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The Best Foods to Cure All Your Girl Problems—Finally!

We talk a lot about the benefits of certain foods—for instance, how berries pack antioxidants or fish provide omega-3s—but that may not mean a whole lot to you on its own. (Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean a whole lot to us either.) Wouldn’t it be easier to know what foods can help with your most irritating daily issues?

We thought so too, which is why we’re giving you the rundown on how to beat everything from bloat to mental fog, menstrual cramps to insomnia. Take it from the nutrition experts when it comes to these 10 lady probs.

Menstrual Cramps
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What to eat: A plant-based, high-fiber, low-fat diet; whole-grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits

Why it works: According to Dana Hunnes, Ph.D, RD, a senior dietitian at RR-UCLA Medical Center, research shows that the prostaglandins influenced by our estrogen levels are responsible for menstrual cramps. “According to one study from the British Medical Journal, a high-fiber, low-fat diet that is primarily plant-based decreases estrogen concentrations—since estrogen production increases with dietary fat consumption—and decreases prostaglandin production, ultimately decreasing the amount of pain we feel from menstrual cramps,” she explains. (Prevent Flo from affecting your fitness routine with these 6 tips for easing period symptoms.) 

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What to eat: Yogurt, beans, chia seeds, oats, papaya, water

Why it works: You’re looking for a combination of probiotics to regulate, fiber to help your stools pass easily, and fluids to flush. “The probiotic bacteria in yogurt help regulate digestion, while the fiber in beans, peas, lentils, and chia seeds help move everything along,” says dietician and writer Jessica Cording, MS, RD. “Aside from being high in bloat-fighting potassium, papayas also contain an enzyme called papain that aids in digestion.”

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What to eat: Pineapples, oranges, or bananas

Why it works: This eating advice is a bit more specific; reach for one of the above three foods. Hunnes points to a 2013 study in the Journal of Pineal Research, which shows that consuming pineapple, orange, or banana significantly increases our body’s serum melatonin concentrations. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control our sleep-wake cycles. And “by eating foods that are known to increase our melatonin levels within two hours of bedtime, we may be able to improve our ability to fall asleep if we have a proclivity towards insomnia,” she says. (Read about The Unhealthy Food Cravings Caused by Just One Less Hour of Sleep.)

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What to eat: Asparagus, fish, blueberries

Why it works: Targeting key nutrients may be an effective strategy for overcoming stress. According to one German study, the vitamin C in blueberries helped lower blood pressure and cortisol levels after a nerve-wracking situation where they were asked to do some public speaking and tough math problems. “Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which has been identified as a mood-enhancing nutrient,” says Hunnes. “We also shouldn’t overlook the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Omega-3s help keep cortisol and adrenaline from spiking.” To combine these foods into a zen meal, Hunnes suggests eating one cup of asparagus (containing two-thirds of the folic acid most women need in a day), four ounces of salmon, and a cup of blueberries for a sweet kick. (Want to know another trick to beat stress? It's one of our 8 Weird Pieces of Health Advice that Actually Work.)

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What to eat: Coffee, black tea, spinach

Why it works: You’ll notice caffeine on the list of ingredients for many drugs. Why? Caffeine seems to help the body absorb pain-relieving medications, so take some sips of black tea or coffee in as you rest with some Advil. In addition, choose a meal with riboflavin-rich spinach. “The B vitamins have been linked to preventing migraines, although the exact mechanism is unknown,” Hunnes says. “Two studies have shown that high-doses of riboflavin decrease the prevalence of migraine headaches, and so eating foods high in riboflavin may help as well.”

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What to eat: Asparagus, coffee, black or green tea, lemon, cucumber, avocado, banana, papaya

Why it works: Probiotic yogurt will keep your digestive system humming, while tea and coffee can help with water retention. Look for potassium-rich foods like avocado and banana for system balance, and use lemon as a natural detoxifier. Cording also suggests a couple green veggies to fight bloat. “In addition to being a diuretic food, asparagus also has prebiotic fibers, which promote healthy absorption of nutrients, discouraging gas and bloating,” she says. “Then the silica, caffeic acid, and vitamin C in cucumbers help reduce swelling and prevent water retention.”

Muscle Aches
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What to eat: Banana, avocado, tart cherries, blueberries, ginger, turmeric, nuts, leafy greens, broccoli, sweet potato

Why it works: Cording says the combination of key nutrients like magnesium, potassium and calcium have shown themselves helpful in tackling aches and pains around the body, especially from sore muscles. Add in some foods with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, like ginger and blueberries, and you’ve got yourself an ache-fighting eating regimen. “The potassium and magnesium help soothe muscles,” she says. “Also, the anthocyanins, or pigment, in cherries help relieve inflammation, which may help relieve aches and soreness.”

Moodiness and Irritability
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What to eat: Salmon, avocado, lean protein, yogurt, oats, dark chocolate

Why it works: Next time you can’t seem to shake your PMS irritability, counteract it with foods that support stable blood sugar, energy, and mood-boosting neurotransmitters. “Dark chocolate has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, which regulates mood,” says Cording. “Fish is also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is key for the production of serotonin, and the protein in fish, meat, and eggs promote stable energy and blood sugar, which in turns helps keep our mood stable.”


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