Choose whole grains over white bread, pasta, cereal, rice, crackers, cakes, and cookies.
High-fat foods have a strong effect on hormone activity in the body. Like trans fats, saturated fats can contribute to period pain and inflammation. Avoid heavy meats and dairy to keep your fat intake down, which also regulates estrogen levels.
When you're menstruating, your iron levels can take a dip, which is why cravings for iron-rich foods during this time are common. But instead of reaching for a cheeseburger, choose leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard to replenish your body's iron supply.
Consuming calcium reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. Vitamin D regulates the enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Together, calcium and vitamin D ward off PMS symptoms. Find the winning combo in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and leafy greens like the ones mentioned above.
High levels of calcium can also ease cramps, aches, and pains, acting as a muscle relaxant.
Bananas are one of the best mood-boosting foods you can eat thanks to its high dose of vitamin B6. They're rich in potassium and magnesium, too, which can reduce water retention and bloat. They also help regulate your digestive system, which some women struggle with around this time of the month.
When the sweets cravings hit, reach for a piece of fruit. Whole fruits provide all the nutrients you need to combat weakness and fatigue. Plus, the natural sugars in fruits like watermelon, plums, figs, and berries help alleviate bloating.
Salmon is the answer to all of your period cramp woes. It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which work to relax your muscles, relieving pain. You can also get your omega-3s from walnuts, avocados, pumpkin, and flaxseeds.
Broccoli contains all of the nutrients that play a role in easing PMS symptoms—magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, B6, and E. Fill your plate to boost your mood, fight fatigue, and combat depression.
Dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium, which not only tempers moods swings, but it also helps regulate serotonin—the happy hormone. To get the serotonin boost, stick with chocolate that's 60% cacao or higher. Try some of our favorites, like Antidote and Esthechoc.
This post was originally published on April 27, 2016.