Your nutrition and fitness choices can help you navigate your way through the menopause and may hep to alleviate any symptoms you are suffering. The foods you choose should be those that help keep your heart healthy, your bones strong, and your brain sharp — while lowering your intake of foods that trigger symptoms. Beans, pulses, nuts and vegetables may be particularly helpful.
Although the right diet won’t eradicate your symptoms, it may help you feel better and alleviate day-to-day side effects.
Maintaining lean muscle mass
Sarcopenia, or the progressive loss of lean muscle mass, is common as your body ages. In fact, a 3–8% loss of lean muscle mass per decade is thought to begin in a person’s 30s.
As you age, this percentage becomes significant because the loss of lean muscle mass increases your risk of fractures and falls.
Eating 25–30 grams of protein at each meal will protect against the loss of lean muscle mass. For context, a 100g portion of salmon gives you around 25g of protein. Other high quality protein sources include eggs, beef, seafood, and poultry like chicken or turkey. Plant-based foods — such as nuts, some meat alternatives, soy products like tofu, and beans and other legumes — can also contribute to daily protein needs.
Eating foods that are high in the amino acid leucine, may also optimize muscle creation and retention in older adults. Most protein sources contain leucine. Collagen and whey proteins are particularly good sources.
Preserve bone health
Osteopenia is a reduction in bone mass that’s more common in older adults.
If left untreated, it may lead to osteoporosis, which is a porousness in your bones that makes you particularly susceptible to sudden breaks or fractures.
Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D help keep bones strong, which is pivotal during menopause — especially since osteopenia and osteoporosis are common right before, during, and after menopause due to the decrease in oestrogen.
Dairy products, fish with edible bones such as sardines, tofu, nuts and seeds and leafy greens are all good sources of calcium. Other foods naturally rich in vitamin D include seafood, egg yolks, and certain types of mushrooms.
Identify what triggers your hot flashes
Some people experience more hot flashes when they eat spicy foods or consume alcohol and caffeine. It can be worthwhile keeping a food and symptom diary. Doing so may help you identify trigger foods that you should limit or avoid to reduce how often or intensely you experience hot flashes.
Increase your intake of omega-3s
Some research suggests that eating more foods high in omega 3 fats may help reduce hot flash and night sweat symptoms.
Omega-3-rich foods include fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, as well as nuts and seeds. These foods are also good for your heart.
Eat more nuts and other phytoestrogens
Declining levels of oestrogen and other hormones alter how your body metabolises carbs and fats during menopause, which may contribute to weight gain.
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds naturally found in some foods that may act as a weak oestrogen in your body. In turn, they may help diminish the symptoms brought on by the decline in oestrogen that accompanies menopause.
While more research is needed and results are mixed, some studies suggest that phytoestrogens may benefit people undergoing and nearing menopause.
Foods rich in phytoestrogens include edamame beans, peanuts, chickpeas, beans, flaxseeds, linseed, sesame, and black and green tea.
Mix up your exercise
Exercise is also vital while you’re going through the menopause. Weight bearing exercise such as lifting weights will counteract bone density loss while cardio exercise such as HIIT and running will boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.
Try these recipes which include foods that can help to keep you healthy and reduce symptoms
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 small aubergine, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
400g can peeled cherry tomatoes
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
75g dried apricots, halved
Juice and zest of an orange
Juice of half a lemon
400ml vegetable stock
200g spinach leaves
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Gently heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, and add the onion. Fry for a few minutes to soften, then add the garlic and spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes, adding a splash of water after the first minute or so.
Add the aubergine and carrot, coat well with the spiced onion mixture and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, apricots, orange juice and zest, lemon juice, stock and honey.
Season and stir well, place the lid on the pan and simmer very gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour (you can also cook this in a low oven, for an hour at around 160-170ºC).
Serve with parsley and lemon couscous and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Black bean mess
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 small red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
400g can black beans, drained
1 bay leaf
400ml vegetable stock
Handful each of fresh coriander and parsley leaves
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, add the onion and fry gently for several minutes.
Add the garlic, celery, red pepper, chilli, paprika and coriander stalks and cook for a further 10 minutes until everything softens.
Add the black beans, bay leaf and stock. Stir and simmer for 30-35 minutes. When thickened and the beans are soft, mash them a little with a fork (you’re looking for the consistency of a thick dal).
Season, stir, then break two eggs into hollows in the bean mix. Cover and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the eggs are done to your liking.
Scatter with the herbs and serve with warm tortillas.
For the peanut sauce:
3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
Juice of a lime
½ – 1 tsp red chilli flakes
100ml boiling water
All or a selection of:
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin batons
100g trimmed green beans, sliced
100g mange tout or sugar snap peas
100g baby sweetcorn, halved
1 small white cabbage, thinly sliced
1 head bok choy, sliced
For the shredded egg:
3 eggs, whisked with a splash of water
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
A handful of coriander leaves
A handful of unsalted peanuts
To make the peanut sauce, place all the ingredients except the boiling water in a bowl. Add the water bit by bit, slowly combining with a fork until everything is well mixed. The sauce should be runny enough to pour.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch each vegetable in turn for a minute or so and remove with a slotted spoon, setting aside to drain on kitchen roll.
Season the whisked eggs. Heat a large frying pan and spray with olive oil. Pour in half of the egg mixture, roll around to coat the base of the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Flip the omelette to cook the other side. Repeat to make a second omelette. Roll up the omelettes and slice across the roll to get long, thin lengths.
Arrange the vegetables on a serving dish, drizzle with peanut sauce, drape with the omelette and top with sliced spring onion, chilli, coriander and peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.
Red lentil and smoked mackerel kitchri
1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 small red onion, finely chopped
A splash of water
100g red lentils, rinsed
500ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
100g basmati rice, cooked
150g smoked mackerel fillets, flaked
Juice of half a lemon
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
Fresh coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the mustard seeds and nigella seeds and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the remaining spices (except the bay leaf and cinnamon) and fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the onion with a splash of water and fry until softened, around 2-3 minutes.
Add the lentils and coat with the spice mixture, add the stock, bay leaf and cinnamon stick, and simmer for around 15 minutes until the lentils are tender.
Stir in the cooked rice, then add the fish flakes and gently heat through. Add the lemon juice and season well.
Serve with the hard-boiled eggs, coriander and lemon wedges.