Painful PMS symptoms—headaches, cramps, and bloating!—aren’t always a cut-and-dried case of hormones being hormones.
The truth is, there are lots of things that could be making your periods more agonizing, one being insufficient magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health, most of us aren’t getting enough of the mineral—and many of us don’t absorb all of the magnesium we consume thanks to interfering factors like stress, caffeine, and alcohol.
“Magnesium is especially important during your period because as estrogen and progesterone are elevated, magnesium is depleted,” says Los Angeles-based certified holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque, who notes that the mineral is also involved in dozens of biochemical reactions that affect our muscles, bones, heart, and immune systems. (Many MDs would back her up on this.)
As for period-specific problems, she says: “A magnesium deficiency can contribute to migraines and increased PMS symptoms like bloating, dizziness, fluid retention, and sugar cravings.”
Luckily, most of us don’t need to pop yet another supplement pill to get our recommended 300mg a day. LeVeque recommends bulking up your PMS-week meals with these seven magnesium-rich foods—chocolate included (hallelujah!).
(Photo: Sander Smeekes)
In case you needed another reason to add a handful of greens to every meal—aside from the fact that they boost immunity and detoxify—they’re also great sources of magnesium. Says LeVeque: “From spinach to Swiss chard to kale, dark green, leafy superfoods are the easiest way to fulfill your need for magnesium.” To illustrate just how potent these veggies are, just one cup of spinach boasts over 150mg of magnesium—half of your daily requirement.
According to LeVeque, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish aren’t just great for getting glowing skin (always welcome during a period-induced breakout)—they also pack a punch of magnesium. “Mackerel and tuna are great options, but salmon might be the best,” she says. “It’s high in magnesium, as well as vitamin D and vitamin B12.” Lots of people are deficient in these, too.
Could artichokes be the perfect PMS food? Not only does one ‘choke provide 20 percent of your daily magnesium requirement, but they also help banish bloating. Add in the 10 grams of fiber you’ll get in each one, and you’ve got “a powerful tool to keep you regular and improve your digestive health overall,” says LeVeque.
Sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds have lots of magnesium, says LeVeque. “Just an ounce can offer close to 100 mg.” She recommends tossing them them into salads or stir-fries, along with snacking on them solo.
“Another reason avocado toast should be on the menu? You guessed it, magnesium,” says LeVeque. And if your PMS symptoms include ravenous hunger, the nutritionist says there’s another reason why avocados are key (step away from the cookie dough!). “Avocados and avocado oil are high in monounsaturated oleic acid, which slows the absorption of your meal and keeps you satisfied longer.” (Be sure to read these tips before you stock up.)
Yes, almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts are rich in magnesium, but LeVeque says they also do double duty as a mega source of protein, fiber, and unsaturated fat—perfect for those low-energy pre-menstrual days when the last thing you want to do is concoct a balanced snack. And with so many simple hacks to jazz up your nuts, you’ll never get bored.
If you crave chocolate during your period, blame it on science. “A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85 percent cocoa contains 58 percent of the RDA for magnesium,” says LeVeque. She adds that, with each chocolate fix, you’ll also be getting loads of fiber, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Just choose a bar without much added sugar—another thing that contributes to magnesium depletion.
You’ll be hearing about magnesium and other minerals a whole lot more this year. Check out our Wellness Trends to find out why… And here’s a super cool way to get more magnesium from your body oil or bath water. We’re not kidding.