Food as medicine is a beautiful concept. I figure, we have to eat, why not eat something that can make our ailments fade and our bodies sing!
Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food, as Hippocrates said about two and a half thousand years ago, it’s not a new concept!
It makes sense that what we eat can effect the way out body behaves.
Around 70-90% of adult women experience some form of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) each month, with symptoms ranging from bloating, pain, headaches, fluid retention, back pain, mood changes and emotional outbursts, just to name a few. The cause is multifactorial, involving dietary, hormonal, emotional and lifestyle factors.
In other words, what you eat and what you do with your body can have a wonderful effect on you symptoms. Here are my top tips.
1. There are certain key nutrients that are extremely helpful and have been shown to reduce symptoms, and these include magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Pack in as much of these as you can in the form of nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, whole unrefined grains, oily fish, and all vegetables in general.
2. Reduce sugar and refined foods.
Sugary foods not only strip the body of nutrients, but spike your blood sugar, impair oestogen metabolism, and mess with your mood. Not a great combination for this time of the month!
It is also a good idea to keep a lid on your caffeine intake as it is associated with a worsening of symptoms. Likewise with alcohol. This may sound all very bleak and boring, until you realise all the AWESOME things you CAN have, and how you can make chocolate that’s not chocolate (read on!). And once you realise how GREAT you feel from eating all the goods and avoiding the bads, you will become a feel good junkie I’m sure!
The last piece of avoidance advice from me is dairy foods. It has been well documented that women with PMS consume a much higher amount of dairy foods that those who don’t. Moderation is ok, but go gang-busters on other foods that are high in calcium such as green leafies, seaweeds, nuts and seeds, and sardines (if you are a meat eater).
3. Mind and Body.
Exercise has been shown to reduce PMS symptoms, and aerobic/cardio exercise (jogging, running, brisk walking, swimming, bike riding, aerobics classes) is more effective than anaeorobic (competitive sports, weights, sprinting).
Relaxation, meditation and massage have also been noted to improve symptoms.
There is a Pandora’s Box chock full of beautiful herbal remedies to assist with PMS and the accompanying symptoms – see your friendly Naturopath/Herbalist for advice.
So, why do so many women crave chocolate at this time? Chocolate actually has a decent amount of magnesium. Your body is crying out for it, but consuming it in this form is not great due to the sugar and caffeine content, and general refined-ness of most chocolate. Enter cacao! And yes I have sung the praises of cacao before, but in this case you can have your magnesium (and antioxidants, chromium, iron, zinc, vitamin C, manganese) and eat it too!
Here’s two quick little ditties that you can make up in advance and have ready, on stand-by for when the mood strikes! They are both brimming with nutrients that your body is asking for, and although they are sweet (particularly the fudge), they use sweeteners that your body recognises like maple syrup that actually have nutrients themselves, and will not spike your blood glucose like sugar. You will not need to eat mountains of it to get your hit.
I was inspired by Margarita’s choice for this weeks Food Matters Project recipe Choc-Cherry Panini.
Blueberry Cacao Fudge
250g nuts (I used 125g almonds, 100g walnuts, 25g cashews)
35g raw cacao
1/2 cup coconut oil (in between solid and liquid is the easiest to work with)
80g crushed blueberries
1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey (depending on desired sweetness)
Blitz up the nuts in a food processor or blender. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and blend.
Press into a lined baking dish, or individual serving dishes if you prefer. Pop into the freezer for a couple of hours to set. The coconut oil will keep the fudge soft enough to eat straight from the freezer.
This is just one way of making this fudge, feel free to add all kinds of crazy additions. I like chia seeds and the odd roughly chopped nut.
This is a similar idea, but more stable and textural than the fudge. I have done a cacao, blueberry and plain version, but you could flavour it with anything you like!
1 cup cashews (soaked overnight or for at least 5 hours and rinsed)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey/agave/maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
Blitz up the cashews in a food processor or blender. Add all other ingredients and blend.
Add your desired flavourings (I split the mix into 3 and used 1 tbs cacao in one part, 1/4 cup blueberries in another part, and left the last part plain).
If the end result is too thick for you, you can loosen it up a little by adding a little water or more coconut oil, depending on what you want to use it for.
I find this is great served with berries or stone fruit, or on top of muesli in the morning.
PMS is a complex condition, and the above suggestions are by no means exhaustive. If you feel that your symptoms require more intimate attention, please visit your naturopath for a complete and individual treatment plan.
That’s all for today! x