A nutritionist's top 10 tips for a healthy menopause
As a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr, BSc Human nutrition and PGDip Clinical & Public Health Nutrition), I’m often asked whether diet & lifestyle changes can impact the symptoms of the menopause.
The symptoms you may experience are mainly caused by falling oestrogen levels. Declining oestrogen levels can also contribute to an increased risk of developing certain health conditions.
Menopausal changes are a natural part of the ageing process and although they can’t be reversed, healthy lifestyle approaches can help to alleviate or reduce the symptoms, as well as the risk of developing any related health conditions.
It’s important to note that a healthy diet isn’t a magic bullet. It can, however, be very complimentary to HRT or other personalised treatments prescribed by a medical professional.
With that, here are my top 10 diet tips for a healthy menopause…
1. Prioritise whole foods
A whole foods diet will give you the right quality and balance of nutrients to support your long-term health and naturally help to alleviate your menopause symptoms.
This means eating foods like…
- Olive oil
- Nuts & seeds
- Quality meats
- Oily fish
- Unprocessed cereals
2. Minimise foods that can worsen menopause symptoms
Foods like pizza, pastries, cakes and fast foods, as well as foods and drinks with added sugar, are typically low in healthy fibre and naturally occurring micronutrients, but very high in salt and sugar.
A higher intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with more intense menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, memory and concentration problems.
Alcohol cause skin flushing and may worsen hot flashes. Although there is a variation between how individuals react to this, it’s best to follow the official guidelines and not exceed more than 2 units per day.
(Peri) menopause can cause fluctuations in both blood pressure and body temperature. For some women, caffeine can worsen these symptoms. If you find that you’re sensitive to caffeine, it may be worth cutting down on.
You may find that spicy foods can make hot flashes worse, so it may be a good idea to limit these to see to see if the flashes improve.
3. Build a healthy plate/meal by remembering ‘FFP’
When building out your meals, remember to include ‘FFP’ - fibre, fat & protein:
- Fill half of your plate of non-starchy vegetables (fibre)
- Fill a quarter of your plate with complex carbohydrates (fibre)
- Fill a quarter of your plate with a serving of quality protein
- Add a serving of healthy fats, too!
Of course, you can’t always plate up your food in this way when making complex recipes. But it’s still good to aim for this balance in a meal and your overall diet when you can!
Let’s have a look at the best choices for those individual macronutrients in the following 3 points…
4. Focus on fibre
Choosing foods high in fibre will leave you feeling fuller and prevent overeating, which can help to prevent weight gain during menopause.
Plus, eating plenty of fibre supports a healthy gut microbiome. The gut produces the vast majority of serotonin in your body, so a fibre-rich diet can also help improve symptoms of low mood experienced through menopause!
Aim to have 1-2 generous servings of fibre-rich carbohydrates with each meal, such as:
- Green leafy vegetables
… as well as some unrefined complex, fibre-rich carbohydrates like wholegrain rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, barley, millet and wholegrain bread.
5. Fill up on fat
Fat is an essential nutrient in your diet – there’s no need to fear it! Evidence suggests that healthy omega 3 can:
- Help to manage menopause symptoms such as night sweats and low mood.
- Reduce the risk of developing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve metabolic health, which are especially important during the menopause.
Aim to include a serving of healthy fat with every meal:
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocado oil & avocado
- Virgin coconut oil
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews…) & nut butters
- Seeds (chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds)
- Peanuts (technically not nuts!)
- Full fat unsweetened, plain yoghurt
- Milk & cheese
A serving looks like a tablespoon of oil, half an avocado or a small handful of nuts.
6. Prioritise protein
During (peri)menopause, decreasing estrogen levels have been associated with an increase of fat mass and the loss of lean body mass.
To counter-act this, it’s so important to eat enough, quality protein. Getting enough protein will also help you to maintain muscle mass and bone health, which is key during menopause.
Aim to include 1-2 serving of quality protein with each meal or snack:
- Edamame/soy beans
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas)
- Nuts & seeds
- Dairy or vegan alternatives to dairy – go for full fat, unsweetened options
7. Know your phytonutrients / plant oestrogens
Plant oestrogens/phytoestrogens can be your nutritional ally though menopause as they can be beneficial for reducing hot flushes and maintaining heart health and bone health.
The best sources are:
- Soybeans/edamame beans
- Sesame seeds
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel spouts…)
- Tea (both green and black)
Soya is a wonderful great source of isoflavones, which are also types of phytoestrogens.
This study has showed that a plant-based diet that includes soya is beneficial for not only improving hot flashes, but can help improve overall wellbeing. Even if going vegan is not for you, just try to include plenty of plants and some soy sources in your diet.
8. Pay attention to these vitamins & minerals
All essential micronutrients are vital at all ages, but let’s have a look at the few that need a little extra attention during menopause.
Vitamin C’s role in collagen formation make it an important nutrient for maintaining bone health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis during menopause.
It’s easy to get enough vitamin C from a healthy, balanced diet by simply eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, particularly berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and peppers.
Vitamin D is vital for maintaining normal bone and muscle function, but also helps to regulate calcium levels. Getting enough of it can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis during menopause.
Try to incorporate plenty of vitamin D-rich foods into your daily diet, such as oily fish, red meat, eggs, mushrooms and fortified foods. However, during October-April in the UK, most adults do not obtain enough vitamin D. It’s worth supplementing vitamin D with a good quality supplement, such as Purition's Multi Nutrient.
Calcium helps to optimise bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis through the menopause.
Make sure you’re eating at least 2-3 portions of calcium-rich food per day, such as milk, cheese & yoghurt, oily fish, soybeans, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale and okra) and dairy-free alternatives fortified with calcium.
Magnesium contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, the normal functioning of the nervous system, normal muscle function and for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth is – just a few of its functions that are especially important through menopause!
Try to include a variety of magnesium-rich foods in your daily meals, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes (soya beans, lentils, beans, chickpeas), nuts & seeds, fortified dairy & dairy-free products, fish, such as halibut, mackerel, and salmon and dark (80%+) chocolate.
9. Hydrate well!
It’s always important to stay hydrated, but throughout the menopause, thirst sensitivity may decrease due to hormonal changes. It’s extra important to include enough fluids to avoid dehydration.
Opt for water, unflavoured sparkling water, unsweetened (herbal) tea and coffee (or decaffeinated coffee if you are sensitive) with or without (nut) milk.
Staying well hydrated can also help reduce headaches, hot flashes and bloating during menopause!
10. Consider Purition
Purition is a blend of whole foods that you can make into a shake, yoghurt bowl or instant porridge. It’s quick, easy and super nutritious – think protein, healthy fats (including omega 3s), fibre and loads of naturally-occurring nutrients to fuel your day.
Even better? Purition is a great natural source of vitamins & minerals, including many of the micronutrients highlighted for their menopause benefits, including calcium and magnesium.
Plus, two of the main ingredients in Purition, flax seeds and sesame seeds, are a great source of phytoestrogens to help with the reduction of hot flashes!
It’s such an easy way to support your health during the menopause. Get started with any 7 sachets for £16.80!
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