How to Diet during Menopause
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Menopause Diet

Menopause

Highlights

  1. Menopause occurs when the body stops producing eggs and the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone start to decrease.
  2. Muscle mass diminishes, and body fat increases as you age. Eating certain foods and maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce the symptoms of menopause.
  3. Certain foods contain phytoestrogens. These mimic the effects of estrogen and can reduce the symptoms of menopause.

Menopause occurs when a woman’s body stops producing eggs and levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone start to decrease. This causes changes, such as:

  • hot flashes
  • vaginal dryness
  • insomnia
  • incontinence
  • decreased libido
  • mood swings

Weight gain can be common during menopause as well, and some of it is simply due to getting older. Muscle mass diminishes and body fat increases as you age. Eating certain foods and maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce some symptoms of menopause and ensure you live a healthy life.

Read more: Symptoms and signs of menopause »

Foods to eat

In general, foods that are low in fat and high in fiber and iron can help reduce and manage symptoms of menopause. A good way to lose weight is to slowly reduce your calorie intake every day, so you that take in less calories than you burn. Healthy eating and exercise can also help you lose weight and be beneficial mentally as well as physically. Here are some foods that can help manage and reduce the symptoms of menopause:

Soy

People commonly use soy to treat menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Soy is known for being rich in isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-based foods that can have an estrogen-like effect on the body. Aside from soybeans, soy can be found in products such as tofu and soy milk.

One study examined the role of soy in reducing these symptoms. The results are mixed. Although sales of soy products have increased in the United States over the years and soy products are increasingly being used for the treatment of menopause symptoms, more research needs to be done on their effectiveness in treating these symptoms.

Fish

The risk for heart disease increases after menopause. Eating fish, such as salmon and trout, or taking fish oil supplements may help reduce your risk for it. Fish oil may also help to prevent breast cancer and relieve the symptoms of depression. However, research results have been mixed.

One study showed that omega-3s, which are commonly found in fish oil, are helpful in reducing depression relating to the change of menopause. The dosage was 2 grams per day, with a total of 750 milligrams (mg) of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily, which is believed to be more brain-protective than the other main omega-3, eicosapentaenoic acid.

A different clinical trial with a smaller dose of DHA per day of 300 mg, showed that omega-3s were no better than a placebo in treating other menopause symptoms. The significant dosage differences in DHA intake between these two studies may explain the conflicting findings.

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and give you all the nutrients you need. Whole grains are great sources of fiber and can be found in bread, pasta, and cereal. Brown rice is also a great source of fiber. Fiber helps keep your digestive system functioning and can help prevent cardiovascular disease, which increases at menopause. Aim for two to four servings of fruit and at least three to five servings of vegetables per day.

Milk

Osteoporosis slows the regrowth of bones, causing them to become more brittle. Your risk of osteoporosis and your need for calcium increase at menopause. It’s recommended that a woman in menopause should be getting 1,200 mg of calcium per day, which is 200 mg more than premenopausal women are recommended to get. Low-fat dairy products, broccoli, and legumes can help fulfill your higher calcium needs. Talk to your doctor to see if you need additional supplements to reach the recommended daily amount.

Foods to avoid

Some foods can trigger menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. Try to limit or avoid the following foods to prevent symptoms:

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages like wine increase blood vessel dilation, which may lead to hot flashes. Some drinking can be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia, but as little as one glass of wine per day may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. The key is to drink in moderation.

Read more: Can you drink during menopause? »

Salt

Consuming too much salt can make hypertension worse and lead to heart disease. Excessive salt intake can also trigger flushes, sweats, and palpitations, and it can lead to dehydration.

Caffeine

Avoiding coffee and other stimulants, especially after noon, can help lessen the severity and frequency of hot flashes. Avoiding caffeine altogether may prevent the loss of calcium and menopause symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. Try changing your daily ritual from coffee or tea to a large glass of decaffeinated herbal iced tea.

Spicy and processed foods

Spicy foods may raise your body temperature. This can trigger hot flashes. Processed foods are usually high in sodium, sugar, and fat. You should avoid these or eat them only in moderation.

High-fat foods

Fat should be make up less than 30 percent of your total daily calories after menopause. Saturated fat found in these foods should be limited to less than 10 percent of your daily calories:

  • meats
  • chicken cooked with the skin on
  • milk
  • ice cream
  • cheese

Herbs and supplements

Here are some herbs and supplements you can take to manage menopause symptoms:

  • black cohosh
  • flaxseed
  • wild yam
  • dong quai
  • licorice
  • red clover
  • vitamin D
  • ginseng
  • St. John’s wort

These herbs and supplements are known to:

  • reduce hot flashes
  • promote healthy bone renewal
  • ease insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and stress

You should check with your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements.

Outlook

Menopause is a natural part of life and with it come many changes in your body and mind. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise will help you physically and mentally. It will also help you to reduce and manage the symptoms of menopause. 

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