Ugh, menopause. This big change is inevitable for women as they age, and most see it as impending doom. But the truth is — while you will most likely experience some symptoms — menopause doesn’t have to be this horrible drag that most women think it is.
In fact, with the right tips and tricks under your belt, you can smoothly sail through menopause with minimal discomfort. One important aspect of managing menopause symptoms is nutrition. Dr. Patricia Nevils at Vibrant Woman Health Center in Lafayette, Louisiana explains how nutrition needs change during menopause and what you should eat to ease your symptoms.
What happens to your body during menopause?
The short answer? A lot.
Your body endures many changes over the course of your life, but few compare to the menopausal transition. As you go through perimenopause and eventually become menopausal, a number of things occur, including:
- Your estrogen and progesterone levels decline
- Your testosterone declines
- Your cyclical hormonal pattern gets disrupted
- Your metabolism slows, and you may gain weight
- Your body processes certain nutrients differently
- You may experience difficulty sleeping
- You may have fluctuations in body temperature (hot flashes)
- Your bone density may decrease
How food affects menopause symptoms
Nutrition has a big impact on all of your body’s parts and processes, including the menopausal transition. Your diet may help ease symptoms by improving your gut health, promoting healthy digestion, keeping your nutrient levels in check, and ensuring your body has enough antioxidants, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep things running smoothly. A healthy diet can also help keep any weight gain in check.
In addition, paying close attention to your nutrition during menopause may decrease your risk of developing many diseases that often arise at midlife, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and more. Plus, eating healthy makes you feel good and increases self-confidence.
Foods to eat (and those to avoid) during menopause
Nutrition recommendations during menopause resemble the general nutrition recommendations for everyone, but with a few key differences. Because of the changes your body goes through during menopause, you’ll need to focus on some specific nutrient requirements — examples include extra calcium and vitamin D for bone health and B vitamins for immune support, among others.
Another key change involves iron consumption: For most of your life, you were probably told to ensure you eat enough iron, but as you go through menopause, your iron requirements actually decrease. Below, see some additional guidelines for eating healthfully during menopause.
Foods to eat during menopause:
- Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
- Starchy vegetables (squash, sweet potatoes, beets)
- Dairy products for bone health
- Lean protein (skinless poultry, lean cuts of beef and pork)
- Healthy fats, which may help manage hot flashes
- Whole grains for heart health and diabetes prevention
- Phytoestrogen foods, such as grapes and soybeans
- Lots of antioxidant-rich fruits to support immune function
Foods to avoid during menopause:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Added sugars
- Alcohol and caffeine (limit your consumption)
- High-salt foods, which may further reduce bone density