Menopause is a natural part of aging that typically occurs when a woman is in her early 50’s, although it can happen many years before or after that. It occurs when a woman’s estrogen production drops and she stops menstruation.
The decrease in estrogen results in other hormonal and physiological changes that affect women differently and cause a myriad of symptoms. The most common symptoms are hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, anxiety, memory problems, depression, and fatigue.
Some women may struggle with severe symptoms for up to 10 years, while others may only have mild, short-term symptoms. Changes in the years leading up to menopause can also include unwanted signs and symptoms similar to those during menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain.
Foods to Eat During Menopause & Foods to Avoid
Of course, one of the most important things a woman can do for her health at any age, but especially during menopause, is to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes all the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are essential for optimal health.
In fact, experts have identified the following foods to eat during menopause, as well as foods to avoid, that can help alleviate menopause-related symptoms:
For hot flushes and night sweats, don’t eat foods that may trigger or intensify hot flushes and night sweats. For instance, avoid alcoholic beverages and stimulants in coffee, chocolate and spicy foods, especially at nighttime when you are more likely to have these symptoms.
For fatigue, avoid sugary foods. Eating candy and drinking sugary sodas cause surges in your blood sugar levels that are then followed by big drops. These extreme fluctuations can make you feel tired and fatigued. So instead of eating sugary treats, choose healthier alternatives like fresh fruits and a handful of nuts.
For weight gain, use portion control for your meals, limit your fat intake, and cut back on sugar. Eat complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, brown rice, whole-grain pasta and bran muffins. These foods will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and make you feel fuller longer.
For dry skin, eat legumes, nuts like almonds (which contain vitamin E, zinc and calcium), and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The nutrients and oils in nuts and seeds help normalize hormone levels and moisturize your skin from the inside-out.
For depression and mood swings, make sure you eat enough protein foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan. Good food sources are turkey, cottage cheese, oats and legumes. Tryptophan helps manufacture the neurotransmitter serotonin which regulates your moods and may help control your sleep and appetite. Other good strategies are to eat a healthy breakfast every day and don’t skip any meals. This will help balance your blood sugar levels throughout the day, which will also help balance your mood.
To maintain strong bones, women in mid-life should increase their intake of calcium, magnesium and vitamins D, E and K. In addition, they should avoid foods with high amounts of phosphorous such as red meats, processed foods and carbonated drinks. Too much phosphorous in your diet accelerates the loss of minerals like calcium and magnesium from bones. In addition, cut back on sodium, caffeine and animal proteins to help maintain the body’s calcium stores. For best results, eat more alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and yogurt, which help prevent calcium reserves from being leached from bones. Plus, eat foods high in magnesium and boron that are important minerals for bone replacement, which also helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Good food sources of boron include apples, pears, grapes, dates, raisins, legumes and nuts.
For hormonal balance, eat more plant-based foods that contain isoflavones (plant estrogens) which act like a mild form of estrogen to keep hormones more balanced. Good food sources include tofu, soy milk, soy flour, linseeds, tempeh and miso, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.
Menopause is a natural part of life that every woman must go through. But every stage of a woman’s life should be celebrated and enjoyed. By following these suggestions on what foods to eat during menopause and what foods to avoid, the transition into the next phase of your life should be more manageable, with fewer bothersome symptoms to interfere with the quality of your life.