Are you, or is someone you know struggling with menopause symptoms? Did you know that if you eat the right foods you can ease those symptoms, or even relieve them entirely?
In this post I’ll explain why your diet is important to keep you healthy during the menopause. And I’ll give you the low-down on key foods and nutrients that will boost your overall health and help relieve your symptoms – so you can feel your best, most radiant self.
Why is diet so important during the menopause?
Menopause is a transition in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle comes to an end. During the menopause, your body produces less of the hormone oestrogen. This leads to symptoms like hot flushes, sleeping problems, mood swings and dry skin. Reduced oestrogen can also cause weight gain and increase your risk of certain illnesses like osteoporosis and heart disease.
But studies have shown that certain nutrients can help relieve menopausal symptoms and prevent health problems associated with this stage of life. In fact, in countries like Japan where diet is very different from the typical western foods, women report having almost no menopausal symptoms at all! So what are the nutrients you need more of to stay healthy and feel great? Read on for a list of the best foods to eat during the menopause – and the foods to avoid:
Calcium is a nutrient that’s essential for healthy bones: it builds bone mass and keeps them strong. Because hormone changes can weaken your bones during menopause, it’s recommended that you eat and drink two to four servings of calcium-rich foods a day.
Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are great sources of calcium. It’s also found in sardines, broccoli and green leafy vegetables.
As a bonus, dairy foods could also improve your sleep patterns, which can suffer during the menopause. Milk and cheese are high in the amino acid glycine which is thought to promote deep sleep in menopausal women.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it’s another nutrient that’s important for healthy bones. Your body naturally makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but during the menopause it’s recommended you eat foods to increase your vitamin D intake – especially when the sun is in short supply! Foods with plenty of vitamin D include salmon, mushrooms, fortified margarine and cereals, and eggs.
Healthy fatty acids like omega-3 have a host of benefits for women going through the menopause. They can help reduce the frequency of hot flushes and the severity of night sweats, and they’re good for your heart.
Omega-3 is good for brain health too; there’s evidence that omega-3 can alleviate mood swings during the menopause. What’s more, eating healthy fats could help you stay looking younger! They protect your skin and keep it hydrated.
Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and anchovies, and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, which you can sprinkle over salads or even on your breakfast cereal.
Whole grains are high in nutrients such as B vitamins which help boost energy and reduce stress. Whole grains can also protect your heart. Studies found two or more servings per day lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes by up to 30%.
Plus, they’re a great way to fill up on some healthy carbs if you’re watching your weight! Foods which contain whole grains include brown rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, quinoa, and rye.
It’s recommended that you pile half your plate with vegetables during the menopause, and cruciferous veg are thought to be especially beneficial. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale. They’re packed full of vitamins and have antioxidant properties to reduce the risk of heart disease and support your overall health. Cruciferous vegetables also increase production of a type of oestrogen that protects against breast cancer.
Plant oestrogens or ‘phytoestrogens’ are a weaker version of oestrogen produced by the body. They’re found in plant-based foods including soya milk, sesame seeds, tofu, linseed, soya flour, pumpkin seeds, green beans and the spice turmeric. It’s thought that eating plenty of these foods can reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, and reduce your blood cholesterol levels too.
This is a mineral which is needed for bone growth and helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Good sources of boron include apples, grapes, dates, raisins, green leafy vegetables and nuts.
Another mineral that’s very important for bone health, magnesium is also good for your heart, muscles and nervous system. Foods rich in magnesium include legumes, nuts and seeds, spinach, raspberries and avocado.
Feeling depressed since the menopause? Eat plenty of oily fish, eggs, spinach, tofu and turkey which are all high in the amino acid tryptophan. This nutrient boosts the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that improves your mood and is also thought to improve your sleeping patterns.
A great substitute for sugary treats if you’ve a sweet tooth, fruit - and in particular dark berries - are loaded with a certain type of antioxidants beneficial for menopausal women. They can help reduce blood pressure and relieve stress. Strawberries, cherries and blueberries are all high in these antioxidants.
If you find you’re prone to urinary infections since the menopause, consider adding cranberry juice to your diet, too. It’s thought cranberry juice can help reduce these infections by preventing bacteria lingering in the bladder. Try mixing cranberry juice with sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink.
Foods to avoid
To feel your best, try to cut down on foods that can trigger your symptoms or make them worse:
Avoid snacking on sugary foods – not only are they high in calories, they can cause blood sugar spikes and dips which increase mood swings and leave you feeling tired.
Stimulants like coffee, alcohol and chocolate can set off hot flushes and cause night sweats, so it’s best to avoid these, especially late in the evening.
Fatty, Processed Food
Try to steer clear of high-fat and processed food such as fast food. This can increase your risk of heart disease and promote weight gain. If you need to grab a meal in a hurry, consider a sandwich with whole-wheat bread as a healthy alternative.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, and you’re inspired to incorporate more of these key foods into your diet. Want to discover some yummy dishes packed full of ingredients to help you feel great during the menopause? Take a look at these recipes, or check out my special menopause
Have you made any changes to your diet since the menopause? Do you have a healthy recipe to share? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!