The question: Without fail, I always crave sugary, fatty food before my period. Why does this happen?
The expert: Amanda Bontempo, M.S., R.D, an ambulatory oncology dietitian at New York University Langone Medical Center
The answer: Your hormones are to blame for your desire for fried food or candy in the days before your period, says Bontempo. During this time, the pesky stress hormone cortisol spikes, and the feel-good hormone serotonin dips. This fluctuation makes your body crave foods with lots of sugar and fat because they boost levels of serotonin and combat cortisol production, making you feel happier and more relaxed. That is, until you crash and need another sugary or fatty snack, says Bontempo.
The good news? Despite what many women think, your period doesn’t have to come with a side of cravings. Eliminating processed foods, caffeine, and refined carbs in the two weeks leading up to your period —and upping your intake of fiber and protein—can help your hormone and blood-sugar levels stay relatively stable, she says. (Caffeine increases your cortisol levels, and refined carbs cause your blood sugar to spike, which is why it’s helpful to lay off of them.)
If you’re on your period right now—and can’t stop reaching for the mac and cheese—start your day off with a protein-packed breakfast. A morning meal of eggs or toast with peanut butter—as opposed to cereal or pancakes—sets you up to have a steady blood-sugar level for the rest of the day, says Bontempo. In the afternoon, be sure to snack on fresh produce. It’s a good source of water and fiber, both of which help to reduce bloating and stave off hunger and cravings.
That said, forcing yourself to eat a salad when all you really want is a cheeseburger isn’t realistic. If you’re craving something fatty like a burger, it’s fine to indulge in moderation—but try to tweak your order so that it has as much protein and fiber as possible, suggests Bontempo. For example, you can swap a regular cheeseburger for a turkey burger with avocado on a whole-grain bun. Craving chocolate? Munch on dark chocolate-covered almonds instead of a candy bar so you can savor the sweetness, get a little protein in to curb future cravings, and take in some antioxidants.
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Source: Women’s health Mag