Menopause Diet: Can nutrition help menopause?
By Nutritional Weight & Wellness Staff
October 18, 2023
Darlene Kvist, founder of Nutritional Weight and Wellness says..."Perimenopause and menopause are times when women need to pay attention to nutrition and food choices in order to prevent weight gain and maintain a balanced mood.
Nutrition is complex, especially for women approaching menopause. Weight gain or mood swings might be the result of an insulin response or poor food choices, but there are other possible causes. Lack of sleep, too much stress, insufficient progesterone, adrenal exhaustion, and inflammation all may contribute to your menopausal issues. Interestingly, all these factors have a nutritional connection.
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we agree with Margaret Meade, the famous anthropologist who said, “The most creative force in the world is the menopausal woman with zest.” Nutrition is your best resource for experiencing zest at this time of life." read this entire article from Darlene Kvist.
Menopause Diet: How Foods Impact Symptoms
At Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we believe that smart nutrition can significantly enhance your health and wellness during menopause. Foods like fruits and vegetables help regulate hormones and reduce hot flashes. Healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts support hormone production as hormone levels decline. Cutting back on caffeine and sugar may help ease hot flashes, while staying hydrated with water and herbal teas can alleviate dryness and discomfort.
A menopause-friendly, balanced diet, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, can boost your overall health and wellness during this transition.
How to Adjust Your Diet for Menopause
Menopause Diet Tip #1: Maintain a Well-Balanced Diet
Maintaining a balanced diet of real foods is important for menopausal women. Aim to include a variety of foods from all food groups in your diet, making sure to prioritize a balance of real protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy if tolerated), real carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, starchy vegetables and grains) and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, butter, coconut oil, olive oil).
This balanced approach ensures that you receive essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which play a vital role in managing symptoms, maintain energy levels, and promote a healthy weight throughout your menopausal journey.
Menopause Diet Tip #2: Prioritize Consistent Meals
Skipping meals during menopause isn't a great idea. It can negatively impact your energy, mood, and even your weight. Eating regularly helps keep your energy steady, your mood happier, and your weight in check. Plus, it gives your body the nutrients it needs to handle all those hormonal changes. So, make sure to have your meals on time to feel your best during menopause!
Menopause Diet Tip #3: Limit Sugar & Processed Foods
Cutting back on sugar and processed foods is crucial during menopause. These processed foods (bread, pasta, crackers, chips, etc.) can lead to weight gain and worsen mood swings and energy fluctuations. Opt for whole, unprocessed foods to manage your weight and emotions better during this phase and provide optimal health benefits.
Menopause Diet Tip #4: Stay Hydrated
Enjoying coffee drinks like mochas and lattes, as well as alcohol, can lead to increased blood sugar levels and dehydration, which can pose challenges for many women going through menopause. Dehydration can result in fatigue, headaches, constipation, and even contribute to the appearance of wrinkles. Additionally, coffee and alcohol consumption can exacerbate hot flashes, a common symptom during this life stage.
To stay hydrated, aim for 8-10 glasses of water daily or about half your body weight in ounces, distributed evenly throughout the day. Limiting fluids before bedtime can reduce nighttime bathroom trips.
Menopause Diet: Foods to Avoid
Certain foods and dietary habits can potentially exacerbate menopause symptoms for some individuals. While individual responses can vary, here are five common culprits that might make menopause worse for some women:
Menopause Diet Avoid #1: Sugar and Processed Carbohydrates
To improve mood and reduce anxiety during menopause, it's beneficial to cut down on processed carbohydrates and added sugars. Often, we turn to sugary snacks like muffins, chips, pasta, and brownies when feeling stressed, but these choices can worsen anxiety and sleep problems. Excess sugar can lead to insomnia, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain.
Hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia can all be influenced by blood sugar fluctuations, which are in turn affected by your carbohydrate intake. Diets high in sugar and processed carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes, potentially contributing to hormonal imbalances and these menopausal symptoms. Unstable blood sugar levels can also disrupt sleep patterns, leaving you fatigued and irritable while increasing sugar cravings due to low blood sugar.
To manage these symptoms, opt for balanced meals and snacks including quality proteins, healthy fats, and nutrient-rich carbohydrates, with a primary focus on vegetables and smaller portions of fruit, starchy vegetables or whole grains, avoid highly processed carbs, and maintain regular eating intervals to stabilize your blood sugar and help alleviate mood swings, hot flashes, and sleep disturbances during menopause.
Menopause Diet Avoid #2: Conventionally-Raised Meats
Unless labeled as "no hormones added," most meat likely contains added hormones used to accelerate animal growth. While the U.S. considers this safe, the EU views hormone-fed meat as potentially harmful to human health, leading to its ban in EU countries.
In response, an increasing number of informed consumers are turning to organic or naturally raised meat without added hormones. Among these choices, organic, grass-fed meat is often regarded as the best. Grass-fed animals have twice as much CLA as those fed grains, a compound that promotes a healthy metabolism.
“Prioritize the quality of meat you buy. Organic grass-fed/pasture raised beef, free-range chicken, free-range/pasture raised eggs, free-range turkey and wild caught fish are ideal. Toxins are stored in an animals’ fat cells and then when we eat that animal those toxins are then stored in OUR fat cells. So, if you aren’t able to purchase those higher quality meats then choose the leaner cuts of conventional meat, so you are limiting the toxin exposure from the fat.”
Menopause Diet Avoid #3: Alcohol
Alcohol can have adverse effects during menopause. It may trigger hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and contribute to weight gain, which are already common menopausal challenges. Excessive alcohol intake can weaken bones, impacting bone health when bone density naturally declines during menopause.
Additionally, alcohol can affect mood, potentially worsening mood swings and anxiety, common menopausal symptoms. For these reasons, we recommend limiting or avoiding alcohol during menopause to promote better sleep quality, mood, bone health, and overall health and wellness.
Menopause Diet: Best Foods to Help with Symptoms
Menopause Diet Food #1: Healthy Fats
Healthy fats play a vital role in hormone production, so it's essential to consume the right kinds. Opt for healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, grass-fed butter, unrefined coconut oil, avocado oil, and nuts. These fats not only support hormone balance but also help regulate blood sugar levels. On the flip side, avoid inflammatory refined oils such as canola, corn, soybean, vegetable, and cottonseed oils, as they won't contribute to healthy hormone production.
To manage menopausal symptoms effectively, incorporate healthy fats into your daily diet, aiming for a healthy fat every time you eat. Steer clear of low-fat foods, refined oils, margarine, and artificial creamers.
Menopause Diet Food #2: Cruciferous Veggies
For a healthy diet, increase your cruciferous veggies, especially the dark green leafy vegetables, to help support your liver, digestive system, and bone health. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy are some of the recommended foods to eat because they help your body detox the harmful estrogens in your body. The fiber in veggies helps to promote a healthy gut, which is a key to hormone balance.
Menopause Diet Food #3: Protein
Eating four to five ounces of animal protein at your meals, especially during perimenopause and menopause, is crucial, supported by scientific evidence. Protein breaks down into amino acids, including tryptophan and tyrosine, which provide the building blocks to make neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, enhancing memory, mood stability, energy, focus, and communication skills.
In addition, protein plays a vital role during menopause by preserving/increasing muscle strength, supporting metabolism, and promoting a feeling of fullness.
Menopause Diet #4: Water
Adequate hydration plays a crucial role in managing menopause symptoms and overall well-being. It helps alleviate discomfort associated with vaginal dryness, regulates body temperature to reduce hot flashes and night sweats, supports cognitive function, maintains digestive health, and stabilizes mood and energy levels. Drink water often throughout the day, limit caffeine and alcohol intake, and include water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Recommended Next Steps
Menopause is a natural journey, but suffering through its symptoms isn’t. Our Menopause Solutions class offers a series of six easy-to-follow videos, diving into holistic solutions for symptoms like hot flashes and weight gain. Led by experts Melanie Beasley and Kara Carper, you'll gain insights on hormones, nutrition, and more. With a treasure trove of resources and a supportive community, it's time to take charge, alleviate discomfort, and navigate menopause with confidence and ease. Don't just endure menopause; thrive through it. Join us today!