Most women will agree, battling menstrual cramps each month is no easy fight to win. But enlisting the help of simple, healthy foods and incorporating them into your daily diet, can ease pre-menstrual symptoms and relieve cramps and discomfort.

Berry Mania!
"Healthy" omega-3 fats boast anti-inflammatory properties and studies show that they inhibit the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are compounds that cause the uterus to contract, potentially promoting spasms, pain and pesky cramping. Reach for foods rich in healthy fats like salmon, halibut, walnuts, avocado and flaxseeds and steer clear of fatty cuts of red meat which may increase prostaglandin release and cramping. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed meal over low-fat plain yogurt and fresh berries for a quick breakfast or cramp-calming snack.
Start Your Day Off Right!
Whole-grains and foods high in fiber may help balance female hormones and estrogen levels to decrease cramping. Added bonus, high-fiber foods like wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables aid digestion and can blast menstrual bloating. Start your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal with sliced bananas and skim milk. (Look for a cereal with 5 grams of fiber or more.)
Lean Green Fighting Machine!
Calcium-rich foods like low-fat dairy products, almonds, white beans and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale may also assist in alleviating cramps, mood swings and PMS symptoms. Try a calcium-packed spinach salad for lunch topped with grilled chicken, sliced almonds, dried cranberries and goat cheese. Aim for 1,000 mg of calcium per day through calcium-rich foods and/or a supplement.
Hot Potato!
Vitamin B6 - B6 is powerhouse vitamin involved in muscle contraction, red blood production and energy metabolism. Low levels of B6 can spike contractions and cramps and may promote unwanted bloating and weight gain during your monthly cycle. Stock up on foods high in B6 including chicken, salmon, nuts, potatoes, cooked spinach and bananas.

Ease up on the following foods which may make your cramps worse and can cause unwanted bloating and water retention.

• Salt, caffeine, alcohol

• High-fat and greasy, fried foods

• Refined sugars, sweets and sweetened juice drinks and sodas

Marissa Lippert is a registered dietitian in Manhattan who helps clients lead balanced lifestyles, enjoying food while actively achieving dietary, weight, health and wellness goals. Marissa works to bring her clients back into the kitchen, making grocery shopping and cooking healthful, quick, and simply delicious. She keeps her finger on the pulse of what busy, informed individuals need and want when it comes to living and eating well. Voted as one of New York's "Best Nutritionists" in 2007 by New York Citysearch, Marissa currently counsels clients through her self-owned company, Nourish. She frequently contributes to numerous publications including Glamour, The New York Times, Women's Health, Woman's Day, Runners World, and Health magazine and has partnered with Equinox Gyms, Whole Foods, Disney and other corporations to plan and promote nutrition and healthy cooking programming and seminars. For more information, see Marissa's website.

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