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The progression from perimenopause to post-menopause affects 6,000 women a day in the U.S. Lifestyle habits, including what you eat, can help counteract some of the issues commonly associated with menopause like weight gain, fatigue, changes in digestion, muscle loss, and osteoporosis. Healthful eating while your body is going through these hormonal changes can help ease the symptoms of menopause. Read on to learn more about how a few tweaks to your diet around, during and after menopause can make a difference.
What Is Menopause?
According to the Mayo Clinic, menopause marks the end of menstruation. During perimenopause and menopause, the female body experiences changing levels of hormones, which are chemical messengers in the body. Most tissues in the body (like the heart and brain) have estrogen receptors and estrogen decreases during menopause. When estrogen levels fluctuate and then drop, it leads to physical and psychological symptoms. Perimenopause usually occurs for most women in their 40s and can last for up to 10 years. During this time, many women experience changes in their menstrual cycle. Women are considered post-menopausal once they miss their period for 12 months in a row not due to causes like illness or pregnancy.
Why Eating Well During Menopause Is Important
“Nutrition is important during perimenopause and after menopause occurs because a decline in estrogen affects your health in many ways and nutrition helps to counteract those changes and help you feel your best for the rest of your life,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, co-author, The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health, and Happiness. For example, lower estrogen levels increases the risk for osteoporosis (brittle bones), so it’s important to consume nutrients that support bone health like calcium, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, and potassium. During menopause, some women may also experience higher levels of bad cholesterol or LDL, which contributes to heart disease. As such, Ward recommends an eating pattern that is low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
Is Weight Gain During Menopause Inevitable?
“It's tough to say if perimenopause — the four to 10 years leading up to menopause and then post-menopause — are totally responsible for weight gain or if aging also plays a role,” Ward says. In their 40s and 50s, men tend to gain weight, so a woman’s weight gain is likely a combination of hormonal changes, less physical activity, a decline in muscle mass, and possibly a higher calorie intake than needed, says Ward. One difference? “Perimenopause weight gain favors the belly,” says Ward. “When women gain weight at this time of life, it typically goes to the abdominal area and that can be a big surprise for women who never gained weight there.”
How to Eat During Menopause
The Menopause Diet discusses five core principles for eating well during menopause. To find the best balance for your body, speak with a registered dietitian or medical professional to create an eating plan that works for you.
Eat according to your body clock. Our bodies are ruled by natural body rhythms that affect health, and when you eat matters. We suggest eating more of your calories at breakfast and lunch when the body is better at using them.
Focus on plant foods. Plant-rich eating plans typically supply a balance of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. However, plant-rich eating plans can still include animal foods.
Curb carbohydrates and add more protein. Research suggests that many menopausal women do not consume the protein they need. Based on scientific evidence, The Menopause Diet includes more protein than is typically suggested for women over 50 and fewer carbohydrates.
Control calories. As our metabolism slows with age, we need to think about how to balance calories in the long run. If you want weight loss, you will need to create a calorie deficit. However, that doesn't mean you have to count every calorie.
Physical activity. Regular (near daily) physical activity helps you maintain muscle and bone, reduces type 2 diabetes and cancer risk, lowers stress, and so much more. Experts suggest a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training.
Ward shared a recipe from her book The Menopause Diet Plan. You can whip up this stir-fry using beef, chicken, tofu, or shrimp — you decide.
Photo by: From The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health, and Happiness. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN
From The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health, and Happiness. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN
Stir-Fry, Your Way
- 3⁄4 cup 100% orange juice
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
- 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 pound shelled and deveined raw shrimp; or 1 pound boneless top round steak, trimmed of fat and sliced into 1⁄4 by 1-inch pieces; or 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes; or 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 cups chopped vegetables (such as red, green, and orange bell peppers; sugar snap peas; broccoli florets; sliced carrots)
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, steak, or chicken, and cook until the shrimp is opaque, steak is medium rare, or chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. (Don’t add tofu until the very end.) Transfer the shrimp, steak, or chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.
- Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the vegetables and sauté over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender.
- Add the orange juice mixture to the pan and continue to cook the vegetables until they are fork-tender, stirring constantly, an- other 3 to 4 minutes. Stir the shrimp, steak, or chicken into the pan and toss with the vegetables to heat through for about 1 more minute. If using tofu instead, add it now, tossing to com- bine, cover, and cook for 2 minutes, or until heated through.
Per serving (with shrimp): Calories: 286 Carbohydrate: 24 grams; Dietary fiber: 4 grams; Total fat: 8 grams Saturated fat: 1 gram Cholesterol: 214 milligrams Protein: 31 grams Sodium: 595 milligrams Calcium: 124 milligrams Added sugar: 0 grams
Per serving (with beef): Calories: 356; Carbohydrate: 24 grams; Dietary fiber: 4 grams Total fat: 13 grams; Saturated fat: 3 grams Cholesterol: 87 milligrams Protein: 38 grams; Sodium: 545 milligrams Calcium: 63 milligrams Added sugar: 0 grams
Per serving (with chicken): Calories: 321; Carbohydrate: 24 grams Dietary fiber: 4 grams Total fat: 9 grams Saturated fat: 1 gram; Cholesterol: 87 milligrams Protein: 36 grams Sodium: 570 milligrams Calcium: 45 milligrams Added sugar: 0 grams
Per serving (with tofu): Calories: 284; Carbohydrate: 26 grams Dietary fiber: 5 grams Total fat: 14 grams Saturated fat: 2 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams Protein: 17 grams Sodium: 475 milligrams Calcium: 417 milligrams Added sugar: 0 grams
Recipe from The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health, and Happiness. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
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The Bottom Line
A whole-foods diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein and dairy products may reduce menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish, may also help.
eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and sources of calcium, such as milk, yoghurt and kale. get some sunlight on your skin as this triggers the production of vitamin D, which can help keep your bones healthy. take vitamin D supplements. stop smoking and cut down on alcohol.What foods should you avoid during menopause? ›
- Spicy foods: Not surprisingly, spicy foods can make hot flashes worse. ...
- Alcohol: Having a glass of wine a few times a week probably won't affect your symptoms. ...
- Fatty foods: Except for fatty fish and nuts, try to keep your intake of fat-laden foods to a minimum.
Things like oatmeal, full-fat Greek yoghurt, homemade granola and eggs are all good options that help keep your blood sugars stable and release energy slowly to help avoid slumps.How do I get rid of my menopause belly fat? ›
Start with a mix of moderate and vigorous exercise to burn off menopausal weight gain. Your routine should include aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, bicycling, and running, as well as resistance or strength training. “What you want to employ now is high-intensity interval training (HIIT),” Dr. Peeke says.What foods help with menopause belly fat? ›
Focus on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and choose lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. Limit added sugar and saturated fat, which is found in meat and high-fat dairy products, such as cheese and butter.Which foods are high in estrogen? ›
- Phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens refer to estrogens that occur in foods. ...
- Lignans. Lignans are a type of phytoestrogen found in grains, nuts, seeds, plants, wine, and tea. ...
- Flaxseed. ...
- Soybean products. ...
- Chocolate. ...
- Fruits and vegetables. ...
- Chickpeas. ...
- Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. ...
- Menopause occurs when you've stopped producing the hormones that cause your menstrual period and have gone without a period for 12 months in a row.
Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, and foods that are sugary or spicy. Keep a symptom diary. If you feel that particular foods trigger your menopause symptoms, try to reduce your consumption or avoid them completely. Certain foods and drinks can trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes.Which fruit is best for hormones? ›
Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are all hormone balancing foods packed with great nutrients. Berries are rich sources of vitamin C, which regulates your progesterone levels, particularly during the luteal (PMS) phase of your cycle .
Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse. If you smoke, try to quit, not only for hot flashes, but for your overall health. Try to maintain a healthy weight.Does peanut butter help with menopause? ›
During menopause, consuming peanuts decreases the risk of developing heart disease. Their water and fiber content help to regulate digestion and reduce cholesterol – which is important to maintain heart health. Try eating peanut butter sandwiches with honey and fruit for a healthy and fulfilling lunch!Are boiled eggs good for menopause? ›
Eggs. Eggs are vitamin D-rich and full of iron, both nutrients that women often lack. Eggs are also a great protein source for menopausal women—they have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, heart disease risk, and obesity.Does Meno belly go away? ›
Menopause weight gain often appears without any apparent behavior change. But it doesn't go away on its own. Instead, like any other weight loss, losing menopause weight requires you to expend more calories than you take in.What is the average weight gain during menopause? ›
On average, women gain 5-8% of their baseline body weight during this time,” she says. For the sake of simple math, this means if you weigh 100 pounds, on average you will gain five pounds in the two years after your final period. If you weigh 200 pounds, you are expected to gain at least 10 pounds.Why am I gaining weight so fast when I barely eat? ›
Unintentional weight gain occurs when you put on weight without increasing your consumption of food or liquid and without decreasing your activity. This occurs when you're not trying to gain weight. It's often due to fluid retention, abnormal growths, constipation, or pregnancy.Does belly fat go away after menopause? ›
It's Not Impossible to Lose Belly Fat After Menopause!
You can't control the hormonal changes that work against losing belly fat, but you can change your lifestyle. The best exercise prescription is a combination of exercise that boosts your heart rate and strength training.
- Commit to a regular exercise routine. ...
- Eat your fiber. ...
- Eat veggies in the cruciferous family. ...
- Reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Dried fruits are a potent source of phytoestrogens. Dried apricots, dates, and prunes are some of the dried fruits with the highest phytoestrogen content.Does vitamin D increase estrogen? ›
High blood levels of vitamin D linked to reduced estrogen – and potentially lower breast cancer risk. Can taking daily vitamin D supplements decrease sex-hormone levels and thereby potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer in older women?
Tomatoes, kiwi, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, peaches, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, corn and cauliflower all boast great levels of vitamin C and they possess the phytoestrogen power you might be looking for to boost your estrogen.Can u lose weight during menopause? ›
You may resolve to change your diet and exercise more, but still, you wonder: Is it even possible to lose weight during menopause? The good news is that, yes, a menopausal woman can absolutely lose weight.Does menopause age your face? ›
Studies show that women's skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause. After that, the decline is more gradual. Women lose about 2% of their collagen ever year for the next 20 years. As collagen diminishes, our skin loses it firmness and begins to sag.How long does the menopause last on average? ›
The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, age it begins, and race and ethnicity.How can I raise my estrogen levels quickly? ›
- Soy and other legumes. Soybeans and soy products are a rich source of isoflavones, one of the most important groups of phytoestrogens. ...
- Flaxseeds. ...
- Dark chocolate. ...
- Garlic oil supplements. ...
- Red clover. ...
- Vitamin D. ...
Mindfulness, meditation and cognitive training may improve member and thinking. Hypnosis, yoga, or acupuncture may relieve hot flashes and improve memory and sleep quality. Products such as handheld fans and "chillows" that reduce body temperature have been helpful for some women who experience hot flashes.What makes menopause easier? ›
Deal with it positively – go out with friends and family, pamper yourself with a pedicure, get enough sleep, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. These are some effective ways, which will help you prepare for menopause and make your symptoms easy to handle.Is Avocado high in estrogen? ›
Research shows that avocados can help reduce the absorption of estrogen and boost testosterone levels. They also improve heart health and aid in satiety. We need enough healthy fats to make hormones, and avocados are a great source of hormone building blocks.What foods help reset your hormones? ›
- Cruciferous vegetables. ...
- Eat good fats daily. ...
- Eat a rainbow of vegetables. ...
- Eat quality protein at every meal. ...
- Eat 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds daily. ...
- Eat whole fruit in moderation. ...
- Include herbs and spices in your foods. ...
- Eat wholegrain fibrous carbohydrates.
- Eggs. ...
- Fatty Fish. ...
- Chicken Breast. ...
- Leafy Greens. ...
- Cruciferous Vegetables. ...
- Quinoa. ...
- Pomegranates. ...
- Dry skin.
- Tender breasts.
- Weak or brittle bones.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Moodiness and irritability.
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Irregular periods or no periods (amenorrhea).
If you're having hot flashes during menopause, you may find it helps to avoid certain "trigger" foods and drinks, like spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.Is Avocado good for menopause? ›
Avocados for Supple Skin
Dry, flaky, and itchy skin is a common symptom of menopause. Fight it from the inside by eating skin-supporting foods like avocados, which are high in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, both excellent for supporting healthy skin.
Cruciferous vegetables offer multiple health benefits for menopausal women. Research has found that broccoli, in particular, has a positive impact on estrogen levels—increasing the estrogen responsible for reducing breast cancer risk and lowering the estrogen responsible for increasing one's risk.What are the two vegetables that burn belly fat? ›
Spinach and other leafy green vegetables like kale, lettuce, etc. are great for burning belly fat and are very nutritious as well.What drink burns belly fat overnight? ›
What Drink Burns Fat Overnight? Drinking turmeric milk, chamomile tea, cinnamon tea, green tea, protein shake, green veg smoothies, and fiber-rich juice helps you burn significant fat overnight.Are blueberries high in estrogen? ›
Fresh apricots, peaches, red grapes, oranges, blueberries, and strawberries are also all great sources of phytoestrogen, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.