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The PMS and PMDD Balance Diet—What to Eat for PMS

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Dr. Daniel J. Heller Dr. Daniel J. Heller

Dr. Heller is a family practitioner who specializes in helping patients with hormonal conditions like PMS & PMDD; diabetes and prediabetes; and other chronic diseases. He is the founder, formulator, and clinical director of PMS Comfort. [more]


Don't let the word "diet" scare you off: the diet for PMS and PMDD isn't about counting calories or stepping on a scale or starving yourself to fit into a dress. Diet is a word that simply means "what you eat." It's about feeding your body right so your hormones and your menstrual cycle can get, and stay in balance. That old saying, "You are what you eat" was never more true than when talking about how food can help cure PMS and PMDD.

We're often asked, "What does food have to do with hormones, PMS, and PMDD?" In fact, every hormone and cell in your body is made out of what you eat, and is constantly responding to changes in your body as a result of what you eat. So diet has everything to do with keeping you balanced and feeling like yourself all month long. What's more, a diet that supports healthy hormonal balance, and that helps relieve PMDD and PMS offers the added benefit of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, your weight more manageable, and your complexion youthful and clear.

The PMS and PMDD Balance Diet

Our PMS Balance Diet is simple. Healthy plant foods, high-quality proteins, good fats, and very little junk food will do wonders for your cycle and your hormonal balance. Several of our other articles discuss food and diet for PMS and PMDD symptoms, but the PMS Comfort Balance Diet is the blueprint for an optimal health diet. It's based on two foundations: our many years of experience helping thousands of women with premenstrual symptoms get back in balance and feeling well again, using healthy diet; and hundreds of hours poring through old and new scientific research so we could find out exactly what is the healthiest way to eat. No fad diets here, and no confusion about what to eat and what is good for you. We've sorted through all that for you. And the PMS Comfort Diet lays the foundation of a healthy diet for everyone, not just women with premenstrual symptoms.

What to Eat to Prevent and Relieve PMS

The PMS Balance Diet is a plant-based diet: nutrition researchers are now largely in agreement, after decades of controversy, that the best health comes from a diet rich in healthy plant foods, high-quality protein, healthy fats, and minimal junk food. We've made it as simple and portable as possible:

  • Eat your vegetables. You can't go wrong with veggies. They're great raw, in salads, or cooked: steamed, sautéed, grilled, baked...or just rely on your creativity. Fresh vegetables are best; frozen are second-best; and canned vegetables are a last choice. If you use canned, look for the least amount of salt, and buy tin rather than aluminum cans. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. Grandma was right: eat your vegetables.

    Veggie Tip: Go French-fry-free. Choose colorful, low-starch vegetables like leafy greens and cabbage family vegetables over starchy vegetables like potatoes. Also, don't forget, corn is a grain and peas are a legume or bean: they don't count as vegetables. The best starchy vegetables are root vegetables like parsnip, yam, and carrots.

  • Enjoy fruits. Fruits are fantastic raw or cooked (think baked apples, not apple pie.) Fruit is naturally sweet, and high in the same beneficial nutrients as vegetables. Like vegetables, fresh is best; frozen is second best, and canned is a last choice. If you get canned, get the kind that's canned in water or its own or other fruit juices, not in syrup.

    Fruit Tip: Limit your fruit juice. Fruit juice is mostly sugar and water, and doesn't have the fiber of whole fruit. We recommend enjoying it in moderation, four times per week maximum, for most people.

  • Rely on whole grains: Whole grains are an ideal staple energy food. Whole wheat, oats, rye, barley, brown rice, wild rice, corn, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat contain fiber, heart-healthy plant sterols, plus they're filling. To the degree you can, eat grain as close as possible to its whole form. Thus, brown rice, wild rice, Irish or Scottish oats, and cracked wheat are whole or nearly whole, whereas even whole-wheat flour is highly processed. However, for practicality's sake, whole-wheat and rye breads and crackers are a convenient source of whole grains; are still far superior to white flour and white bread; and they're super healthy.

    Grain Tip: When it comes to whole-grain breads, the buyer must beware. Many breads marketed as whole-grain contain whole wheat flour but are made, in reality, from mostly white flour (also labeled unbleached or enriched wheat flour). The first ingredient in whole-grain bread should be whole-grain flour. The best whole-grain breads contain no white flour, and are hardy and toothsome. If you're used to very light white bread, whole-grain bread may take some getting used to—but it's worth it.

    Gluten-Free Tip: More and more people are going gluten-free these days, and if you have reason to believe you're sensitive to gluten or prone to celiac disease, you'll need to avoid wheat, oats, barley, rye, and triticale. Superlative substitutes include rice, wild rice, corn, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat, all of which are gluten free and have all the benefits of the other whole grains. Beans are another great source alternative to gluten-containing grains.

  • Don't forget beans, peas, and legumes. Many people aren't used to including beans in their diet these days, but beans make a delicious addition to soups and salads, and since most beans are largely carbohydrate, they can be used as a variation on whole grains. They are also one of the best sources of fiber, and of heart-healthy plant sterols.

    Bean Tip: Soybeans, unlike most other beans, are high in protein and low in starch.

  • Have some nuts. A wonderful source of protein and a great source of healthy fats, nuts are a tasty health food—and we love their crunch. Eaten to excess, of course, nuts can be fattening, so it's wise to eat them in modest amounts. One or two handfuls of nuts per day—the equivalent of a couple of tablespoons of nut butter—won't build up on your waistline and will give you all the healthy benefits. Keep in mind: the healthiest nuts are the tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. Peanuts are a legume, or bean, although their fat and protein content makes them, along with soy, unique among legumes.

    Tips for Nuts: One reason it's so easy to overeat nuts is because salted, fried nuts keep you wanting more. Instead, choose unsalted nuts that don't list oil in the ingredients—dry-roasted or raw nuts, in other words. We recommend you buy your nuts at a store that sells plenty of them; that way they're more likely to be fresh. You can roast raw nuts yourself in the oven or toaster oven. Sweeter nuts, like pecans and cashews, cook more quickly, so set a timer or watch closely, so they don't burn.

  • Choose healthy fats. Extra-virgin olive oil is the perfect cooking and culinary oil, and is full of healthy benefits. You can use it straight from the bottle on vegetables, grains, beans, and salads, or include it in sautés and sauces. For higher-temperature cooking, such as skillet or stir-frying, we recommend lighter oils like canola or peanut, because they have higher smoke points. The other essential healthy oils are the omega-3s from cold-water fish like wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, as well as sardines. Other fish contain healthy omega-3 fats, though many, like tuna, also contain mercury, a serious toxin. Many people choose to get their omega-3s from fish oil supplements. Flaxseed and walnuts provide a vegetarian source of omega-3 fats, though fish-derived omega-3s are considered more beneficial.
    Tips for Fats:
    • If you can develop a taste for olive oil, try using it in place of butter. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil is much healthier than saturated butterfat. Think of butter as a treat—occasional use is fine, but not a good choice for everyday use.
    • Oil is easily damaged by light, so look for oils packaged in green glass or metal containers.
    • While organic oil ideal, it isn't always available or affordable, so choose the best you can find.
  • Healthy protein, but don't overdo it. Non-fat or low-fat dairy products, poultry, lean beef and pork, fish and seafood, and eggs are all excellent sources of protein (nuts, seeds, and soybeans are good, too). The world of nutrition can sometimes seem very conflicted about the best way to eat protein, so don't worry if you've found this subject confusing. When it comes to protein, the first factor to weigh is whether it is high in saturated fats, as is true of eggs, full-fat beef, and full-fat dairy. You're usually better off substituting vegetable fats (olive, sunflower, or canola, for instance) or fish oil for saturated fat. The second factor: most Americans tend to eat too much protein. Most people don't need to eat such great big portions of protein three times per day, but including some protein in each meal and snack may be helpful to you if it helps to keep your blood sugar stable, which will in turn keep your energy levels and moods steadier. For people who don't have hypoglycemia problems, one or two moderate sized servings of protein per day is often enough.
  • A dash of wine or other alcohol. A glass, or even half a glass, of wine every night is healthy for most people. We consider red wine preferable to white wine, since it is higher in antioxidants. That said, most research shows that white wine, beer, and even hard liquor also lower risk of heart disease and other health problems—when consumed in moderation. Once you increase your alcohol consumption to more than a drink or two per day, alcohol becomes unhealthy. Of course, some people don't do well at all with alcohol, so this recommendation truly needs to be custom-tailored to each individual. We've met women whose PMS and PMDD improved quite a bit when they quit drinking.
  • Seasonings, herbs and spices. Herbs and seasonings are the spice of life, and they're certainly the spice of the dinner table. Most of them are health powerhouses, packed with antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory; garlic is anti-microbial and heart-healthy; turmeric, the coloring in curry, contains curcumin, which is a superfood for your liver and an anti-aging wonder. These are just a few of the many wonderful herbs available to make your meals more tasty and alluring, and we recommend you don't hold back, particularly because we suggest you rely on herbs and spices rather than salt and butter and sugar to make your dishes interesting. When you begin to kick the salt and sugar habit, you'll find the real taste of foods come through. You might just discover that herbs and spices in moderation is more enjoyable than condiments that hide the taste.
    Seasoning Tips:
    • Fresh herbs, when available and affordable, are preferable to dried herbs.
    • Fresh or dried herbs are preferable to seasoning salts. The extra salt isn't necessary: you can salt to taste, on your own.
    • We confess that we love cooking with fresh garlic, shallots, and onions. They're among the healthiest foods for you, and even small amounts can add a lot of flavor. So enjoy their flavor, and enjoy their benefits!

If you're wondering when this article on a healthy, balanced diet for PMS is going to start telling you what not to eat—we've got that too! When it comes to resolving PMS symptoms with diet, we feel most strongly that it's what you do every day that counts, not what you do once in a while. That's why we suggest you needn't worry overmuch about the occasional dietary misstep or indulgence—after all, enjoying yourself is part of balance and health, and we support that!

Real, Natural Relief—So You Can Feel Great All Month Long

PMS and PMDD misery aren't always taken seriously enough by doctors, family, and friends. At PMS Comfort, our whole purpose is to empower and educate you about premenstrual symptoms, and to provide real, natural relief so that you can feel great all month long. Our all-natural doctor-designed programs are based on decades of experience helping thousands of women recover from what you've been going through. Our Herbal Relief formula, when combined with our diet and lifestyle guidance, addresses more than just your symptoms—it can help bring your body and mind back into balance, and help you get and stay healthy. Plus, we're here to support you, every step of the way.

To learn more about your PMS and PMDD symptoms, take the PMS Comfort quiz. Or, start feeling better today, for as little as 89 cents per day.

We want to help. Give us a call at 1-800-731-6327, drop us an e-mail, or send us your question.

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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: June 13, 2014

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