Q: I’ve heard that magnesium can help to ease the symptoms of PMS. What can I eat to boost the magnesium in my diet?
A: This is true! It’s been proven that women with PMS seem to have lower blood levels of magnesium compared with women who did not have symptoms. Women with PMS who took magnesium supplements enjoyed better moods and less water retention than women who did not get enough of this mineral. (And really, doesn’t less water retention sound good for everybody?). Foods rich in magnesium include nuts and seeds, (such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews), beans, lentils, spinach, and potatoes (sweet and white).
I also want to take this opportunity to introduce you to a standout magnesium–rich food that you may not be familiar with: amaranth (pronounced AM-uh-ranth). Amaranth provides a powerful duo of magnesium and manganese, both of which are shown to reduce the irritability and water retention common to PMS sufferers. Although amaranth is touted as a “super grain,” it is actually not a grain at all. It is a plant related to the common garden weed called pigweed. Its leaves cook and taste much like spinach, but amaranth is mostly prized for its abundance of tiny, high–protein seeds, or grains. The whole seeds, when simmered, produce a thick, oatmeal–like porridge that has a gelatinous texture (translation: it’s not for everyone!). To make amaranth more appetizing, mix it with a grain such as brown rice or buckwheat (amaranth should make up no more than 15 percent of the total mixture), then follow the cooking instructions for the predominant grain. Amaranth can be found in many health food stores, as well as the natural foods aisle of some supermarkets alongside rice, barley, and other grains. Just a heads up: because harvesting amaranth is labor intensive, it is relatively expensive.
To cook amaranth: Simmer 1 1⁄2 cups liquid (such as broth, apple juice, or water) and 1⁄2 cup amaranth seeds for about 30 minutes, or until the seeds are tender. Add fresh herbs or gingerroot to the cooking liquid to make it tastier, or mix with beans for a main dish. For a breakfast cereal, increase the amount of cooking liquid and sweeten with a bit of sugar, honey or maple syrup, and add 1 to 2 tablespoons raisins, dried cranberries, and/or chopped nuts.
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