Although menopause is a time of change that women can’t avoid, you can avoid weight gain and reduce the health risks and symptoms that may accompany menopause. Exercising regularly and paying extra attention to your diet can help. Learn which foods to include and which ones to limit in your diet to stave off hot flashes and keep other health conditions at bay.
Foods to Focus On
The mantra “calories in, calories out” should apply to your diet philosophy before menopause as well as after it. In general, postmenopausal women should focus on foods that are low in fat and high in fiber and iron. Be sure to include these foods in your diet regularly.
Though results are conflicting, some researchers believe that soy products may help to relieve menopause symptoms. This is because plant-based foods that contain plant estrogens affect the body like a form of human estrogen. Aside from soybeans, soy can be found in products such as tofu and soy milk.
Because your heart disease risk is likely to increase after menopause, eating fish—such as salmon or trout—that contains healthy fats, or taking fish oil supplements may help reduce your risk. Preliminary research suggests that fish oil may also help to prevent breast cancer.
Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains
These healthy staples are even more important during menopause because of your increased need for fiber. Aim for two to four servings of fruits and three to five servings of vegetables per day. Whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, and brown rice are also great sources of fiber.
Women’s need for calcium increases after age 50. Once you hit that landmark, aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Low-fat dairy products, broccoli, and legumes can help fulfill your higher calcium needs. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you need additional supplementation to reach the recommended daily amount.
Warm drinks—especially caffeine—may trigger hot flashes. Try changing your daily ritual from coffee or tea to a large glass of decaffeinated herbal iced tea. Try floating a few lemon or cucumber slices in a tall glass of ice water for a refreshing flavor boost.
Foods to Avoid
Some foods are considered “triggers” for hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms of menopause. Try to limit or avoid the following foods to prevent symptom flare-ups.
Alcoholic beverages like wine increase blood vessel dilation, which may lead to hot flashes. Studies also have shown that as little as one glass of wine a day may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
An excess of salt can exacerbate existing hypertension, so postmenopausal women should try to limit their intake.
Avoiding coffee and other stimulants—especially after noon—can help to lessen the severity and frequency of hot flashes. Forgoing caffeine may prevent loss of calcium and menopause symptoms like anxiety and insomnia.
Spicy and Processed Foods
Spicy and processed foods may be triggers for hot flashes and should be avoided or eaten only in moderation.
Fat should comprise less than 30 percent of your total daily calories after menopause. Saturated fat—found in meats, chicken cooked with skin on, whole and 2% milk, ice cream, and cheese—should be limited to less than 10 percent of daily meals.