What to Eat & What to Avoid During Menopause

foods for menopause

One of the many things that start happening during our perimenopausal and menopausal years is that the ovaries which were responsible for producing most of your body’s estrogen stop doing that.  And although the adrenal glands (small organs on top of your kidneys) as well as your fat tissue continue to make some estrogen, it is by no means as much as your ovaries did.

This means that the blood levels of estrogens drop dramatically and your body starts working differently.  It is also with this change in estrogen levels as well as other hormones that the usual menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, depression, irritability, anxiety, and weight gain comes.

Luckily, with good nutrition you can, at the very least ease, but even prevent many of these symptoms.  Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst food to eat during menopause.

 

Foods for Menopause: What to Eat

A healthy menopause diet and lifestyle can not only help reduce the severity of menopause symptoms but it can also help protect you against many chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease which come with a lack of estrogen. 

  • Salmon: Salmon is rich in two essential nutrients which are even more essential during menopause – vitamin D and omega-3 fats. Omega-3s are thought to help reduce hot flashes and night sweats while also reducing the risk of breast cancer.  Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, preventing cancer as well as several other chronic conditions.
  • Broccoli: All cruciferous veggies, but broccoli particular has a positive impact on estrogen levels – stabilizing estrogen levels and reducing breast cancer risk. Broccoli is also full of calcium for strong bones and fiber to prevent bloating and weight gain.
  • Eggs: These nutritional bombs are full of vitamin D and iron, both of which menopausal women are often deficient in.  Eggs are also a great protein source for menopausal women as they reduce cholesterol levels, heart disease risk, and obesity.
  • Berries: The essential fatty acids and antioxidants in berries can help fight fat, reduce inflammation, and reduce heart disease risk.
  • Whole grains: Falling in the “good carb” category, whole grains are an excellent source of heart-healthy soluble fiber and plant protein while the B-vitamins regulates energy and metabolism.  Eating whole grains is also associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and premature death.
  • Yogurt: One study of peri- and post-menopausal women found calcium and vitamin D rich foods like yogurt reduced early menopause risk by 17 percent and helped reduce some symptoms of menopause. An added bonus is that the probiotics in yogurt provide a nice gut health boost for better digestion, immunity, and skin.
  • Fruit & vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables should form the corner stone of your menopause diet plan. They have tons of fiber and are packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Aim for at least two cups of vegetables and one-and-a-half cups of fruit per day. 
  • Chicken: With less estrogen comes a reduction in muscle mass and bone strength and lean protein is a great way to boost your protein intake without consuming too much of the saturated fats which are linked to an increased risk for heart conditions, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity when consumed in excess.
  • Soy: Soy acts as a phytoestrogen which are linked to reduced menopause symptoms and healthier bones.  Soy has also been linked as effective for reducing breast cancer risk. Avoid processed forms of soy and reach for edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy-based dairy alternatives instead.
  • Flax: Flax is full of omega-3s, fiber, phytoestrogens, and B vitamins with one study finding that it can decrease menopause symptoms while another study found links between flaxseed consumption and a reduction in hot flashes.
  • Healthy fats: Eating healthy fats which includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may improve the symptoms related to menopause. Include cold pressed oils like extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil and walnut oil in your diet. 

 

Foods for Menopause: What Not to Eat

Just like certain foods can help, other foods can hinder and reducing certain foods can help reduce menopausal symptoms such as poor sleep, hot flashes, and weight gain.  These include:

  • Processed carbohydrates and added sugars, such as sugary baked goods, crackers, and white bread
  • Too much caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Foods high in salt
  • Spicy foods

 

Menopause Diets To Try

Weight gain is common during menopause, but those extra couple of pounds can make your symptoms worse.  That is why it’s important to take weight management and weight loss into consideration during this time.  We’ve put together a brief outline of three healthy menopause diet plans that can help you maintain a healthy weight during menopause.

 

Low-Carb Diet:

Low carb diets are excellent for losing and maintaining a healthy weights while eating a wide range of nutrient dense foods.  A low-carb diet basically means that you eat fewer carbohydrates (between 20 – 100 grams per day) and a higher proportion of healthy fats which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels with the levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin dropping.

 

The majority of the foods you should eat are things like

  • Meat, fish and eggs
  • Vegetables like leafy greens, salad greens, broccoli, carrots, peppers, etc.
  • Seeds and nuts like flax, walnuts, almonds, etc.
  • High-fat diary products like hard cheeses, butter, Greek yogurt, etc.
  • Spices and herbs like mint, basil, sage, rosemary, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, etc.
  • Healthy fats and oils like olives, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and avocados

Foods that you can include in moderation are: 

  • Tubers like sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Unrefined grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
  • Legumes including broad beans, soy beans, lentils, etc. 
  • Dark chocolate
  • Coffee and tea (without sugar)
  • Dry red or white wine

Foods to avoid:

  • Sugar including fruit juices, candy, soft drinks, etc.
  • Refined grains like white rice, pastas, breads, cereals, etc.
  • Trans fats like hydrogenated oils and processed meats
  • Low-fat and diet products
  • Highly processed foods

 

Mediterranean Diet 

The Mediterranean diet not only reduces the risk of heart disease and improve overall health, but according to studies, it can also help maintain a healthy weight. 

 

Center your meals on the following unprocessed, healthy Mediterranean foods:

  • Vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, kale, onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, pears, dates, grapes, figs, peaches, melons, etc.
  • Seeds and nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, etc.
  • Legumes like peas, beans, pulses, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, etc. 
  • Tubers like sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
  • Whole grains including brown rice, whole oats, barley, rye, corn, whole wheat, buckwheat, whole grain pasta, and bread
  • Fish and seafood like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, shrimp, mackerel, clams, crabs, oysters, mussels, etc.
  • Spices and herbs like mint, basil, sage, rosemary, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, etc.
  • Healthy fats and oils like olives, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and avocados

Foods that you can include in moderation are: 

  • Tea and coffee
  • Red wine
  • Eggs
  • Cheese and yogurt
  • Poultry

Foods to avoid:

  • Refined grains
  • Highly processed food
  • Processed meat
  • Refined oils or trans fats
  • Added sugar

 

Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

Vegan and vegetarian diets may also be good options during menopause as many women who follow a plant-based diet report a significant loss in weight and overall improvement in their health.

Center your meals on

  • Vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, kale, onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, pears, dates, grapes, figs, peaches, melons, etc.
  • Seeds and nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, etc.
  • Legumes like peas, beans, pulses, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, etc. 
  • Tubers like sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
  • Whole grains including brown rice, whole oats, barley, rye, corn, whole wheat, buckwheat, whole grain pasta, and bread
  • Spices and herbs like mint, basil, sage, rosemary, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, etc.
  • Healthy fats and oils like olives, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and avocados

 

These are by no means the only diet plans that you can follow during menopause.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach – we all have different needs, symptoms and lifestyles which need to be considered.  Experiment and find out what works for you.

Whatever you do, make sure to include healthy fats, whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of water. You may also want to include estrogen-rich foods like unprocessed soy in your diet.  Also consider adding herbal supplements and other complementary therapies to your menopause plan.  In the end common sense prevails and always have an open conversation with your doctor to help you stay healthy on this journey.

 


 

DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.

 


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