NOTE: It took me a very long time to figure out why once I month I became completely reckless in my eating. Ever since I noticed the pattern of euphoric binge eating in line with my cycle, I have been able to temper it because I know what it is and have found substitutes to temper the cravings. Sometimes simply being aware is enough.
Food cravings in the week or two preceding your menstrual period are common for many women, but could be getting in the way of reaching your desired weight or eating in a healthy manner. Whether you crave chocolate, potato chips or baked goods, identifying the cause of your cravings at that time of the month can help you control them so you stick to your healthy diet throughout your menstrual cycle.
Blood Sugar Issues
A fluctuation in blood sugar levels is a common cause of cravings and compulsive overeating, according to licensed nutritionist Darlene Kvist. Willpower is not enough to control your food cravings if the cause is physiological. Eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet and eating fewer processed foods can help you stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent cravings from occurring before your next menstrual period. Trade your usual breakfast of corn flakes, milk, sugar and orange juice for a hearty bowl of steel-cut oats mixed with raspberries and plain yogurt. Base your lunch and dinner on blood-sugar-stabilizing non-starchy vegetables; protein from chicken, fish or nuts; and healthy fats from avocado or olive oil.
If you often crave chocolate before your period, you may have a magnesium deficiency, although more hard evidence is still needed to support this theory. Chocolate is one of the richest food sources of magnesium, a hard-to-get mineral many American women are lacking. If chocolate is your most common craving, opt for dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa to keep your sugar intake low. Discuss with your doctor the possibility of taking a magnesium supplement for a few weeks to see if it helps you better control your cravings.
Cravings at any time of the month can result from low serotonin levels, according to Julia Ross, a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychotherapy. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter your body produces from certain amino acids to help you feel relaxed. If you are deficient in these amino acids and cannot produce enough serotonin, you may experience strong carbohydrate cravings, which may translate into eating potato chips, French fries, bread, cookies or soft drinks. Although carbohydrates can temporarily elevate your serotonin levels and help you feel better during your pre-menstrual period, eating more carbohydrates to elevate your mood creates a vicious cycle of cravings. Eat foods rich in tryptophan, found mainly in animal protein as well as soy protein, to boost your serotonin.
If none of these techniques works, your cravings may simply be the result of the normal hormonal fluctuations that occur during your menstrual cycle. Try to find healthier alternatives to satisfy your cravings without getting off track with your diet. For example, try a sugar-free smoothie with fresh fruit and plain yogurt, a few pieces of fruit with nuts or flavorful cheese. Healthy fats from a salad of avocado and tomato drizzled with olive oil or raw vegetables dipped in a homemade mayonnaise or guacamole can also help decrease your cravings.
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