Menopause and diet: how to eat well to reduce symptoms?
Published Oct 18, 2023 • By Claudia Lima
Menopause is a natural biological process in women's lives, which corresponds to the cessation of ovarian functions.
Arriving in most women around the age of 50, menopause generates symptoms known as climacteric disorders, which have an impact on quality of life, and can be alleviated by drug treatments or by using alternative methods such as following a specific diet.
What impact does menopause have on a woman's body? Which foods are best and which should be avoided?
Find all the answers in our article!
What are the symptoms of menopause?
In the US, more than 1 million women experience menopause each year. Menopause is not an illness. Nevertheless, the hormonal changes associated with menopause can have an impact on physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. All the symptoms associated with menopause are known as climacteric disorders. They are experienced differently by different women, and not all of them are felt.
The most common climacteric disorders are:
- Hot flushes,
- Changes in menstrual cycle,
- Sleep disturbances,
- Mood disorders,
- Vaginal, skin and hair dryness,
- Urinary problems,
- Muscle and joint pain,
- Weight gain.
The risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease also increases.
It's important to understand that menopause is an important biological transition for women.
There are solutions to reduce the impact of menopausal symptoms. These include symptomatic treatments, hormonal treatments and non-medicinal techniques. Some women opt to change their lifestyle and adopt a diet specific to the menopause.
Why do women gain weight during menopause?
During menopause, a woman's body goes through certain changes. Weight gain is one of the most common results of these physiological changes. More than half of all women gain between 2.2 and 11 pounds on average, and these are harder to lose after the age of 50.
What happens is that hormonal cycles come to a halt and the body suddenly stops producing certain hormones, which considerably slows down the metabolism.
Fat storage also changes. This fat becomes lodged in the abdominal organs, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Hormonal changes can also cause temporary depression, leading to compensatory eating and snacking. Finally, water retention is also common during this period.
That's why you need to adapt your diet.
What should women eat during menopause?
Adjusting your diet during menopause will help you limit weight gain and prevent certain symptoms. At the same time, it is advisable to be physically active and to drink enough water.
Water consumption can be adjusted to your needs: you can choose magnesium-rich water if you are constipated, potassium-rich water if you suffer from water retention, calcium-rich water if you have osteoporosis, iron-rich water if you are anemic and diuretic water to promote elimination.
A menopausal woman's energy requirements for each meal are 10-20% protein, 35-40% fat and 40-55% carbohydrates.
A menopausal woman needs 0.83g of protein per pound of body weight. If she weighs 130 pounds, she needs 130 x 0.83g = 107.9g of protein per day.
Here's our advice on what you should eat:
During menopause, the recommended daily fiber intake should be of 30g. Fiber is an effective appetite suppressant. It facilitates transit and helps reduce cholesterol and sugars. The foods containing the most fiber are green vegetables (peas, artichokes, spinach, cabbage, parsnips), pulses (white and kidney beans, cooked lentils), wheat bran, oat bran, red rice, red fruit (raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, bilberries), dried figs, black olives, wholemeal wheat and pasta and oilseeds (chia seeds, linseeds, almonds).
You need 2 portions of proteins a day, of plant or animal origin. Proteins will stabilize blood sugar levels and increase the feeling of satiety. The proteins you should choose are eggs, lean meat (minced steak, veal, roast beef), oily fish (salmon, mackerel), shellfish (prawns, crab), skinless poultry (turkey), pulses (lentils, beans, peas, soya), oilseeds (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts), cheese with less than 20% fat, milk and yoghurts, wholegrain cereals (quinoa, rice, wheat, oats), seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame) and seaweed (spirulina, chlorella).
During menopause, calcium requirements increase sharply, reaching 1200 mg per day in women over 55. Calcium is useful in treating osteoporosis. Calcium is found in milk and dairy products, fortified soya, sesame seeds, almonds, salmon, artichokes, broccoli, kale, figs, cooked pulses and oysters, among others.
Vitamin D also helps against osteoporosis. Optimal daily intake should be 1200 mg for post-menopausal women aged over 50. The best sources of vitamin D to include in a menopause diet are salmon, mackerel, tinned sardines, liver, egg yolk, cow's milk and fortified soya milk.
When cooking, opt for steamed rather than buttered or fried foods, and use olive, linseed and rapeseed oils, whose omega-3 properties help reduce hot flushes and inflammation associated with menopause.
If necessary, and with the advice of a healthcare professional or nutritionist/dietician, food supplements can be taken to help reduce menopausal problems.
What are the foods to avoid during menopause?
To reduce the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause, certain foods should be avoided.
Here are some of them:
- Fast sugars: such as sugary drinks, white sugar, sweets and sweet desserts. They encourage rapid storage of fat, which is mainly found in the abdominal area,
- Processed foods: such as ready meals, crisps, cakes, supermarket sauces and soups. These foods are rich in sodium and added sugars, which can lead to water retention and the feeling of bloating, which in their turn can promote weight gain and cardiovascular disease,
- Fatty meats and cold cuts, such as bacon. These foods reduce serotonin levels in the body, leading to irritability and greater sensitivity to negative emotions,
- Spicy foods: certain spices intensify hot flushes and night sweats. Smoked paprika, cumin or mild curry powders are preferable,
- Alcohol and caffeine: these increase hot flushes and disrupt sleep, which can make you feel even more tired. You should opt for alcohol-free alternatives, decaffeinated coffee or energizing peppermint-based teas.
Finally, it is advisable to limit salt, which should be consumed in moderation, as it can lead to water retention and high blood pressure. Food additives should also be limited, because of the presence of endocrine disruptors that can further disrupt hormonal rhythms.
In conclusion, during menopause, a suitable diet can have a significant impact on symptoms, and avoiding certain types of food can make this natural transition easier.
Nevertheless, every woman is unique, so it's important to listen to your body and adjust your diet to suit your individual needs.
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