Menopause: Staying Healthy Through Good Nutrition
Some risk factors associated with aging and menopause cannot be changed. However, healthy eating can prevent or reduce certain conditions that may develop during and after menopause.
What are some basic dietary guidelines?
Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Since women’s diets are often low in iron and calcium, follow these guidelines:
- Get enough calcium. Eating and drinking 2 to 4 servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your daily diet. Calcium is found in dairy products, clams, sardines, broccoli and legumes.
- Pump up your iron intake. Eating at least 3 servings of iron-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough iron in your daily diet. Iron is found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts and enriched grain products.
- Get enough fiber. Help yourself to foods high in fiber such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. Include at least 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables in your daily diet.
- Read labels. Use the package label information to help you to make the best selections for a healthy lifestyle.
- Drink plenty of water. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Lose weight if you are overweight by cutting down on portion sizes and reducing foods high in fat, not by skipping meals. A registered dietitian or your doctor can help you determine your ideal body weight.
- Reduce foods high in fat. Fat should provide 30 percent or less of your total daily calories. Also, limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. Saturated fat raises cholesterol and increases your risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream and cheese. Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day.
- Use sugar and salt in moderation. Too much sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure. Also, go easy on smoked, salt-cured and charbroiled foods – these foods contain high levels of nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.
- Limit alcohol intake. Women should limit their consumption of alcohol to one or fewer drinks per day (3 to 5 drinks per week maximum).
What foods can reduce menopausal symptoms?
Plant-based foods that contain isoflavones (plant estrogens) work in the body like a weak form of estrogen and may help relieve menopausal symptoms in some women. Some may lower cholesterol levels and have been suggested to relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Currently, most research indicates that soy isoflavones are not particularly effective for treating several menopausal symptoms. Aside from soy products, isoflavones can also be found in foods such as whole grains and beans.
Should I avoid certain foods while I am going through menopause?
If you are experiencing hot flashes, you may find that avoiding certain "trigger" foods and beverages may lessen the severity and frequency of hot flashes. Those foods include:
- Spicy foods
Are there dietary supplements I can take to ease symptoms/prevent disease?
Because there is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis, the following supplements, combined with a healthy diet, may help prevent the onset of this condition:
- Calcium. If you think you need to take a supplement to get enough calcium, check with your doctor first. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are good forms of calcium supplements. Be careful not to get more than 2,000 mg of calcium a day very often. That amount can increase your chance of developing kidney problems.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. People aged 51 to 70 should have at least 1000 IU daily. Those over 70 or with a history of vitamin D deficiency who have followed a replacement program should take at least 2000 IU daily. Vitamin D intake helps with mood disorders, autoimmune problems, and prevention of certain cancers in addition to keeping the bones healthy.