Filling your diet with these nutrient-rich foods can help fight unwanted symptoms associated with this time in a woman’s life.
Menopause is often characterized by hot flashes, weight gain, irritability, decreased bone health, and other hormonal changes. It occurs 12 months after a woman’s final period—and while it’s a natural transition, it’s not always the easiest. Estrogen levels begin to decline during this time, often causing unwanted weight gain, higher cholesterol levels, and an increased risk for several chronic diseases.
However, studies suggest that eating certain foods like oatmeal and leafy greens may help relieve or prevent symptoms of menopause. Fill your diet with these 12 nutrient-packed foods to help make the transition easier.
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Salmon is rich in both vitamin D and omega-3 fats, two nutrients that are even more essential during menopause. While more research needs to be done, omega 3 fatty acids are linked to reducing night sweats and breast cancer risk. One study shows omega 3s are beneficial as women ease out of menopause as well.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, cancer prevention, and the prevention of several other major chronic conditions—all of which can be impacted by menopause. Vitamin D is also associated with a reduced risk of early menopause.
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Missie Neville Crawford
Cruciferous veggies could be seriously beneficial for menopausal women to add to their diet. One study found 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. Broccoli is also full of calcium for strong bones and fiber to prevent bloating and weight gain.
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Claire Spollen
Yes, whole grains do in fact fit the “good carbs” category—and for so many reasons! Whole grains are an excellent source of heart-healthy soluble fiber, plant protein, and some B vitamins responsible for energy and metabolism regulation. Whole grain consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and death.
Dairy products are a great menopause diet food as they are rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein and can help improve sleep quality. One study of peri- and post-menopausal women found calcium and vitamin D rich foods—such as yogurt—reduced early menopause risk by 17 percent and helped reduce some symptoms of menopause. Plus, the probiotics in yogurt provide a nice gut health boost for better digestion, immunity, and skin.
There are a million reasons to eat leafy greens—especially if you’re experiencing menopause. Cruciferous veggie consumption is linked to longevity and is a great way to pack in several hard-to-obtain nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and fiber. All of these nutrients are essential for health in menopause as calcium and potassium keep bones and muscles strong, B vitamins and fiber help prevent weight gain, and magnesium and B vitamins regulate our energy levels and moods.
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Protein is essential for keeping our bodies strong, and the decline of estrogen during menopause can lead to a reduction in muscle mass and bone strength. Fighting back with a lean protein like chicken is a healthy way to boost your protein intake without consuming too much saturated fat—which is linked to an increased risk for heart conditions, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity when consumed in excess.
Green tea is often touted as a weight loss tool—but it is so much more than that. Not only is replacing other sugary or caffeinated beverages with green tea a better choice in general, it comes with a range of health benefits. Green tea promotes longevity, heart health, and reduces the risk of several cancers and inflammation.
Matcha, a high-quality, finely ground green tea powder, is also a great option. Matcha is the only form of tea where the leaves itself are ingested, making it an even more powerful source of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Flax is a power-packed little seed. It’s full of omega-3s, fiber, phytoestrogens, and B vitamins. One small study of 140 women found decreased menopause symptoms and improved quality of life after 3 months of flaxseed consumption. Another study found links between flaxseed consumption and a reduction in hot flashes.
There’s a reason why oatmeal is the breakfast of champions for so many people. Not only are oats an affordable health food, but they can also prevent diabetes, high cholesterol, weight gain, inflammation, and constipation.
Oatmeal is another healthy carb that can help keep energy levels steady during menopause. Plus, oatmeal is the perfect vehicle for incorporating a host of other menopause-friendly foods like berries, flax, and yogurt.
Nutrition source: USDA Food Composition Database
The 12 Best Foods to Eat During Menopause - Recipes
For natural “apple-shaped” women who easily gain stomach fat , another hormone called cortisol may have a strong influence on her shape (3).
The Drop in Estrogen Changes a Woman’s Shape
The natural drop in estrogen levels after menopause, cause natural pears to store more fat in the belly area and less in the lower body.
Both pears and apples easily gain stomach fat during and after menopause when high stress, inactivity, and poor eating habits are present.
While you can’t turn back the hands of time on estrogen production, you can control some of the other hormonal imbalances that cause post-menopausal belly fat by reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising, and most importantly changing the foods you eat.
Menopause Diet Foods to Choose
You’ll want to eat a healthy diet overall, but there are certain foods you should prioritise if you want your diet to help relieve some of the symptoms of the menopause.
Reduced estrogen caused by the menopause can cause bone loss. This means post-menopausal women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Dairy products contain all the essential vitamins and minerals you need for good bone health (1). These include:
In one study, women with the highest intake of dietary vitamin D had a 17% lower risk of early menopause than women with the lowest intake (2).
In another study of 746 healthy postmenopausal women, there was a beneficial effect of eating animal and dairy protein on bone strength and microstructure (3).
Common dairy foods to eat include milk, cheese and yogurt.
Whole grains contain lots of fiber and B vitamins. Fiber can with problems women on the menopause regularly have. These include lowering cholesterol, blood sugar levels and prevent constipation.
Whole grains are linked with a lower heart disease risk and daily servings have been associated with a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke. (4).
Another study including 11,000 postmenopausal women found women who consumed on average 4.7g of whole-grain fiber per 2000 calories had a 17% lower mortality rate than women who only consumed 1.3g of whole-grain fiber per 2000 calories ( 5 ).
Good choices for whole-grain foods include:
- Barley – rich in beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre that can help lower cholesterol (6).
- Oats – may lower total cholesterol by 5% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 7% (7).
- Brown rice
- Wholemeal bread
Healthy fats include unsaturated fats that contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids may be useful for menopausal women to help manage symptoms.
Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to confer excellent health benefits. For example, postmenopausal women who ate 30g of flaxseed per day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease as seen by lowered LDL cholesterol levels (8).
However, other studies are not as conclusive about whether increase your omega-3 intake can improve symptoms like hot flashes and severe night sweats ( 9 , 10).
It may still be worth testing increasing your omega-3 intake to see whether it helps menopausal symptoms.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines
- Seeds – flax seeds and chia seeds
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain lots of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants you need to help improve your health.
One study found eating more vegetables, fruit, fiber and soy had a 19% fewer hot flashes compared to the control group. This reduction was linked to the weight lost ( 11 ).
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale may be particularly effective. One study found that eating broccoli reduced the type of estrogen linked with breast cancer ( 12 ).
Reduced estrogen levels caused by the menopause has been correlated to reduced bone density and muscle mass (13).
This means it can be useful for menopausal women to eat more protein.
One study found that eating dairy protein was linked to an 8% lower risk of hip fracture, while eating plant protein was linked to a 12% reduction (14).
High protein foods include:
- Meat – chicken, beef, pork
- Seafood – salmon, tuna, mackerel
- Beans and lentils – kidney beans, fava beans, chickpeas
- Dairy foods – cheese, milk, yogurt
The 12 Best Foods to Eat During Menopause - Recipes
6 Best Foods To Eat During Menopause
If you’re going through menopause, you definitely know that this natural transition comes along with a lot of uncomfortable symptoms. What’s more concerning is that the drop in estrogen levels can make you more vulnerable to certain types of health conditions. When you are experiencing menopause, it is essential that you pay special attention to your diet. Consuming certain types of foods on a regular basis can help relieve some unpleasant symptoms of menopause. Let’s take a look at them.
Low estrogen levels in your body can increase the risk of fractures. To prevent this, you should focus on having dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese that are rich in calcium, vitamin D and K, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These are integral for healthy bones. Did you know that milk and cheese promote better sleep? Most high-protein foods like dairy have high levels of amino acid glycine. It increases serotonin levels that affect and influence a person’s sleep. Some research also shows evidence that the consumption of dairy products could prevent the onset of premature menopause.
Fruits and vegetables
Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, fruits and vegetables help tame any distressing symptoms. A study demonstrated that menopausal women whose diet consisted of high amounts of fruits and vegetables experienced fewer hot flashes. Likewise, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli reduce the bad kind of estrogen while increasing the good estrogen levels that could protect you against chronic diseases and help you lose weight!
Low estrogen levels also contribute to loss in muscle mass. You should make it a point to eat more protein if you want to stay strong! Apart from dairy products, your diet should mainly encompass eggs, fish, turkey, and chicken. If you prefer plant-based proteins, then lentils, tofu, edamame, almonds, quinoa, chickpeas, baked beans, nuts and seeds, chia seeds, oats, seitan, spirulina, and amaranth should ideally be a part of your daily diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely healthy and are commonly found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, anchovies, and mackerel. Chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds are also rich in this nutrient. Your body needs these acids if you want to have fewer hot flashes every day. A few studies concluded that omega-3 acids can help decrease depression too. These highly beneficial acids also control triglycerides that increase the risk of heart diseases. Likewise, they can help protect against dementia and inflammation, and improve bone health, skin, and sleep quality.
Whole grains are loaded with nutrients including B vitamins and fiber that can lower the risk of heart disorders and diabetes. Additionally, they help enhance digestive health and energy levels, and reduce stress. Your diet should include whole grains like quinoa, whole-wheat bread, barley, brown rice, rye, and Khorasan wheat.
These compounds mimic weak estrogens like estradiol in the body. Having foods that are rich in phytoestrogens can mitigate bothersome menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and prevent osteoporosis by maintaining normal bone density. You can consume peanuts, flax seeds, coffee, broccoli, carrots, soybeans, chickpeas, plums, and berries as all of these have phytoestrogen.
With all the discomforting symptoms that menopause brings with it, vaginal dryness and dry skin are topical issues that shouldn’t be ignored either. Hydrating your body during menopause is the best way to keep these problems at bay. Drinking water could also help with stomach bloating that normally occurs during this time. Keep yourself active by doing your favorite exercise. This will not only help you maintain healthy body weight but also boost your mental health. Cardio, strength training, yoga and meditation, dancing, or even simple walks or stretching every day can make your journey through menopause a lot better!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Eat a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Make sure to include calcium and iron-rich foods in your diet. Also, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Don’t skip meals. Have small portions every few hours a day.
A. You need to make dietary changes to lose weight, along with regular exercises. Keep an eye on your portion sizes. Eat foods high in fiber and proteins. Substitute complex carbs with simple carbs. Eat whole-foods like whole grains. Include a lot of fruits and vegetables. Add healthy fats to your diet and drink lots of water.
A. Foods that aggravate symptoms of menopause are caffeine, alcohol, added sugars, salty foods, processed food, spicy food and, high-fat foods.
Table of contents:
- Menopause is a natural and biological occurrence in a woman’s body. It is the time when your periods stop and you are no longer a fertile woman.
- Menopause typically occurs in women aged between 40-50. The average age, when a woman reaches menopause in India, is 46 years.
- A woman is diagnosed with menopause after a year without menses or periods.
- During menopause, hormonal changes play havoc on your body. Symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, anxiety, and sleep disruption may drain your energy levels and also affect you emotionally.
- The treatments available to treat symptoms of menopause are hormone therapy and lifestyle changes.
Menopause diet plan – what to eat to lose weight during menopause
“Stick to unprocessed food where possible,” says Dr Mukherjee. So, eat plenty of whole foods such as different coloured fruit and veg, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils) and wholegrains such as bulgur wheat, quinoa, brown rice and whole oats. “This is because processed foods cause weight gain and are not nutritionally balanced like wholefood is.”
“Beware of liquid diets as they have been processed by blending,” warns Dr Mukherjee. “Remember, wheat-based food (bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, pizza, pastry) are highly processed. Cutting those down or out of your diet can help with weight loss.”
You can also try swapping pasta for legumes or wholegrains, and cakes and biscuits for nuts, seeds and dark chocolate.
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“A diet that balances blood sugar is a sensible and sustainable approach to weight management for women in midlife,” says Jackie, whose Happy Menopause podcast is well worth a listen. “Eating a combination of protein such as meat, fish or tofu and complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables or wholegrains, with each meal will help keep you fuller for longer. And it will reduce the sugar and carb cravings that often lead to weight gain,” she says.
Importantly, Jackie recommends women don’t fall for fad diets. “Avoid yoyo dieting and super-strict regimes. These will just confuse your body and may cause the metabolism to slow down, making it even harder to lose weight,” she explains.
The Best and Worst Foods to Eat After Menopause
From overwhelming hot flashes and sleepless night to worsening migraines and stubborn weight gain, menopause has the potential to deliver some discomfort. Fortunately, there are lifestyle choices you can make to help yourself feel well before, during, and after menopause. For example, sticking to a clean diet that’s full of wholesome foods can help you stay energized and get the vitamins your body needs. Not sure what to eat as you age? No problem. In this video, we’re showing you the best and worst foods for women after menopause.
Fatty fish like salmon are healthy for everyone, but since postmenopausal women have a higher risk of heart disease, seafood’s heart-healthy omega-3s are especially important.
After age 50, most women need to consume more calcium. Snack on probiotic-rich yogurt to get more calcium in your diet—just 1 cup of lowfat yogurt contains up to 415 mg of calcium, one-third of your daily target. Plus, it’s best to get the bone-protecting mineral from foods instead of supplements. Double win.
Of course, greens are always going to be good for you, no matter your age. That said, veggies like broccoli are particularly beneficial for any post-menopausal diet. Like yogurt, broccoli contains bone-friendly calcium, and it also offers important antioxidants that help protect your vision. If you’re not a broccoli fan, opt for leafy greens like collards or kale, which will also do the trick.
So, what’s out? It’s best to avoid salty snacks in order to keep your blood pressure in check and your bones strong as you age. Scaling back your alcohol intake (even of red wine!) is also a good idea, since just one glass a day has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Plus, both alcohol and hot coffee can trigger hot flashes, so an iced tea may be your best bet for feeling refreshed rather than sweaty. Yes, please!
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In her book, The Menopause Diet, Larrian Gillespie refers to water as “liquid oxygen.” And just as oxygen nourishes every cell, water is critical for menopausal women to hydrate cells, moisturize skin, and eliminate toxins from the body. Try to get at least 64 ounces every day. If you measure it into a large bottle or pitcher at the beginning of the day, you can see your progress and try to meet your goal by bedtime.
Donuts: In what is perhaps the most surprising discovery from a study published in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, researchers discovered that many of the yummy donuts we love to nom on also contain soy protein isolate. Soy is arguably the most well-known phytoestrogen-rich food source. It’s also found in other commercial products like ice cream, cheeses, and cereal.
Blueberries: Like other berries, grapes, and wine, blueberries contain resveratrol and can activate estrogen receptors. According to a 2017 study, that function can be help keep your brain sharp and maintain overall cognitive performance in post-menopausal women.
Hummus: Chickpeas, the main ingredient in most hummus recipes, and other legumes are full of isoflavones, which are the same phytoestrogenic elements found in soy products. Lima beans are another option from this category, but who doesn’t love a good pita chip dipped in hummus?
Rye Bread: Good news for fans of a classic Reuben sandwich! The lignans in rye have both estrogenic or anti-estrogenic activity, which means they can help replace lost estrogen during menopause while also helping to ward off breast cancer, according to a study published in Food & Nutrition Research.
Cabbage: Paleo-friendly brassica vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprout are high in coumestans, another type of phytoestrogen. You could potentially give your estrogen levels a good boost by tossing together a salad of several coumestan-rich veggies.
Again, always make sure to discuss any drastic changes in your diet with your doctor before stocking up at the grocery store. Estrogen isn’t something you should go messing with willy-nilly. If you do get the okay from your physician, though, go ahead and savor a daily donut — you’ve earned it!