During menopause, women experience a variety of symptoms which range from slightly annoying to completely disrupting to their everyday life. These symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, anxiety, depression, nausea, bouts of diarrhea, insomnia and fatigue. In addition, women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease during this time. Diet can have a big influence on the level of intensity of menopausal symptoms, in addition to lowering a woman’s risk of other health conditions. Knowing which foods to add to your diet and which foods to avoid can help you manage menopause symptoms and decrease your risk of dangerous health conditions.
Foods that Reduce Menopausal Symptoms
During menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate, causing a hormone imbalance in the body. This hormone imbalance is the root of all evil when it comes to the irritating and life changing symptoms of menopause. Keeping these hormones balanced can help reduce the discomforts. Certain foods contain plant-based estrogen-like properties that can fool the body into thinking it has higher levels of estrogen. Many of these foods help to protect the body from serious health conditions, in addition to reducing the chance of weight gain.
Soy – Soy-based foods, as well as soy isoflavones supplements, are effective in lowering the number and severity of hot flashes in women. Approximately 75 percent of menopausal women in the U.S. suffer from hot flashes; as compared to about 8 percent of women who live in countries where people eat a diet rich in soy. In one study, it was found that adding soy to the diet decreased the number of hot flashes in women by 52 percent. Another study found that adding soy to the diet decreased a woman’s chance of breast cancer and other hormone-sensitive cancers. Soy is also beneficial for lowering bad cholesterol and protecting the heart.
Women who substitute soy products for meat or dairy are also more likely to lose weight since soy is naturally low-fat and low in calories. Enjoy soy in a variety of ways including soy milk, soy cheese, tofu or soybeans. Soy isoflavones supplements are also a good way to increase the amount of soy in your diet. Taking one to two 40 milligram tablets a day will help relieve menopausal hot flashes.
Fruits and Vegetables – Not only are fruits and vegetables high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in calories, but they, too, can fool the body into believing it has more estrogen than it actually does. Fruits and vegetables contain phytoestrogens, a plant-based form of estrogen. Eating enough of these healthy foods may reduce hot flashes, as well as other menopausal symptoms, and also reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers. Fruits and vegetables also contain boron, which is a mineral that increases the body’s ability to maintain estrogen. Boron also reduces the amount of calcium lost each day; so your bones stay strong and healthy.
Eating at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at each meal is the best way to make sure you benefit from the vitamins and minerals within. Good sources of phytoestrogen and boron include:
* Sweet potatoes
Flaxseed – Adding ground flaxseeds to your foods may reduce hot flashes and night sweats, while also reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease. Flaxseed is one of the richest known sources of phytoestrogen lignans, as well as a plant-form of omega-3 fatty acids. Try mixing up to 1 teaspoon a day into your favorite salads, dressings, soups or smoothies. Flaxseed oil does not contain phytoestrogen, so skip the oil and stick to flaxseeds themselves.
Foods that Increase Menopausal Symptoms
Certain foods increase menopausal symptoms because they upset the balance of hormones, increase your risk of rapid weight gain or upset your digestive system. Try to avoid or eliminate the following foods that increase menopausal symptoms.
Sugar -- High-sugar foods cause your blood sugar to spike and increase the amount of insulin released by the pancreas. The increased insulin rapidly turns calories into fats in the blood. It also stimulates the enzyme that takes fat from the blood and places it into the cells. In other words, too much sugar stimulates the body to store all its calories as fat. Weight gain and increased risk of heart disease can result. Also, too much sugar depletes magnesium in the body. This results in an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, which leads to many of the menopausal symptoms. A diet high in sugar also affects your energy levels and often leaves you feeling fatigued.
Simple Carbohydrates and Starches -- Carbohydrates from processed foods, like white bread, cookies and crackers, and high-starch foods, like potatoes, white rice, white pasta and corn, can cause your body to react much the same way as it does to sugar. They spike sugar levels and cause an overproduction of insulin. Reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates and starches in your diet and replace them with whole-grain and whole-wheat foods in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Caffeinated Beverages -- Coffee, tea and soda all contain high quantities of caffeine, which not only play havoc with your hormones, but can also dehydrate the body and deplete it of essential nutrients like calcium.