Menopause Busting Diet

I am not menopausal but I’d like to improve my diet now in preparation. Summarised below are suggestions from The Daily Mail. (As always the DM article was dreadfully written and edited, so I have just collated the key points below).

Switch to a menopause-supporting diet in your 40s, and you’ll be doing the best you possibly can to protect yourself against menopausal symptoms as well as post-menopausal health problems.

 WHY DIET MATTERS

Simple lifestyle changes not only reduce the severity of symptoms — both perimenopausal and menopausal — but mean women can get an early start on protecting themselves against bone and joint problems, heart disease and breast cancer to mitigate future risk.

Hormone levels don’t tend to drop in a steady and consistent way — they can suddenly spike sharply or dip, triggering flushes, night sweats and disturbed sleep, depression, irritability, anxiety and memory problems. 

THE BASIC RULES

The basic rules for a menopause diet are essentially common sense:

  • Make sure you have three meals a day (skipping meals will lead to dips in your blood sugar, which can play havoc with already erratic hormones);
  • Include a fist-sized portion of protein with every meal;
  • Have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Eat no more than two pieces of fruit a day
  • Cut back on carbohydrates (a lower-carb diet has been shown repeatedly to increase and even re-establish insulin sensitivity);
  • Most of your grains should be wholegrains

Keep sugar, refined white carbohydrates (biscuits, cakes, pastry), fizzy drinks, coffee and alcohol to a minimum.

CHOOSE

Certain foods could have a particularly potent menopause-busting effect.

  • Choose low-fat dairy products. In a major study published in 2013, researchers from Harvard University found that women who had skimmed-milk products, including low-fat cheeses and yoghurts, delayed their menopause by just over three-and-a-half years. Milk and yoghurt are also important sources of calcium to protect your bones.
  • Have oily fish twice a week or get your healthy omega-3 oils from nuts and seeds. These fatty acids may help to counteract the menopausal symptoms of dry hair, dry skin, cracked nails, fatigue and low mood. Foods rich in omega-3 fats (oily fish, nuts and seeds) are thought to help counter menopausal memory loss.
  • Studies suggest you may help to balance hormone levels by eating foods rich in phytoestrogens. These bind with oestrogen receptors in the body’s cells, increasing the total oestrogen effect. Good sources of phytoestrogens include: soya, lentils, chickpeas, aduki beans, kidney beans, peas, garlic, celery, seeds (particularly pumpkin, crushed linseed and sunflower seeds). You’ll also get phytoestrogens from: wholegrains, apples, plums, cherries, broccoli, carrots, alfalfa, mung bean sprouts and rhubarb.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium and magnesium — wholegrains such as brown basmati rice, nuts and green leafy veg.
  • Also eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin D (found in oily fish and eggs) and vitamin K (in green leafy veg) for bone health.
  • Boron is another mineral important for bone health. The nutrient is found in nuts, dates, raisins, grapes, apples and pears.
  • EAT five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Many fruits and vegetables contain plant oestrogens as well as valuable nutrients and fibre. 
  • A recent study of breast cancer survivors found that high fibre intake was linked with a reduction in hot flushes over a 12-month period.
  • Include foods that contain tryptophan, such as turkey, oats, legumes (such as peanuts) and cottage cheese. Tryptophan helps the body to manufacture serotonin, a chemical messenger that boosts mood and may help to control sleep and appetite.
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid) helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, which rises after menopause.
  • One small study found flaxseed reduced the frequency of hot flushes by 50 per cent in women not taking hormone replacement therapy.

AVOID

  • CarbohydratesRegard carbohydrates as an accompaniment rather than a main dish. Have one no-carb meal a day (eggs for breakfast, soup for lunch, meat or fish and a big salad for dinner).
  • Sugar in any form. Fruit juice
  • All forms of ‘empty calories’, ie, anything that gives you nothing nutritionally (and that you eat without enjoying).
  • Caffeine is thought to be bad for bone health (increasing the amount of calcium excreted) and can exacerbate the bladder problems that often occur with the menopause. Studies show any more than three to four caffeinated drinks a day can make flushes worse.