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Leafy Greens May Stop PMS Better than Midol

Update Date: Feb 27, 2013 01:13 PM EST

Women who suffer from the bloating, irritability and cramps of PMS may need to seek solace in a surprising place: foods rich in zinc and iron. In a recent study, researchers found that those two minerals were successful at staving off the dreaded premenstrual syndrome. While few people look forward to eating a plate of broccoli, for women, it just may be a cure-all.

Previous research has linked diet with symptoms of PMS, which affects an estimated 15 percent of women during their childbearing years. For example, calcium has been linked to alleviated symptoms. However, this study was among the first to look at the link between the symptoms of PMS and a variety of vitamins and minerals, like zinc, iron and potassium.

The study collected their data from the ongoing Nurses' Health Study II, which looks at the influence of diet and nutrition on women's health. According to MyHealthNewsDaily, the American women answered three questionnaires about how often they ate certain foods. The 3,000 women were between the ages of 25 and 42, and the survey tracked the women over the course of 10 years.

The researchers compared the food and mineral intake of the women who reported symptoms of PMS with that of the women who had no symptoms of the syndrome. They took into account factors like age, oral birth control and exercise regime.

The study found that women who received more than 20 milligrams of iron each day were 35 percent less likely to suffer from PMS than women who received 10 milligrams of iron or less a day. That finding was surprising for researchers, because women only need to eat a bowl of iron-fortified cereal, which contains 24 mg of the mineral, a day in order to receive that amount.

In addition, the type of iron mattered. Non-heme iron, which is found in plants and in supplements, was associated with this link, while heme iron, found in meats, was not. Researchers believe that is because there is simply more iron in vegetables and supplements than in meat, so women would need to eat far more meat in order to receive the same nutritional benefit of iron. The amount of meat that women would need to eat would be discouraged though, because of the amount of saturated fat.

Zinc also lowered the risk of PMS. However, the benefit was strangely only seen from women who took supplements, not from food-based sources.

Potassium, which is found in bananas and sweet potatoes, elevated the risk of PMS. Researchers think that is because high amounts of potassium can cause water retention, and contribute to other symptoms, like depression and irritability.

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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