What to include and what to avoid in your menopause diet. Research shows that what women eat can either reduce or exacerbate most menopausal symptoms.
One of the most distressing symptoms of menopause is weight gain. Did you know that six small healthy meals per day can be the secret to maintaining weight control? Only some women can manage this, however, but it is worth trying. If you can’t maintain it and have a problem defining small, revert back to three meals per day with smaller portions than those you are used to.
Whilst HRT and natural therapies can help with symptoms of menopause, diet and exercise can go a long way to winning the battle, in fact women who follow a healthy diet and exercise may deal far better with menopause and protect themselves against diseases such as heart disease.
Here is a quick reminder of the importance of maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
If your BMI is less than 18.4 – you are underweight for your height.
If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 – you are an ideal weight for your height.
If your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 – you are overweight for your height.
If your BMI is between 30 and 39.9 – you are obese.
If your BMI is over 40 – you are very obese.
If your BMI is over 30, you need to take immediate action to change your lifestyle in order to lose weight.
Weight distribution is also very important, your waist (just above your naval) should measure below 35 inches.
Research has found that menopausal women who follow a mediterranean diet including whole grain pasta and healthy fats cut their risk of hot flushes and night sweats by about 20%.
Menopausal women who eat diets high in sugar and saturated trans-fats increase their risk by 23%.
Research has shown that trans fats increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol – too much can also have an effect on memory loss and concentration difficulties both of which are well known menopause symptoms.
Your menopause diet needs to contain a variety of foods to ensure that you get all the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that you need.
What should your Menopause Diet Include
FACT If you take in fewer calories than your burn for a long period of time – you will lose weight.
Low glycemic carbs – whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, all promote energy.
Plant based foods (phytoestrogens) work in the body like a weak form of estrogen and may help to relieve symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats although research into this remains contradictory – soy. linseeds, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, celery, rhubarb, green beans.
Calcium (vital for bone health) – found in dairy products, fish with bones, broccoli and legumes.
Iron – found in red meat (lean), poultry, fish, eggs, leafy vegetables, nuts and enriched grain produce.
Protein – found in meat, dairy products, nuts, beans and lentils. As we age we need enough protein as it plays a vital role in helping your body recover from illness, infections and surgery. Protein helps to constantly build cells so that your body can stay young and maintain a healthy weight
Fibre – found in whole grain produce, broccoli, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables – 5 portions per day.
8 glasses of water per day is the recommended requirement for healthy adults.
Omega 3 fatty acids include essential fatty acids that are critical to your health, good food sources include cold-water fish, flaxseed, soy and walnuts.
Top Foods for Menopause Diet
Low-fat dairy products
Soy products such as soy milk and tofu
Seeds such as linseeds, flaxseed
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines
Olive oil, canola oil
Wholegrain cereals, pasta and rice
Legumes (beans and lentils)
Eggs, fish and lean meat
Green tea, herbal tea
Dr Sarah Brewer is the author of a book entitled Menopause Diet: How to Eat to Beat Hot Flashes. Dr Brewer is one of the few doctors who is also a Registered Nutritionist and a Registered Nutritional Therapist. She explains how certain foods can help with menopause symptoms. All of Dr Brewer’s advice is evidence-based. You can read my personal review of Menopause Diet: How to Eat to Beat Hot Flashes here.
What Should You Avoid/Moderate in your Menopause Diet
Processed foods – refined carbs such as white bread, rice, pasta and potatoes release glucose into the bloodstream quickly which can lead to high-low mood swings, weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, fatigue and many other diet related diseases.
Reduce foods high in saturated fat – fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream, cheese.
(Limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories as these raise cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease).
Reduce foods high in trans fats – vegetable oils, baked produce, some margarines, cakes, pizza etc (Fat should provide 25% – 35% or less of your total daily calories).
Use sugar and salt in moderation – too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure. Salt and processed carbohydrates will make you retain water which will give you that menopause bloating feeling.
Avoid foods containing high levels of nitrates – found in smoked produce, salt-cured produce and charbroiled foods. (High levels of nitrates have been linked to cancer)
Alcohol consumption – women should limit alcohol to one or fewer drinks per day. As well as increasing hot flushes, alcohol also affects your sleep, mood and weight. Heavy consumption can also lead to osteoporosis as alcohol prevents cells from building new bone.
Trigger Foods to Avoid in your Menopause Diet
If you are experiencing hot flushes, avoiding certain trigger foods and beverages may help, such as:-
Try decaffeinated coffee instead and herbal teas.
(If you suffer from Celiac Disease or have a gluten sensitivity you will need to obtain dietary advice from your healthcare professional).
If you are not already eating 6 small meals a day containing healthy foods, now is the time to start. Eating the right diet little and often will help to banish cravings by keeping your blood sugar and hormones levels in check throughout the day.
Don’t forget to treat yourself now and again!
Diet, nutrition and the menopause. Retrieved on 16 September 2015 from http://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/focus-series/diet-nutrition-menopause/
Meltzer Warren, R. MS. RD. 8 Diet Changes Women Must Make After 40. Retrieved on 16 September 2015 from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20404740,00.html
Menopause. Retrieved on 16 September 2015 from http://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/lifestages/menopause.html