When you say “PMS” and “food,” people tend to think of chocolate, ice cream, and carbs (lots and lots of carbs). While those might be the foods you crave, they’re probably not going to help reduce your PMS symptoms.
If you want to take the food-is-medicine approach to reducing (or avoiding!) your PMS symptoms, you need to seek out foods that will help balance your hormones and leave you feeling better each cycle.
Chia seeds are one of our favorite foods when it comes to regulating your hormones, and we’ve got three delicious Brazen-tested recipes to help you incorporate it into your day-to-day diet.
Before we get to the recipes, here’s what makes chia seeds so special:
Chia seeds are rich in plant-based Omega 3s (ALA).
Known for their anti-inflammatory properties, studies have found that Omega-3s can help to soothe menstrual pain.
They’re also essential for you cell membranes, which control the traffic of hormones and nutrients that enter and leave your body.
(Note: Flax seeds are also rich in Omega 3s but, unlike chia seeds, they have a tendency to go rancid when exposed to light or heat.)
Chia seeds are rich in key minerals.
What do calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and iron have in common? They all help to keep hormones balanced and chia seeds are rich in all of them.
Chia seeds are a great source of complete protein.
Chia seeds contain all of the nine essential amino acids that our bodies need, making them a great plant-based source of complete protein. Not only is their protein complete, it’s abundant; with four grams of complete protein for every two tablespoons of seeds, chia contains more protein than eggs.
When it comes to your menstrual health, consuming protein is key because your body needs it to produce quality blood.
Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber.
Have you noticed how chia seeds form a gel around them when they’re left in water (or any other liquid)? That’s because they have a high content of soluble fiber.
That funny looking gel bead that surrounds the chia slows down the release of sugar, helps you feel full, controls your cravings, and keeps your blood sugar stable.
Chia’s soluble fiber also feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which both helps boost your immune system and promotes weight loss.
As for your hormones and your menstrual health, chia’s fiber helps your body eliminate excess hormones (including estrogen), which will help you feel more balanced pre-period.
Chia seeds can help regulate your blood sugar.
A 2007 study revealed people with periods have decreased insulin sensitivity during menstruation. That means when we’re on our periods we use blood glucose less efficiently and as a result, have higher blood sugar.
Research also suggests that this reduction in insulin sensitivity is related to our PMS symptoms (like bloating, cramps and mood swings). So, stabilizing our insulin sensitivity could mitigate PMS.
That’s where chia seeds come in; because of their high protein and fiber content, chia seeds help improve your blood sugar metabolism and reduce the changes in your insulin sensitivity. (Thanks, chia!)
3 of our favorite chia recipes:
- Quick & Easy 2-Ingredient Chia Pudding
- One of our teammates swears by this recipe and has been making it for years. Like yogurt, it’s best enjoyed with toppings like fresh fruits, nuts, etc.
- All you need is ¼ cup chia seeds and 1 ¼ cups coconut milk. A dash of vanilla extract makes for a great, but optional, addition.
- The easiest way to do it is to use a mason jar (or any other leak-proof container). First pour the coconut milk in, then add the chia seeds, close the jar as quickly as possible, and begin to shake it. Keep shaking it for 40 seconds or so, until the seeds stay suspended in the liquid, instead of all sinking to the bottom.
- Notes: if you’re slow to start shaking, the chia seeds will end up clumping together. If you’re making this in a bowl or something you can’t close and shake, you can whisk the seeds into the coconut milk using a fork. If you’re adding vanilla extract or a sweetener, add it to the coconut milk before adding the seeds. The chia pudding will keep in the fridge for about a week.
- Super Smooth & Creamy Chia Pudding
- Our founder, Kirsten, is obsessed with this recipe from COOKIE+kate. It takes more work than the 2-ingredient version above, but it is really quite decadent and its smooth consistency is perfect for anyone weirded out by the gelly texture of soaked chia seeds.
- Agua Fresca with Chia
- One of our teammates is based in Mexico City, where you’ll find “fresh water” or “water of the day” in most restaurants. More often than not, it’s water mixed with some fresh juice or an infusion of hibiscus or lemongrass. Sometimes (and here’s where this becomes relevant to this article) there will be chia seeds mixed in with the water.
- If you don’t mind the gel, this is an incredibly simple consume-more-chia hack. You can essentially throw chia seeds in any chilled herbal tea or juice (or juice mixed with water).
- One easy and kind of famous option is chia limeade (“agua de limon con chia”). According to the book ‘Born to Run,’ Mexican Tarahumara natives, “the world’s greatest distance runners” drank this for energy (their name for it was Iskiate).
- To make it, just squeeze the juice of one lime into a large glass of water (~16 oz.), add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds, stir the seeds for 20 seconds or so, and then wait 2-3 hours before drinking it. If tart drinks are not your thing, you can sweeten this to taste with the sweetener of your choice.
- Note: Make sure to wait before drinking this – the chia needs time to congeal.