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5 Foods That Reduce PMS Symptoms (And 3 That Make Them Worse)

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    Best for: Cramping

    Aside from their rich and creamy texture, which pairs well with just about anything, avocados are nutritional powerhouses because they host a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. So if you find you're curled up on the couch in pain more often than you're standing up, it might be time to rock some guac. "[Avocados are] high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help fight inflammation and relieve pain due to menstrual cramping," says Kristen Carlucci, RDN, a wellness coach and registered dietitian in New York City. "Try adding a few slices to a sandwich wrap, or whip up a guacamole to dip fresh vegetables into for a snack." For breakfast, we like adding it to your morning smoothie or using it to make avocado toast (try this recipe).

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    Best for: Irritability, fatigue

    Repeat after us: Fat is not always your worst enemy. In fact, the fatty acids found in salmon, almonds, and olive oil can be excellent for your general health—especially during that time of the month. A recent study in Reproductive Health found that taking capsules with about a gram of three essential fatty acids significantly relieved PMS symptoms. To get those same benefits without a pill, reach for the pink fish. "Salmon is the premier food source of the fatty acids DHA and EPA, which can help boost mood and reduce those PMS blues," says Rima Kleiner, MS, a registered dietitian based in Greensboro, North Carolina. "It's also rich in B vitamins, like vitamin B6, which can help reduce irritability and breast tenderness, and vitamin B12, which helps boost energy." We love these salmon burgers, mostly because you can make the tasty mixture in your blender.

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    Brazil Nuts

    Best for: Breakouts

    You know those large, oval nuts you find in almost any variety pack? They're jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants that work wonders for your skin. "Brazil nuts are helpful in reducing breakouts that may occur during our menstrual cycle," says Carlucci. "They contain vital nutrients including selenium, vitamin E, and other fatty acids that help hydrate the skin, neutralize oil production, and reduce skin inflammation to prevent unwanted breakouts." So next time you make an energizing trail mix for a pre- or post-workout snack, load up on Brazil's finest. Carlucci suggests a combination of Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, raisins, and shaved coconut for maximum skin protection and a bonus energy boost.

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    Nonfat Yogurt

    Best for: Bloating, food cravings

    You might think straying from dairy will ease your tummy troubles, but the probiotics and calcium found in yogurt are a triple threat against period symptoms. "Foods high in calcium have been shown to decrease the amount of menstrual cramps, likely because it's relieving a natural calcium deficiency in your myometrium [a layer of the uterine wall] during menstruation," says Shelton. It also tames those time-of-the-month cravings and bloat, as it helps reduce water retention, says Jolene Brighten, ND, a naturopathic doctor specializing in women's health and hormonal issues in Oakland, California. But if you struggle with acne or are sensitive to hormonal outbreaks during that time of the month, Brighten suggests avoiding dairy products, as it may worsen breakouts. Instead, find calcium in vegetables like broccoli and green snap peas, or even sardines.

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    Dark Chocolate

    Best for: Fatigue

    Chocolate lovers of the world, rejoice! Thanks to dark chocolate's antioxidant levels and endorphin-boosting qualities, these bittersweet bars of heaven are not off the menu during your period. "Chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, and this makes us feel energized, which can help the fatigue and brain fog that is often a part of PMS," says Shelton. Consider that permission to indulge in a few squares during your next afternoon slump—or you can try grating it over a bowl of oatmeal for a morning kick.

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    Skip It: Caffeine

    When your energy's plummeting fast, be careful not to use coffee or soda as a crutch. "Caffeine is a stimulant that causes stronger and more painful uterine contractions during our periods," says Carlucci. Translation: Your cramps could get much, much worse. And that unwanted bloat that shows up before you've even had breakfast? Your cup of joe could be to blame. "Food and beverages high in sugar and caffeine can aggravate PMS symptoms and cause even more bloating," says Shelton. Instead, reach for caffeine-free tea, decaf coffee, and water until your next cycle begins, suggests Carlucci.

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    Skip It: Salty Foods

    The foods that we tend to crave most during our periods—queue the salty chips, sugary treats, and fast-food parade—unfortunately cause more harm than good when it comes to relieving cramps and bloat. "We already retain excess water during our periods, and eating a diet high in salt can make bloating and menstrual pain even worse," says Carlucci. "Try to stay under 2300 mg of sodium per day, or under 1500 mg per day if you have a history of high blood pressure." Take the time to read over the nutrition labels of any processed soups, snacks, or beverages to keep a low sodium count, and fill up on water to help curb cravings.

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    Skip It: Alcohol

    As much as we love to relax with a glass of wine after work, you may want to skip this ritual when you're on your period. "Alcohol naturally dries out the body, causing you to retain excess fluids," says Carlucci. Enter excess bloating and through-the-roof junk-food cravings. Not good. If you can't give up alcohol entirely, Carlucci suggests checking in while you have your period. "My clients keep a monthly tracker and rate themselves on how they feel," says Carlucci. "It's the best way to judge whether you can have one or two drinks without consequence, or you should hold off until your period has passed."