You’re up, you’re down, you’re on an emotional roller coaster for no good reason at all. The usual suspect? It’s that time of that month again, and you’ve gotten your period. There’s no question that PMS, otherwise known as pre-menstrual syndrome, can affect a girl’s mood, but being on your period can also affect your body’s health. Iron and calcium become particularly important for females during their menstrual cycle—not only are they nutrients your body generally needs, but they can also help relieve symptoms and replace the iron lost during menstruation.

There’s been some controversy over what dietary foods can really affect PMS. A systematic review in 2009 identified at least 62 herbs, vitamins and minerals that were supposedly beneficial for alleviating symptoms. But calcium was the only mineral that consistently was researched using the most reliable method of randomized controlled trials. Another studyalso found calcium supplements to help decrease symptoms like tiredness, appetite changes and depression.

So how much of calcium do you really need, and where can you get it? Generally, girls 9-18 years of age should consume about 1300 mg of calcium a day, while girls 19 and up should consume 1000 mg. These might sound like big, abstract numbers, but there are a variety of healthy foods out there that are good sources of calcium and other nutrients. A typical cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium, for example, as well as vitamin D to help the body absorb that calcium. If you’re lactose-intolerant, like many Asians become as they get older, look for soybeans, calcium-fortified orange juice, tofu or even vegetables like broccoli and bok choy in your local supermarket.

The real health concern, however, is the loss of blood and the iron it contains during menstruation. Eating a combination of meat and vegetables can help increase iron intake and replenish what’s lost. When it comes meat, go lean and help yourself to a 3-ounce portion, which is about as big as your palm and as thick as your little finger. This provides about 3 mg of iron, which you can also get in a half cup of spinach. If you’re not a spinach lover, don’t fret: the leafy green shrinks a lot when it’s cooked, so a half-cup is really barely one mouthful! The recommended daily iron intake for girls 9-13 years old is around 8 mg, 14-18 years old around 15 mg and 19-30 years old around 18 mg).

It’s also important to know that there are two types of iron, heme and non-heme, depending on where the iron is coming from. Heme iron, the type in our blood, is found in raw meat like turkey, chicken, beef and seafood like oysters, clams, tuna and shrimp. Non-heme iron comes from lentils, vegetables like spinach and broccoli, and most types of beans (black, pinto, lima, kidney).

The problem with non-heme iron (and one that many vegetarians may run into) is that it is less easily absorbed by the body than heme iron. You may eat more of non-heme iron-rich foods, but you won’t be getting the same recommended daily intake as if you were eating meat with heme iron. So if you’re not big on meat, add more vitamin C to your diet, which helps with iron absorption. Good sources of vitamin C are fruits—especially citrus fruits, kiwi and strawberries—as well as vegetables like green peppers, sweet potatoes and, of course, the all-mighty broccoli.

Next time those pesky symptoms come around, you’ll know what to stock up on. But PMS or not, these are great guidelines to follow in general: a nutrient-rich diet will always make your body stronger and benefit your health in the long run.

There’s been some controversy over what dietary foods can really affect PMS. A systematic review in 2009 identified at least 62 herbs, vitamins and minerals that were supposedly beneficial for alleviating symptoms. But calcium was the only mineral that consistently was researched using the most reliable method of randomized controlled trials. Another studyalso found calcium supplements to help decrease symptoms like tiredness, appetite changes and depression.

So how much of calcium do you really need, and where can you get it? Generally, girls 9-18 years of age should consume about 1300 mg of calcium a day, while girls 19 and up should consume 1000 mg. These might sound like big, abstract numbers, but there are a variety of healthy foods out there that are good sources of calcium and other nutrients. A typical cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium, for example, as well as vitamin D to help the body absorb that calcium. If you’re lactose-intolerant, like many Asians become as they get older, look for soybeans, calcium-fortified orange juice, tofu or even vegetables like broccoli and bok choy in your local supermarket.

The real health concern, however, is the loss of blood and the iron it contains during menstruation. Eating a combination of meat and vegetables can help increase iron intake and replenish what’s lost. When it comes meat, go lean and help yourself to a 3-ounce portion, which is about as big as your palm and as thick as your little finger. This provides about 3 mg of iron, which you can also get in a half cup of spinach. If you’re not a spinach lover, don’t fret: the leafy green shrinks a lot when it’s cooked, so a half-cup is really barely one mouthful! The recommended daily iron intake for girls 9-13 years old is around 8 mg, 14-18 years old around 15 mg and 19-30 years old around 18 mg).

It’s also important to know that there are two types of iron, heme and non-heme, depending on where the iron is coming from. Heme iron, the type in our blood, is found in raw meat like turkey, chicken, beef and seafood like oysters, clams, tuna and shrimp. Non-heme iron comes from lentils, vegetables like spinach and broccoli, and most types of beans (black, pinto, lima, kidney).

The problem with non-heme iron (and one that many vegetarians may run into) is that it is less easily absorbed by the body than heme iron. You may eat more of non-heme iron-rich foods, but you won’t be getting the same recommended daily intake as if you were eating meat with heme iron. So if you’re not big on meat, add more vitamin C to your diet, which helps with iron absorption. Good sources of vitamin C are fruits—especially citrus fruits, kiwi and strawberries—as well as vegetables like green peppers, sweet potatoes and, of course, the all-mighty broccoli.

Next time those pesky symptoms come around, you’ll know what to stock up on. But PMS or not, these are great guidelines to follow in general: a nutrient-rich diet will always make your body stronger and benefit your health in the long run.