Diet can really help relieve the symptoms of the menopause. Found out which foods to eat - and what to avoid
A recent survey from the British Menopause Society found that half of women going through the menopause in the UK are too embarrassed to seek medical help.
Last year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence issued new advice stating more women should be offered Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Of the 1,200 women aged 45 to 65 surveyed, only 3% were aware of these guidelines, and many have been too afraid to discuss the option of HRT with their GPs.
The study also revealed that menopausal women suffer from seven symptoms
on average, including hot flushes, night sweats, sleeping problems and
Speak to your doctor if these symptoms are affecting your daily life, and don’t forget to include these hormone-healthy ingredients to your plate !
While Hormone Replacement Therary (HRT) is a good option for controlling the symptoms of the menopause medically, simply eating the best foods for menopause might be all you need to feel better the natural way.
Did you know that some foods also make the symptoms of the menopause much worse? While other delicious foods such as honey, blueberries or yoghurt not only provide a much-needed pick-me-up when menopausal symptoms are getting you down, but also help relieve the symptoms of the menopause scientific research suggests.
So, find out which foods are best for menopause – and what to avoid – with our helpful guide…
Good for? Bone health
Calcium is so important when you're going through the menopause because when female hormone levels drop, there's a higher chance of developing bone problems such as oestoporosis. The vitamin D in dairy will also boost your mood, helping prevent depression. Try adding low-fat natural yoghurt to your diet.
Butter and full-fat milk may be good sources of calcium but they are also high in saturated fat. Limiting your intake of fatty foods is important whatever your age, but studies suggest maintaining a healthy weight during the menopause will help prevent heart troubles. Stock up on soya milk or low-fat dairy instead.
Good for? Hot flushes, sore skin, concentration
Hot flushes can make you feel miserable. There are a few things you can do though. Start by upping your water intake to prevent the dehydration brought on by sweating. There's evidence that the body's ability to conserve water decreases during the menopause so you might feel thirstier than usual. An extra few glasses of water a day should help keep your skin in good condition too.
You might rely on that early morning latte or fizzy drink pick-me-up at 4pm, but caffeine is best avoided during the menopause. As a stimulant, it does little for mood or energy levels, and can interfere with your hormonal balance and sleeping patterns too. Stick to lots of water throughout the day instead.
Good for: Hot flushes, sore skin
Or, if you can't go without a hot drink, sip green tea. It's packed with helpful antioxidants.
Good for: Hot flushes, hormone levels
There's long been a debate about the benefits of plant compounds during the menopause. The phytoestrogens which natural foods such as soya contain are thought to mirror oestrogen, reducing hot flushes. Although there's no definitive evidence, small studies have reported positive results when all three types of phytoestrogens (isoflavones, lignans and coumestans) are eaten so it's worth adding isoflavone-rich soya products (such as soya beans or soya milk) to your shopping basket.
Good for: Preventing diseases, inflammation
Flaxseeds are packed with lignans, so try snacking on a handful if you're feeling menopausal. Leading nutritionists think the combination of fibre, essential fatty acids, protein and lignan in the little brown seeds may help with inflammation and ward off potential heart problems.
You might think that cutting out carbohydrates will help with menopausal weight gain. Not so. The body needs the steady supply of energy that good carbohydrates provide to prevent cravings, so swap sugary stodge (white bread, pasta and rice) for the filling, complex carbohydrates found in wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice, oats and potato.
Good for: Weight loss
Eggs, fish and lean meat should be at the top of your shopping list during the menopause. Why? Well the body relies on protein to constantly rebuild cells, so it can stay young while maintaining a healthy weight.
Good for: Weight loss
Getting enough fibre is so important whatever your life stage. During the menopause, a high fibre diet packed with foods such as potatoes and fresh produce will not only keep you regular but also lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Just go easy on the fatty fillings!
Good for: Bone health
Wondering why you're suddenly craving chocolate every five minutes? Your body might be in need of a good dose of zinc to keep bones healthy, so treat yourself to a square! Make sure your bar has a high cocoa content though, sugary milk or white chocolate can make those menopausal symptoms much worse.
When you're going through the menopause, turn down the heat! Eating spicy food will only trigger a hot flush.
Good for: Staying healthy
Your monthly cycle may have stopped, so taking an iron supplement might no longer be necessary, but your body still needs 8mg of iron every day to stay healthy. Stock up by eating lots of leafy green vegetables like spinach, cabbage and kale.
After a long day, a glass of wine with dinner might seem like a good idea but alcohol isn't at all helpful for alleviating the symptoms of the menopause. Just like stress, alcohol can actually intensify hot flushes and trigger headaches. If you can't resist (who can?), red wine is a far better option than white.
Good for: Hot flushes
Hot flushes or night sweats might be unavoidable when you're going through the menopause, but sometimes they're made worse by a potassium deficiency. Along with eating more potassium-rich foods like bananas, mushrooms and sweet potato (and visiting your GP for a blood test), increasing your magnesium levels will regulate temperature so snack on a handful of brazil nuts.
Good for: Fighting disease
Delicious and packed with antioxidants, blueberries are the ultimate food to beat the ageing process. The flavonoids they contain are thought to be especially effective in fighting off degenerative conditions affecting the brain such as poor concentration or memory-loss. Vitamin E also helps regulate hormone levels.
Good for: Bloating, sore skin
Honey has been used to soothe for centuries, so it's no surprise that it helps during the menopause too. Although research is limited, adding good quality Manuka honey to a little hot water should sort water retention and sore skin while aiding digestion.
If you're not already eating six small meals a day packed with these healthy foods, then now is the time to start. You should find that eating the right things little and often will help banish cravings by keeping your blood sugar steady (and hormones in check) throughout the day.