Some risk factors and symptoms linked with aging and menopause can’t be changed. But good nutrition can help prevent or ease certain conditions that may develop during and after menopause.
Basic Dietary Guidelines for Menopause
During menopause, eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Since women’s diets are often low in iron and calcium, follow these guidelines:
Get enough calcium. Eat and drink two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day. Calcium is found in dairy products, fish with bones (such as sardines and canned salmon), broccoli, and legumes. Aim to get 1,200 milligrams per day.
Pump up your iron. Eat at least three servings of iron-rich foods a day. Iron is found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and enriched grain products. The recommended dietary allowance for iron in older women is 8 milligrams a day.
Get enough fiber. Help yourself to foods high in fiber, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Most adult women should get about 21 grams of fiber a day.
Eat fruits and vegetables. Have at least 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables each day.
Read labels. Use the package label information to help yourself make the best choices for a healthy lifestyle.
Drink plenty of water. As a general rule, drink eight glasses of water every day. That fulfills the daily requirement for most healthy adults.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, cut down on portion sizes and eat fewer foods that are high in fat. Don’t skip meals, though. A registered dietitian or your doctor can help you figure out your ideal body weight.
Cut back on high-fat foods. Fat should provide 25% to 35% or less of your total daily calories. Also, limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Saturated fat raises cholesterol and boosts your risk for heart disease. It’s found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream, and cheese. Limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less per day. And watch out for trans fats, found in vegetable oils, many baked goods, and some margarine. Trans fat also raises cholesterol and increases your risk for heart disease.
Use sugar and salt in moderation. Too much sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure. Also, go easy on smoked, salt-cured, and charbroiled foods — these foods have high levels of nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.
Limit alcohol to one or fewer drinks a day.
Foods to Help Menopause Symptoms
Plant-based foods that have isoflavones (plant estrogens) work in the body like a weak form of estrogen. For this reason, soy may help relieve menopause symptoms, although research results are unclear. Some may help lower cholesterol levels and have been suggested to relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Isoflavones can be found in foods such as tofu and soy milk
Stop eating foods that are likely to trigger or worsen hot flushes and night sweats. For instance, avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and chocolate and spicy foods, especially at night – they’re notorious for setting off hot flushes.
Avoid snacking on sugary foods – all too often a sharp rise in your blood glucose level may be followed by a sharp dip which leaves you feeling tired and drained. Choose fresh fruit with a few nuts instead.
Many people associate the menopause with weight gain but, as we get older, we need fewer calories. Eating a bit less sounds a simplistic solution but it will help. Watch the amount of fat in your diet and cut back on sugar. Eat complex carbohydrates, such as brown grains, wholemeal pasta, bread and rice, as they will help balance blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Legumes, nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, almonds contain vitamin E, zinc and calcium. These nutrients and the oils in nuts and seeds may help prevent dry skin and normalise hormone levels.
Depression and irritability
Ensure you eat enough protein foods which contain the amino acid tryptophan. You can find it in turkey,cottage cheese, oats and legumes. Tryptophan helps manufacture the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin helps moods and may help control sleep and appetite which can make you feel better in yourself. Other useful strategies to help you feel less irritable are to eat breakfast and not miss meals to balance your blood sugar.
Women going through the menopause should increase their intake of food sources of calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K to maintain integrity of the skeleton. In addition, high amounts of phosphorous – found in red meat, processed foods and fizzy drinks – should also be avoided. Too much phosphorous in the diet accelerates the loss of minerals such as calcium and magnesium from bone. Reducing sodium, caffeine and protein from animal products can also help the body maintain calcium stores.
Opt for more alkaline foods – vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and yogurt – to help prevent calcium reserves being leached from bones. Eat foods high in magnesium and boron. These are minerals which are important for the replacement of bone and thus help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Apples, pears, grapes, dates,raisins, legumes and nuts are good sources of boron. As well as considering a calcium supplement, other vitamins and minerals that are vital for bone health are: magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc. Choose a supplement with a combination of these and they will be in the right proportion for maximum effect. Weight-bearing exercise is vital too.
Eat more phyto-oestrogens
Phyto or plant oestrogens found in certain foods are oestrogenic compounds that bind with oestrogen receptor sites in the body cells, increasing the total oestrogenic effect. By acting in a similar way to oestrogen, they may help in keeping hormones a little more in balance. A high intake of phytoestrogens is thought to explain why hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms rarely occur in populations consuming a predominantly plant-based diet. Increase your intake of phyto-oestrogens by eating more: soya milk and soya flour, linseeds, tofu, tempeh and miso, pumpkins seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.