It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the foods you eat during all stages of menopause can have a direct impact on how you feel. From hot flashes to mood swings and weak bones to dizzy spells, diet can have a direct impact on your menopause symptoms. So, instead of popping a pill from your doctor or focusing on the things you can’t change, here are some proactive changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle to help you age with grace and work through this transition more smoothly!
Perimenopause vs menopause: what’s the difference?
Perimenopause is the three to five years before you officially go into menopause. During this time, your periods will gradually become more irregular as your body begins to produce less estrogen. You may also begin to notice some menopausal symptoms, like fatigue, hot flashes, and a decreased sex drive.
Menopause officially begins one year after your last period. At this point, you are considered postmenopausal and your estrogen levels are at their lowest point. Every woman is different, and you may continue to experience menopausal symptoms at varying degrees from mild to severe… or not at all.
Foods to eat in menopause
Healthy fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent choice for women going through the various stages of menopause. Healthy fats are crucial for heart and brain health and controlling inflammation. Research shows that omega-3s may also help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. The best sources of healthy fats in a menopause diet are healthy oils like olive and avocado, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
As estrogen levels decline, your muscle mass and bone strength also decline. Including plenty of high-quality protein in your perimenopause and menopause diet can help counteract this effect. Healthy protein sources include legumes, dairy products, fish, poultry, lean meat, nuts, and eggs. Protein powders are also a great choice, and they’re super convenient. Simply mix a scoop right into your morning smoothie.
Veggies and fruits
Fruits and veggies are necessary for good health at any stage of life, and they’re important foods to eat in menopause as well. Colorful fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your perimenopause diet and you should continue to focus on them after menopause.
They contain important antioxidants, fiber, and of course, essential vitamins and minerals that can help alleviate symptoms and keep your body healthy. There’s even some evidence that eating more veggies and fruit could reduce hot flashes.
Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, are especially important for post-menopausal women because they may have a positive impact on estrogen levels, which could lower the risk of breast cancer. Be sure to include lots of berries in your diet as well. They’re great for fighting inflammation and they could help to lower blood pressure, which reduces your risk of heart disease.
Beans and lentils
Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber. Lentils, in particular, are a great addition to the menopause diet because they are rich in iron and folate. They can also help to prevent blood sugar spikes, which lead to hunger and food cravings, resulting in unhealthy weight gain.
Whole grains, like oats, millet, and quinoa, provide healthy carbs and energy. Enjoy them in moderation as a source of plant-based protein, B vitamins, and fiber.
We’ve always been told to drink eight glasses of water a day and it continues to be important during all stages of menopause. Staying well-hydrated is essential for combating the dryness and bloating that often come with all the hormonal changes. If you’re not big on drinking plain water, try eating more fruits and veggies with high water content, such as cucumber and watermelon.
Foods to Avoid in Menopause
Cutting back on your sugar intake is a good idea at any age, but during perimenopause and menopause, it’s especially important. As estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, the cells in our bodies become more resistant to insulin. That means they have to work extra hard to maintain healthy blood sugar. Many women experience rising blood sugar levels during this time, which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
And, if you’re using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), insulin resistance can make it less effective. Blood sugar spikes can also cause mood swings and energy fluctuations, so try to cut it out as much as possible.
Refined carbs, like white bread, white pasta, and most baked goods, can cause spikes in your blood sugar, lead to unhealthy weight gain, and cause constant cravings. Substitute refined carbs for whole grains, such as brown rice instead of white, and enjoy them in moderation.
Bad fats (refined cooking oils)
Bad fats, like refined cooking oils and fatty meats, can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. Choose healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil instead.
Those potato chips and cookies might be super tempting, but processed foods are often high in sugar and sodium. They can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and they provide little if any nutritional value. When you’re looking for a snack try healthy snacks like whole-grain crackers and peanut butter, or carrots dipped in hummus, to curb those cravings.
Soy is rich in phytoestrogens, so it can be valuable for reducing some menopausal symptoms and help to keep your bones strong. It could also lower the risk of breast cancer. The key is to avoid highly processed types of soy and choose fermented soy such as miso and tempeh instead.
Sadly, your morning cup of coffee could be making your hot flashes worse and more frequent. Consider switching to herbal tea or exercise for your morning pick-me-up.
You don’t have to cut out alcohol completely, but you’ll feel a lot better if you keep your consumption low. It may make you more susceptible to hot flashes and overindulging in alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
Sunlight and daily exercise are essential during menopause
Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin for women during menopause. It supports the immune system and helps to combat depression, mood swings, and sleep issues. It also supports cognitive function, so it can help with that foggy feeling some women experience during this transition. Spending time in the sunshine is a great way to boost your vitamin D intake.
Exercise is also important during menopause. It elevates the mood and helps manage stress and depression. Staying active may also reduce hot flashes and help prevent midlife weight gain. Weight training, walking, and running are all great choices during menopause because they also help to keep the bones strong throughout all stages of menopause.
How a good multivitamin can help
As your body transitions into menopause, your nutritional needs will also change. While a multivitamin isn’t an instant fix for menopausal symptoms, it can fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet which could be making your symptoms worse or increasing your risk of menopausal and age-related health issues.
It’s important to choose vitamins that have organic ingredients from reputable brands and omega-3 fatty acids to support heart health and combat hot flashes. Vitamin K2 should also be included because it helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for strong bones. Magnesium is also essential for bone and muscle health, so it’s crucial during menopause. As mentioned above, vitamin D3 is especially important during menopause. If you have sensitive skin that doesn’t do well in the sun, or you spend most of your time indoors, be sure to choose a multivitamin that contains D3. Other key nutrients to look for in a multivitamin for menopause include folate, vitamin B12, boron, and vitamin E.
Menopause is a major life transition, and it only makes sense that your nutritional needs will change as your body goes through different stages. Making these proactive changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference in how you feel and how your body copes.