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In the battle to improve menopausal symptoms and reduce hot flashes that suck your energy, your easiest starting point is your diet. To make it easier for you I’ve listed here the 13 best foods to eat during menopause and 3 foods to avoid during menopause. There are many foods that will play a part in improving your symptoms but these are the 13 I think are easily accessible and simple to use.
When perimenopause hit me like a freight train in my 40’s I struggled. I had always grappled with keeping weight off but never around my middle. It was my thighs or boobs that got my scathing scrutiny. My stomach was always flat. It seemed almost overnight that it popped out and joined the others on an expansion binge.
Weight gain your middle is visceral fat and is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and insulin resistance. It is a sign of worsening menopausal symptoms.
I was having hot flashes at a frequency the likes of which I’ve not heard of from many women I’ve spoken too and my mood swings were heard two streets down.
Menopause is a big transition in a woman’s life but if we make the effort to include all the right foods and most of the wrong ones the transition will be much easier.
I Gave Up Sugar And Grains
This was at a time when HRT was getting some bad press so rather than go down that road I researched like a demon. I really only pricked the tip of the iceberg but my research on nutrition for hot flashes prompted me to give up all sugar and grains and not just wheat but all grains including whole grains.
Fantastically the hot flashes disappeared within days. My sleep normalised and with the addition of a Vitamin D supplement (this is the strength I use) the menopausal mood swings evened out which I am sure the neighbours were rejoicing in.
With further research, I have compiled this list of foods to include and foods to avoid in your menopause diet.
If you add as many of these foods as you can into your diet while avoiding the ones I’ve mentioned below you’ll improve your perimenopause and menopausal symptoms.
I want to talk about whole grains. Every thing you read will tell you to include whole grains as part of a healthy diet. And that’s true to a point. Whole grains are one hundred percent better than processed grains which have usually had their fibre and a lot of nutrients stripped out.
However, for me and anyone else who is trying to keep refined carbohydrates to a minimum these may make it difficult to manage your body weight. Nuts and seeds offer plenty of fibre and nutrients with less of the calorific value.
This list isn’t plucked from the sky, it’s what I eat, or not, in my own life and I’ve enjoyed exceedingly good health while maintaining my body weight and keeping my doctor happy. Women’s health in midlife is now what I love to teach about thought this blog and products I sell and give away.
By making sure you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and practise some mindful techniques now, you’ll improve your chances of feeling great not only now but also on into post-menopause.
Foods To Eat For Improved Menopause Symptoms
Fruits, vegetables and whole foods are generally loaded with antioxidants and nutrients which are known to help with blood sugar balance. This will guard against heart disease, diabetes and other midlife health issues as well as reduce symptoms such as hot flashes. Therefore, they are an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Over half your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables while the rest is made up of protein (preferably plant protein), healthy fats and minimal starches.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
It comes as no surprise that cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower make the list for helping to reduce hot flashes in menopause. They contain calcium and vitamin K for strong bones and lots of fibre for improved digestion. They are also one of the most iron rich foods.
Broccoli, in particular, has a positive impact on estrogen levels increasing the estrogen responsible for reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Don’t forget kale, cabbage, cauliflower, rocket and sprouts are also in the cruciferous family and are also full of fabulous nutrients.
Soy contains isoflavones, which can mimic estrogen in the body. The body is possibly tricked into thinking it has enough estrogen thereby easing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
We can enjoy soy in foods like tofu, miso soup, smoothies made with soy protein powder, soy milk, and soybeans which can be added to stews and soups.
Many soy products such as tempeh and miso are fermented so you get the added probiotic boost.
My caveat is to make sure that the soy you buy is organic. Soy is a controversial ingredient due to thin evidence that it is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and decreased thyroid function.
3. Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables are packed full of calcium. Calcium is easily absorbed by the body and is, in fact, more easily absorbed than the calcium in milk. As your bone mass declines in menopause, it is important to do all you can for your bone health and eating foods containing calcium may help do that.
Spinach, however, is high in oxalates which makes it difficult for our bodies to absorb the high levels of calcium it contains. Don’t discount it though as it has other fabulous nutrients.
Lower estrogen levels are the root cause of some of the more annoying menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. As mentioned earlier phytoestrogens can play a significant role in reducing symptoms such as hot flashes and legumes are a potent source.
They also contain a substance called tryptophan which is instrumental in helping the body produce serotonin that may help boost our mood.
Legumes are also rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and fibre and super high in protein.
While we are on the subject of protein it is worth mentioning that protein is vital in any healthy lifestyle for keeping our bodies strong, and with estrogen levels on the decline, there can be a reduction in muscle mass and bone strength.
Nuts are a healthy way to increase protein intake without consuming saturated fat.
5. Nuts and Seeds
High in healthy fats, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, these superfoods are a great addition to your diet.
The oils and fats in nuts and seeds can help prevent dry skin, which, for me has been an ever-present factor in menopause.
Three brazil nuts per day will give you enough selenium for your daily needs. Selenium plays a vital role in our metabolism and thyroid function.
Walnuts, Almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are all great additions to your diet. Pop a small mixed bag into your handbag to get you through a snack attack.
Water will help combat vaginal dryness, dry skin and frizzy hair that many women in menopause can suffer from.
It will also help to keep your whole digestive system oiled which will improve bloating and the bonus is it will plump out those wrinkles.
Make sure you get your eight glasses per day.
7. Healthy fats
These are essential for keeping hormone production working smoothly. Hormones travel through the blood and control all our metabolic processes. Keeping them balanced is vital for our health.
Fat is great for keeping you feeling fuller longer and in doing so helps knock out those cravings making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that keep your blood pressure healthy which in turn relieves hot flashes. The best fats to add to your diet include coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, fatty fish such as salmon (that contain Omega-3).
8. Matcha Tea
Matcha is chock full of antioxidants which improve stress and inflammation.
It is also known to boost your metabolism helping you to guard against menopause weight gain.
Matcha green tea provides an estimated 10 times as many antioxidants as standard green tea and contains vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium, to support your hormonal balance.
I use matcha in a mix I make up to sprinkle on my homemade muesli.
If you fancy getting the whole tea-making kit this is a good option
Dairy products are rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein and can help improve sleep quality. There is also some evidence to suggest a diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D rich foods may help lower the risk of early-onset menopause quite significantly. Vitamin D is instrumental in helping you absorb calcium.
Yoghurt can provide a nice gut health boost balancing the bacteria in your gut to improve digestion, skin condition and you immunity.
Eggs are rich in vitamin D and iron as well as an excellent source of good protein for menopausal and postmenopausal women. Throw a soft boiled egg over your steamed vegetables for a tasty and nutritious lunch. Often you can buy eggs that are enriched with Omega-3 which may also help to reduce hot flashes.
Berries are rich in antioxidants which help fight inflammation and can improve symptoms of menopause. Berries aid in improving brain health and are a great weapon against stress.
They are a great addition to your oatmeal for a little sweetness or if you craving something special whizz them up with some almond milk and a little brown rice syrup for an afternoon snack.
Protein is essential to help fight the loss of muscle mass that occurs during menopause due to declining estrogen levels. Chicken is a great way to include lean protein in your diet without high fat foods with out the saturated fat that comes with some meat products.
13. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are considered the king of superfoods and are extra high in Omega-3 fatty acids, phytoestrogens and B vitamins. They are also possibly the best food for menopause especially for those women seeking a natural alternative.
Omega-3 may help with reducing night sweats and lower your risk of breast cancer.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that behave like estrogen in the body and as such reduce the severity of the symptoms that can be a frustrating part of a woman’s life at this time.
Add some ground flaxseed each morning into your breakfast cereal for a super healthy boost and an energetic start to the day.
Avoid Foods That Make Menopause Worse
This list wouldn’t be complete without giving a list of the foods you should avoid. It’s no good to include all the good stuff with one hand while the other is shoving cake into your mouth closely followed by a large gulp of your third coffee of the day.
Step away from the cake!
Lower levels of estrogen and progesterone can trigger cravings.
Processed foods that are high in sugar and carbs like biscuits and cakes will make you feel good while you are eating them but not for long.
A diet high in processed carbs will cause your body to make less of the hormone that tells you you’ve eaten enough and more of the hormone that tells you you’re hungry.
It will become a vicious cycle that is difficult to break out of and the result will be constantly high blood sugar levels and weight gain.
Sugar will also disrupt the hormone insulin. Insulin is closely connected to all of the other hormones in your body, including estrogen and any disruption can put these hormones out of balance making menopause symptoms infinitely worse.
Related Post: How To Quit Sugar Easily And Improve Your Health
Find another afternoon pick-me-up.
I could never ask you to give up caffeine if I am unable to do it myself. However, maybe skip the afternoon cup of black gold and stick to just the one (or two) in the morning especially if you suffer from hot flashes.
The hormone imbalance you experience in menopause can cause sleep disturbance so let’s not make that any worse by giving our bodies caffeine to process.
Remember too that hot drinks will raise your temperature which could trigger hot flashes.
Another one to think about cutting back to avoid making hot flashes worse.
I feel like the doomsday sayer, but what about that evening glass of wine?
Alcohol may contribute to hot flushes however there is no conclusive evidence to support this. If you find you have more hot flushes after the evening glass of vino, well, it’s bad news. It’s the flushes or the vino.
Alcohol has also been shown to decrease melatonin production. Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycles and as we already struggle to get enough sleep in menopause due to fluctuating hormones it may be best to avoid it (source).
Many women in menopause and midlife can be vulnerable to developing anxiety and/or depression. Alcohol will only serve to make these conditions worse.
4. Spicy Foods
Spicy foods could trigger hot flashes. If you often feel overheated consider avoiding spicy foods such as chilli and cayenne pepper which are found in foods like curries and laksas.
Related Post: 3 Foods That Will Make Your Menopause Symptoms Worse
Other Things To Consider
Where you can go organic to avoid pesticides and genetically modified foods which can cause hormonal disruption. This includes meat and dairy.
Fasting for 12-16 hours overnight will force your body to use fat stores for energy. If you can’t do this then at least leave 4 hours between meals without snacks so that your body doesn’t have a constant supply of glucose to use as energy.
Intermittent fasting helps your body with fat loss and better processing of carbs and sugar.
Menopausal women are more susceptible to anxiety, depression and brain fog. Studies have shown that fasting can improve self-esteem and soothe feelings of stress, depression and anxiety
Eat enough fibre
This helps to keep everything moving through the body while dragging toxins, waste and oestrogen you don’t need with it.
We’re talking, lots of vegs, especially leafy greens, as well as fruit, linseed, chia, psyllium husk, whole grains and lentils.
Your salt intake
Check the packaged foods you buy are not too high and don’t add salt in cooking or at the table.
The foods listed here are some of the best to eat to improve menopause symptoms and are the same foods that I would recommend as part of any normal healthy diet.
Along with regular exercise, these foods can help you lose weight, sleep better, lower stress and improve women’s health in general.
It is an added bonus that these foods can also improve menopause and perimenopausal symptoms.
Whatever time of your life you are at I urge you to consider what you include in your diet and lifestyle and make choices that will serve your health well. As always with your health consider if advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified physician as another avenue for gatering the information you need.