7 Dietary Guidelines for Menopause

Women's Health Healthy Aging
mature woman cooking

A woman’s body goes through many changes during menopause – much more than an end to monthly menstrual cycles.

“Menopause is one of the three times in a woman’s life when her body goes through drastic changes. It’s right up there with puberty and pregnancy,” says Monilla Dent, M.D., OB/GYN. “A woman needs to support these changes during menopause just as she would in pregnancy – by adjusting her eating habits and focusing on her overall health.”

These changes have a significant impact on a woman’s health, including:

  • Dropping estrogen levels slow down metabolism, making it easier to gain weight
  • Bone density declines, which can lead to an increased risk of bone fractures
  • Symptoms, like hot flashes, insomnia and others, interfere with a woman’s quality of life

Dr. Dent shares seven important dietary changes women can make to feel their best.

1. Eat fruits and vegetables first

Fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods we can eat. These powerhouse foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, fruits and antioxidants – and should take up at least half of your plate at mealtimes.

Research has linked many benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables specific to menopausal women, including:

  • Reduced hot flashes
  • Better sleep
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Improved weight loss
  • Lower blood pressure

A study in 2000 even found that broccoli helped decrease levels of estrogen associated with breast cancer, and increased estrogen levels that help protect against breast cancer.

Tip: Snack on whole fruits and vegetables throughout the day or eat fruits and veggies first at mealtimes.

2. Add dairy to your diet during menopause

Milk, yogurt and cheese offer the important vitamins and minerals women need to fight bone loss. These essential nutrients include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and vitamins D and K.

Tip: Snack on low-fat yogurt with granola or fruit or enjoy cheese and nuts as a tasty afternoon treat.

3. Improve your health with whole grains

Whole grains have been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and even premature death. In fact, the Iowa Health Study found that postmenopausal women who ate 4.7 grams of whole grain fiber per 2,000 calories reduced their risk of premature death by 17 percent.

Tip: Boost your whole grain intake with simple swaps. Use whole grain pasta in a favorite recipe and switch sandwich bread from white to whole grain. Make oatmeal in a slow cooker. Try brown rice or quinoa as a side.

4. All fats are not created equal

Healthy fats play an important role in everyone’s diet, especially for women during menopause. These foods, including fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds and avocados can help your body absorb nutrients it needs and may reduce the frequency and severity of menopause symptoms.

Tip: Get your fill of healthy fats by sprinkling chia seeds in a smoothie, topping a sandwich with avocado or eating fish twice a week

5. Eat quality protein

Protein can help boost muscle mass and bone strength – two things that decline during menopause. Recent research suggests that older adults may need more than the currently recommended amount for adults over 18. This can help reduce the risk of sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass, strength and function).

The best sources of healthy protein include:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Wild salmon
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt

Tip: Talk to your doctor about how much protein is right for you. Too much can affect your health.

6. Limit processed foods

Processed foods are typically full of salt and refined sugar, both of which can negatively impact your health. High-salt foods can lower a woman’s bone density and refined sugar can add unnecessarily to your waistline.

Tip: Make meals and snacks ahead of time to make convenient and healthy food that’s easy to grab on the go.

7. Get active

Physical activity is good for every age and stage of life, and menopause is no different. Regular exercise has been linked to many health benefits for menopausal women, including:

  • Stronger bones
  • Stronger heart
  • Stronger muscles
  • Improved endurance
  • Improved mood
  • Better night sleep
  • Healthy weight
  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Social connections that boost mental and physical health

Tip: Ask a friend to join you as you work toward 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week.

If you have questions about menopause or need help adjusting your diet and lifestyle, talk to your health care provider or schedule an appointment with one of our women’s health practices near you.

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