Chances are you’ve heard a lot of negatives about menopause and the symptoms that can wreak havoc on the body. Although there are plenty of prescription and over-the-counter medications available to combat these symptoms, there are also certain foods that help women transition into menopause.
Hormonal changes such as hot flashes, night sweats, rapid mood swings, fatigue, sudden weight gain, and heart palpations are common during the change of life. However, simple dietary changes can impact the level of discomfort by reducing certain symptoms. For instance, the ever-popular Mediterranean diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and olive oil is excellent for heart health, weight loss, and lowering blood pressure, making it ideal for menopausal women. Many foods in this particular diet have anti-inflammatory properties and are chock-full of nutrients.
Whatever diet you choose should include foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant estrogens. Here are some of the best foods known for helping women reduce menopause symptoms:
1. Yogurt, Milk, Cheese: Calcium intake is essential during menopause since this is the time when women experience a decline in estrogen, which means a greater risk of bone fractures. Studies have shown that dairy foods high in amino acids decrease the risk of osteoporosis and help promote deeper sleep. Calcium also decreases the risk of early menopause in younger women.
2. Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel: Fish provides important omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for a healthy heart and have also been known to reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Salmon, in particular, has been linked to improved brain function, reducing brain fog which is common in menopausal women.
3. Chia, Hemp, and Flaxseeds: Like fish, these seeds also deliver high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to heart health and weight management. The seeds are high in fiber and may reduce LDL cholesterol, prevent blood sugar spikes and slow down digestion. This helps promote feeling full, thus decreasing the appetite, which helps menopausal women lower their calorie intake.
4. Brown Rice, Quinoa, Whole-Wheat Bread, Rye, Barley, Oats: The hormonal changes of menopause cause some women to gain weight around the stomach, hip, and thigh area. The extra pounds increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease associated with weight gain. But whole grain foods that are high in fiber and vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, and pantothenic acids help reduce these issues. Oats, in particular, are loaded with Vitamin B and can alleviate menopausal fatigue. Studies have shown that whole grains can lower your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and even early death.
5. Blueberries, Plums, and Other Dark-Skinned Fruit: Black-skinned fruits contain higher amounts of phenols which are powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation, boost energy levels, decrease fatigue, and help you get a better night’s rest. This is ideal for women who have menopausal insomnia. The vitamins and minerals in dark berries are also suitable for reducing the frequency of hot flashes.
6. Grapes: This magical fruit is a good source of the mineral boron (especially in red-skinned grapes) which increases the body’s ability to retain estrogen and helps to maintain bone health. It may also help with memory loss for women who experience brain fog.
7. Soy: It’s easy to incorporate soy into your diet with all the products available on the market today. Soy milk, tofu, and soy-based cheeses—all contain phytoestrogens that act like estrogen in the body. It’s the lack of estrogen during menopause that causes loss of muscle mass and bone strength, so make sure you add some soy to build them back up. Even better, soy is believed to reduce the number of hot flashes experienced by menopausal women.
8. Spinach and Kale: Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are superfoods high in calcium, which helps balance hormones and strengthen bones. Studies have shown that these types of vegetables significantly reduce the overall unpleasant side effects of menopause.
9. Broccoli and Cauliflower: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower mimic estrogen in the body and help reduce the risk of breast cancer. They also contain the detoxification molecule sulforaphane, which may help reduce fatty liver disease.
10. Chick Peas: This superfood is a plant compound that not only imitates estrogen but is also loaded with fiber and protein. They fill you up, thus reducing your appetite, which leads to lower calorie intake and better weight management during menopause. They’re also great for preventing inflammation plus helping reduce hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
10. Eggs, Lean Meats: Eggs are rich in Vitamin D and iron, which help reduce cholesterol levels, heart disease, and the risk of obesity. Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, or fish help restore muscle mass and protect bone health after menopause. But if you are vegan, you can get the same benefits from a healthy protein shake.
11. Avocado: Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats and Vitamin E, which are great for supporting healthy skin. Women who experience dry, itchy skin during menopause would benefit from adding a little avocado to their leafy green salads.
12. Herbal Teas: For years, women have used natural remedies such as herbal teas to alleviate menopause symptoms. Most teas are loaded with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and boost metabolism. Green tea has been associated with improved bone density, while red clover is credited for reducing hot flashes and night sweats. In addition, black cohosh root tea has been found effective in reducing vaginal dryness—a common complaint among menopausal women.
13. Almonds: Almonds and other nuts, such as walnuts, are a healthy snack that boosts energy levels and keeps you full longer so that you eat less during the day. They’re loaded with calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc, which help promote heart health. Seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower are also a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids with the same health benefits.
14. Dark Chocolate: There really is a good reason for indulging in chocolate—it combats depression and other mood changes, especially during menopause. This is due to the magnesium content, which raises serotonin levels in the brain. Chocolate with a higher cocoa content (such as some dark chocolates) provides a large dose of vitamin K, iron, and oleic acid, which helps lower bad cholesterol levels. Studies also show that chocolate increases blood flow to the brain and is attributed to better brain function.
Now that you know WHAT to eat, the types of foods you should AVOID during menopause include anything processed, spicey, or items containing refined carbohydrates. In addition, many pre-packaged foods contain high amounts of sugar (which raises blood sugar levels) and sodium (known for lowering bone density). Read the labels carefully for these hidden ingredients when selecting food at the grocery store. It would be best if you also watched your intake of alcohol and caffeine—both of which trigger increased hot flashes.
The key to reducing the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause is pretty basic; eat healthier, get regular exercise, and, if possible—plenty of rest. Make it your goal for the new year, and you’ll see a decrease in menopause symptoms plus an improved outlook on life!