Eat to Beat Menopause
If you suffer from uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, relief may be as close as your kitchen. Hot flashes, irritability, and other symptoms can appear as your ovaries decrease production of estrogen. Thankfully, good nutrition will help ease the symptoms of menopause by supplying your changing body with the nutrients necessary for optimal health throughout this transitional phase.
- The drop in estrogen levels which occurs during menopause leaves women more at risk for cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids — found in oily fish — seem to have the ability to regulate and lower cholesterol levels in the blood, as well as improving the ratio of good and bad cholesterol. It is this ratio between good and bad cholesterol that is thought to play a key role in heart attack risk, and this is one of the most important effects of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.
- Sardines have a high amount of EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid. There are 1,200mg of EPA for every 100g of sardines. EPA proved beneficial to women around the time of menopause. Quebec researchers found that their hot flashes decreased by 55 percent after 8 weeks with EPA consumption. Further studies will be done; however, the initial findings are extremely positive for menopausal women.
- Sardines are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but also a good source of calcium. One hundred grams of sardines contain 70mg of calcium. Calcium is essential to a woman’s health as she ages, since it helps to build strong bones, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a condition common among menopausal women. Most women should get at least 1,000 to 1,500 mg of calcium from food per day.
- Fatty fish contains vitamin D. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Levels of vitamin D can decline as you get older, so ask your doctor whether you need a supplement.
Nut and seeds:
- One ounce (28g) of nuts contains at least 10% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin E, which may help for vaginal dryness, skin and hair condition. One ounce of almonds contains 35% of the DV and one ounce of hazelnuts 20% of the DV.
- Most nuts and seeds contain calcium. Once ounce of almonds contains 75mg of calcium.
- One ounce of nuts contains at least 10% of the daily value (DV) for magnesium. Magnesium is the second most commonly deficient mineral in women. Known as nature’s tranquillizer, magnesium also plays a key role in the absorption of calcium that will help protect against osteoporosis during menopause.
- Nuts and seeds are good sources of essential fats. Flaxseeds are particularly rich in omega-3 fats.
- Like soy, flaxseed, and flaxseed oil contain plant-based estrogens (phytoestrogens) called lignans that may help reduce symptoms of menopause. One study found that women who took phytoestrogens from both soy and flaxseed reduced hot flashes and vaginal dryness, although there was also a significant improvement in symptoms among women who took a placebo.
- Whole wheat, oats, barley and rye, for example, contain zinc and magnesium for libido and mood-boosting. Zinc is a precursor for progesterone which is a hormone that is involved in controlling estrogen. Zinc is also needed to boost the immune system and helps to build strong bones, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Whole grains are also good sources of magnesium.
Pulses and legumes:
- It has been found that the phytochemicals in legumes help control estrogen levels, making symptoms connected with menopause less serious.
- Some evidence suggests that eating soy-based foods such as tofu might help reduce certain symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. That may also explain why women in other cultures, especially the Far East, where soy is a predominant part of the diet, have fewer menopause symptoms.
- Tofu also contains calcium and magnesium for bone health.
Low-fat dairy produce and eggs:
- Skimmed milk and yogurt contain calcium and magnesium. One cup of yogurt would add 345 mgs of calcium to your daily total.
- Talk to your doctor about taking a daily calcium supplement tablet, since it’s difficult to get all the calcium you need through food.
- Eggs contain magnesium, vitamin D, and iron to beat fatigue.
- Vitamin-C rich fruit can help to minimize hot flashes and fluid retention.
- Dried fruits, such as figs and apricots, contain calcium and iron.
- Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that are very similar in structure to estrogen, and may trick your body into thinking it has more estrogen than it really does, potentially diminishing some of the discomforts caused by lower estrogen levels during menopause.
- Boron, on the other hand, seems to increase the body’s ability to hold onto estrogen. It also helps keep our bones strong by decreasing the amount of calcium we excrete each day.
- The top fruit sources of boron that also contain phytoestrogens are plums and prunes, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, pears, grapes, grapefruit, oranges, and red raspberries.
- Leafy greens, salad items and onions are vitamin-C rich, can help with fluid retention and weight control and are also a source of calcium.
- Sweet potatoes are rich in natural progesterone and vitamin E to help hot flashes. Avocados are also vitamin-E rich.
- The top vegetable sources of boron that also contain phytoestrogens are asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli stems, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
Food to avoid…
- Black cohosh is the herb of choice for flashes and night sweats. It is often the most effective choice for balancing hormones.
- Dong quai, nicknamed the “female ginseng,” is one of the foremost herbs used in treating the symptoms of menopause.
- Vitex is a hormone balancer. Use alone or with black cohosh for flashes and dryness.
- Red clover contains chemicals called isoflavones, which mimic the effects of estrogen to help ease flashes.
- Parsley helps with fluid retention.
Hinders absorption of calcium and other minerals, and depletes the body’s B-group and C vitamins. High alcohol intake is also strongly linked to hot flashes.
Caffeine-rich foods and drinks
such as strong coffee and tea, Red Bull and cola hinder mineral absorption, and can make insomnia and anxiety worse.
Foods high in saturated and trans fats:
Pastries, biscuits, fatty meats and other high-fat foods can reduce absorption of the omega-3 and 6 fats and may also hinder calcium absorption.
Can add to fluid retention and may exacerbate high blood pressure and heart disease.