Anyone who has ever pushed away from a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner and promptly wanted to take a nap has experienced the effect of nutrients in food on the human body. The sluggishness we feel after a meal high in fat and the improved digestion we notice after eating a salad are other examples of how our choice of food affects how we feel.
Nutrition plays a significant role in how our bodies function on a day-to-day basis. Eating healthy foods provides energy and keeps our mind active. It should be no surprise that nutrition also plays a huge role in how our bodies handle menopause. Those hot flashes, sleep issues, and mood swings may benefit from a change in your eating habits. If you are struggling to control your menopause symptoms, consider the following changes to your daily diet.
Foods to eat more of:
- Soy: A compound in soybeans called isoflavones may help balance hormone levels and have some estrogen-like activity. Avoid supplements and choose natural soy products such as tofu, soy milk, roasted soy nuts or tempeh. Choose organic soy products whenever possible.
- Flaxseeds: According to Dr. Weil, substances called lignins in flaxseeds may help improve hormone metabolism. You can add flaxseeds or flaxseed oil to smoothies or baked goods to help increase consumption.
- Nuts and seeds: Vitamin E may help provide relief for hot flashes and night sweats. You could take a vitamin E supplement or boost your intake of nuts and seeds, which are naturally high in this fat soluble vitamin.
- Yogurt: According to the NIH, a woman's risk of yeast infections increases during menopause. The active bacterial cultures found in high-quality yogurt may help prevent yeast infections. It is also a great source of calcium to improve bone health.
- Iron rich foods: Menopausal women may be at increased risk for anemia (low iron levels), which may lead to increased fatigue. Instead of taking iron supplements to boost your iron intake, a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods is a better choice. Your body processes the iron in food more effectively than the iron in a supplement. Increase your consumption of iron rich foods like poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and enriched grain products. According to WebMD, the recommended dietary allowance for iron in older women is 8 milligrams a day.
Foods to avoid:
- Carbonated beverages: These contain phosphorous and can increase bone loss. Since menopausal women are at increased risk of osteoporosis, limiting these beverages is important.
- Salt: According to the Mayo Clinic, blood pressure often rises during and after menopause. Doctors suspect that changing hormone levels may play a part in elevated blood pressure. Too much salt in the diet can also increase blood pressure. Keep salt intake low by limiting processed foods and seasoning your meals with fresh herbs rather than table salt.
- Spicy foods: You may love the heat of a good jalapeño but that increased heat in your food may trigger a hot flash. Try sticking to mild foods if hot flashes are a concern.
- Saturated fats: These are found most often in red meat and fried foods. The AHA guidelines state that saturated fat may increase your risk of heart disease.
- Caffeine: Menopausal women often have difficulty sleeping. If you have trouble nodding off at night, skip the caffeine.
Just a few simple changes to your daily diet could provide significant relief of your menopause symptoms. You may want to consider keeping a food diary to keep track of your body's response to any changes you make.
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Menopause and Good Nutrition. WebMD. Retrieved November 17, 2015. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/staying-healthy-through-good-nuitrition
Can soft drinks cause a problem for my bones? National Osteoporosis Foundation. Retrieved November 17, 2015. http://nof.org/faq/588
Is there a connection between menopause and high blood pressure? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 17, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/menopause-and-high-blood-pressure/FAQ-20058406
Is Butter Back? The Truth About Saturated Fats. WebMD. Retrieved November 17, 2015. http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/truth-about-saturated-fats
Reviewed November 19, 2015
By Michele Blacksberg RN