5 ways your diet could help ease menopause
Hot flushes, insomnia, mood swings, dry skin, hair loss and weight change – that’s just a few of the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause (the years leading up to this significant biological change).
It’s a long list most of us would rather avoid and yet 70% of women who go through menopause will experience significant symptoms.
So, is there anything you can do to sail through menopause with ease? The answer may start with what’s on your plate.
There’s a growing body of evidence that shows simply eating more plant foods can help minimise symptoms. Sanitarium dietitian Trish Guy shares some simple diet tips backed by science.
Sip on soy
Hot flushes are the most common symptom associated with menopause, but eating or drinking more soy could be an easy solution to this hot problem. Soy is one of the best sources of phytoestrogens – a natural plant compound with a similar structure to our own oestrogen. Oestrogen levels fall dramatically during menopause, triggering many of the symptoms we’d rather avoid. This is where phytoestrogens, and foods that contain them, may help.
The main type of phytoestrogens found in soy are isoflavones. These natural compounds in soy and soy foods provide important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they also mimic the positive effects of oestrogens in reducing cholesterol and hot flushes, while combatting the harmful effects of lower oestrogen levels such as increasing heart disease risk and weight gain.
A 2021 US study, which prescribed women experiencing hot flushes a plant-based diet rich in soy, found that after 12 weeks the frequency and severity of hot flushes reduced by a whopping 79%. Moderate-to-severe hot flushes decreased by an even greater 84%. It’s also been found that soy could help with other common symptoms of menopause such as trouble sleeping.
Up the calcium
The decline in oestrogen levels during menopause puts women at greater risk of fractures and osteoporosis. It’s important to offset this by consuming more foods that contain calcium. Dairy or calcium fortified plant milks can be excellent sources of calcium. It’s important to choose a plant milk with least 100mg of calcium per 100mL.
Difficulty sleeping is a common struggle during menopause. Eating nuts has been shown to help people fall asleep quicker and reduce waking through the night. Pistachios, Brazil nuts and almonds are the top pick as they have higher levels of melatonin, selenium and magnesium, nutrients that support you have a good night’s sleep.
Included as part of a healthy diet, nuts have also been shown to help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of health problems that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes – in menopausal women. It’s thought the nuts may help by improving cholesterol and metabolism.
Eat your veggies
Recent research from Brazil looking at menopausal women and their diets found those eating the most veggies had milder symptoms and enjoyed better mood, sleep and quality of life, compared to those who ate more junk food. In particular, menopausal women with a diet higher in sugar were more likely to struggle with sleep and brain fog, specifically poor memory and concentration. A healthier overall diet has big knock-on benefits. Here are veg-packed recipes to help get you increase your plant intake.
Try the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet gets a gold star when it comes to eating for better health and you can add breezing though menopause to its long list of benefits. A 2020 review of the science, by the European Menopause and Andropause Society, concluded peri- and post-menopausal women, who stuck to the Mediterranean diet for the long term, could benefit from a lower risk of heart disease and breast cancer, better bone and brain health.
In the short term, the Mediterranean diet may also reduce the severity of hot flushes, improve mood, reduce the risk of depression and common heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. Here’s a guide to giving your diet a Mediterranean makeover.
The take-away is load up your plate with plenty of delicious plant foods, especially soy foods, to increase the nutrients you are getting and offset the impact of the dip in estrogen.
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