Most women in their mid-forties to mid-fifties will experience the symptoms of menopause to some degree. These can include anything from hot flushes, irritability and depression to headaches, nausea, night sweats, and poor sleeping patterns. During menopause, estrogen levels begin to drop and most women start to put on weight, particularly around the midriff.
There are various methods for helping to ease the symptoms of menopause, including bio-identical hormone replacement therapy and exercise. A third approach advocates eating the right foods, and this article will discuss some foods that are considered helpful in countering or easing menopausal symptoms.
While its benefits in relieving hot flushes are still the subject of debate amongst food scientists, soy is known to be beneficial in lowering bad cholesterol and protecting the heart and arteries. Soy compounds, known as isoflavones, also appear to mimic estrogen in the body. This may trick the body into thinking it has enough estrogen, even when levels are dropping, and may be the reason why soy is thought to provide relief during menopause. Good ways to eat soy include in tofu, miso soup, fruit smoothies made with soy protein powder, soy milk, and soy beans added to soup, chili con carne, and casseroles.
Fruits and vegetables
Eating lots of low-calorie fruits and veggies is a great way to minimise menopausal weight gain and get the nutrients needed to stay healthy and energised. Fruit and vegetables are naturally low in fat and contain fibre, minerals, and vitamins. They also contain phytoestrogens, plant chemicals which, like isoflavones in soy, are similar in structure to estrogen and may fool the body into thinking it has enough estrogen.
Fruit and vegetables also contain the mineral boron, which is believed to help increase the body’s ability to retain estrogen. Boron also reduces the amount of calcium we excrete, helping bones stay stronger for longer. Good sources of boron include apples, grapes, pears, raisins, dates, nuts, and legumes.
Beans contain a variety of health benefits all in one compact little package. They’re believed to slow glucose absorption in the bloodstream, curbing our appetite for longer. They’re also packed with fibre, phytoestrogens, protein, vitamins, minerals, folic acid, and Vitamin B6. Good ways to eat beans include adding them to salads and pasta, soups, stews, chili, and casseroles.
While flaxseed has been around for hundreds of years, we’re only just now starting to study its multitude of benefits. The seed is thought to help lower cholesterol and exhibits tumour-reducing properties with some types of cancers, however research is still in its early days.
Flaxseed contains hundreds of times more phytoestrogen lignans than other plant sources, which may account for its potential to help reduce or ease menopausal symptoms. It also contains the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, known as alpha-linolenic acid, which researchers believe may help prevent blood clots. Sprinkled on cereal, yoghurt, muesli, and salads, flaxseed will add fibre to your diet, keep your arteries healthy, and may help reduce symptoms of menopause associated with low estrogen levels.
While saturated fats found in chips and cookies should be avoided by menopausal women, the right fats in the form of omega-3 fatty acids can help protect against heart disease and cancer. Found in fish, olive oil, and canola oil, omega-3 fatty acids in a balanced diet can help you lose excess weight gained in menopause and maintain a healthy weight into the future.
The right beverages
Stimulants such as coffee and alcohol are renowned for triggering hot flushes during menopause. They are also bad for your bones, along with carbonated soft drinks, as they can reduce the amount of calcium your body absorbs through food, and can increase the amount you lose through your kidneys.
Beverages which do us good rather than bad include trusty old water, which helps to flush out the kidneys and can reduce dry skin and bloating, both common symptoms of menopause. Fruit juices like orange juice are also helpful. Orange juice contains calcium, vitamin C, and folic acid, and purple grape juice is known to contain the same powerful antioxidants found in red wine.
The foods outlined in this article are ironically those that we should all be looking to consume as part of a healthy diet. Along with regular exercise, such a diet can help us to lose weight, sleep better, and generally feel better at any stage of our lives. The fact that these foods are also believed to alleviate some menopausal symptoms is an added bonus, and if you’re not already following a similar diet full of natural goodness, perhaps it’s time to consider one.