We’ve all been there … trying to tone down the Menopause Madness.
The hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and totally unfair weight gain … If you can’t slay the hormone dragon, at least learn to ride it like a pro!
Yes, pharmaceutical HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is one treatment option, but many of us are opting for more natural solutions. So why not start with food? Here are some simple guidelines that will help you design your own “menopause diet” so you can minimize your menopausal misery and feel like yourself again!
Guidelines for a Menopause Diet
No, you don’t have to change your entire diet to alleviate your menopause symptoms. Just know that some changes can be insanely helpful. A proper diet can decrease or eliminate most (if not all) of your uncomfortable menopausal symptoms … and can even prevent the dreaded Menopause Muffin Top!
During menopause and the peri-menopausal years, there are some dietary changes you can make that will help improve your quality of life.
Some foods can dramatically decrease your menopausal symptoms. Conversely, foods that might have been fine before your hormones went on their little roller coaster ride will need to be limited or cut out completely now.
Foods that have been proven to make hot flashes worse include alcohol, caffeinated foods, and spicy foods.
As part of an overall healthy diet, saturated fats should be eliminated or at least eaten much less often. This is especially true during your menopausal years.
Fats such as those found in commercially prepared (ie fast food, frozen/ready-to-go meals & most restaurants) beef, chicken, and pork can decrease your body’s ability to produce estrogen, making menopausal symptoms much more intense. Saturated fats also put you at greater risk of heart attack.
Not all fats are bad though. There are fats that your body needs to be strong and healthy, because they provide essential “fatty acids”.
Your body’s production of hormones relies on two of these fatty acids: omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
These two fatty acids are necessary, but your body cannot produce them on its’ own. That’s why you need healthy unsaturated fats in your diet.
Fish oil has lots of omega 3 essential fatty acids that can be a huge help reducing or totally wiping out menopausal symptoms. It’s also been used to lift depression, reduce risk of breast cancer and lower cholesterol.
One vegetarian food source that has great amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids is flaxseed oil. It can be taken either by tablespoon or in capsules. Flaxseed oil can also be used as a salad dressing (try adding some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar) or even mixed with yogurt.
Unsalted nuts are another great source of “good fat”
Just one ounce of almonds contains about 180 calories, 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of the good kind of carbohydrate and 15 grams of healthy fat. The 15 grams of fat is mostly unsaturated fat. That’s the heart-healthy fat that increases your good cholesterol and moderates your hormone production. And that’s what we want!
It’s also important to limit your intake of unhealthy carbohydrates.
This will help you control your weight and also helps relieve depression and mood swings. Instead of eating something sweet or fatty when you are depressed, try something natural and healthy, like celery with peanut butter or hummus on whole grain crackers.
Recent clinical research has found that depression and mood swings are commonly associated with low blood sugar.
Sugar is the source of energy for your body, so when your blood sugar drops, your brain becomes more agitated. This makes you crave more sweets like cookies, cakes and ice cream. Low blood sugar also contributes to that “Menopause Fog” in your brain!
The amount of sugar your body actually needs to keep your brain and muscles functioning is really quite minimal. When you eat more than your body needs, your pancreas will produce more insulin that turns blood sugar to body fat.
So when your blood sugar rapidly increases, insulin production will surge and the blood sugar will turn into fat before you have a chance to burn it off. This is what causes the “sugar rush” followed by the inevitable “sugar crash” … and then your body stores the excess as fat in your Menopause Muffin Top!
Use Food to Relieve Your Menopause Symptoms
- Eat Plenty of Calcium. This means consuming 2-4 servings of dairy products and foods high in calcium every day. You can find calcium in fish that contain bones (that are high in calcium), milk and other dairy products, legumes, and broccoli. During menopause, it’s recommended that you take in about 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.
- Increase your iron intake. Try to eat at least 3 servings of food that is high in iron. You can find iron in any type of lean red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Try to take in about 8 mg per day.
- Get plenty of fruits and vegetables. Take in 1 ½ cup of fruits and 2 cups of vegetables per day.
- Eat lots of fiber. Whole grain breads, fresh whole fruits, vegetables, brown rice, pasta, and whole grain cereals are high in fiber, which will improve bowel function, which in turn keeps your weight down.
- Drink a lot of water. Try to get in at least 8 glasses of water per day.
- Decrease saturated fat in your diet. Fat should make up only about 25-35 percent of your daily caloric intake. Eat more unsaturated fats and restrict the saturated fats, which are found in fatty meat and whole fat dairy products. Saturated fat should make up no more than 9 percent of all the calories you eat.
- Decrease your salt and sugar intake. If you eat too much salt, you put yourself at risk for hypertension, bloating and weight gain. If you eat too much sugar, you put yourself at risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
- Decrease foods that are charbroiled, cured in salt, smoked or otherwise “processed”. This includes foods that are high in nitrates, which increase your cancer risk.
- Keep your alcohol intake to one drink or less per day. Alcohol can contribute to a number of diseases that you don’t want to have in menopause or any time of your life. Alcohol can also make menopausal symptoms worse, especially hot flashes.
- Know what you’re eating. You need to read food labels in order to know what’s in the food you are eating, especially if you eat processed/pre-made foods. Look for low sodium, low sugar foods that are high in fiber, vitamins and iron. Stay away from low fat foods, as they’re usually high in sugar.
- Avoid chemical sugar substitutes. Stay away from all artificial sweeteners. They add calories but no nutritional value to your food, and some have been proven harmful. Instead, try natural sweeteners like agave nectar or stevia.
- Try not to skip meals. You’re much more likely to make poor food choices when you’re hungry.
Because many of us gain weight during menopause, you need to try to maintain a weight that’s healthy for you. It may mean watching the calories you eat and eating foods that are low in added sugar, salt and saturated fat.
There are some foods that make hot flashes worse
These include alcohol, caffeinated foods, and spicy foods.
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Foods that help menopause symptoms are those that are high in plant estrogens, also called isoflavones. They mimic estrogen in the body so the menopausal symptoms are less intense.
Some phytoestrogens will lower levels of cholesterol in the body, which will decrease the frequency and intensity of night sweats and hot flashes.
Soy products, like soy milk and tofu, are good sources of these phytoestrogens.
So, as you can see … a “menopause diet” is actually just a common sense healthy diet with a few tweaks.
Your body is telling you that now is the time to start eating like a grown up! You can do this!
Comment below and share the tips and tricks that are working for you. We’re all in this together, so let’s make it easier for ourselves and our menopausal sisters!
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