Menstrual cramps are caused by uterine contractions that help the body shed the uterine lining. The enzyme bromelain in pineapple juice and fresh pineapple can aid in muscle relaxation.
A handful of pumpkin seeds provides a tasty dose of zinc, a mineral associated with cramp relief. Other sources of zinc include seafood, lean meats and legumes. Seeds and nuts are also high in vitamin E, which can help reduce inflammation.
Though your PMS cravings may be tempting you to scarf down a box of sugar crispies, opt for low-sugar, fortified whole-grain cereals, which are a soothing source of vitamin B6, a vitamin associated with cramp relief. Add a sliced banana and a handful of walnuts for an extra B6 boost.
Slather vitamin E-rich peanut butter on vitamin B-rich whole-wheat bread for an easy-to-fix comfort food to help fend off your cramps.
Replacing the saturated fats in your diet with healthy fats, such as omega-3s, can help put your PMS to rest. Try a tuna steak with a leafy green salad, or tuck tuna salad into a whole-wheat wrap. The lean protein in tuna also can stabilize your blood sugar and reduce food cravings.
Turnip greens are perhaps the last food you'd expect to fight cramps. Yet, they're a good source of vitamins E and C (antioxidants that can reduce inflammation), and calcium (a mineral reputed to help relieve PMS symptoms). Just saute a side of turnip greens for lunch or dinner. If greens aren't your thing, fill up on other fresh or lightly cooked vegetables, which are low in calories but loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other phytonutrients.
Certain foods can intensify PMS symptoms such as cramps. These foods tend to be high in sodium, sugar, fat and additives. Caffeinated beverages, alcohol, chocolate and aged cheeses are frequent offenders, as well. Keep a journal of how various foods make you feel and avoid the cramp-triggering culprits.
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