The Latest on Nutrition and Menopause
As you approach menopause, you may have concerns about managing symptoms such as hot flashes, disturbed sleep patterns, and vaginal dryness. But if you’re like many women, you may be unaware of your changing nutritional needs at this time. During menopause and beyond, your diet plays an important role in your health and well-being. What should you eat and why?
Nutritional Concerns of Menopausal Women
As you approach menopause, you should be aware of the following health and nutritional concerns.
Increased Need for Calcium
As people age, they naturally lose some bone mass. However, during menopause, dropping estrogen levels cause women to lose bone faster, sometimes leading to
To increase your intake of this essential mineral, eat more of these
- Milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Leafy green vegetables
- Sardines and other canned fish with bones
- Calcium-fortified foods and juices
You may also wish to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about calcium supplementation.
You'll also need
During and after menopause, some women gain weight, even if they have never had a weight problem before. This may be due to a decrease in metabolic rate (the speed at which your body burns energy), which can occur as hormone levels change. A decreased activity level may also be partly responsible. As you get older, you may be more sedentary and use less energy.
At menopause, you may need to adjust your food choices, reduce your caloric intake, and increase your activity level to avoid weight gain. To help lose weight or
Reducing Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
As estrogen levels drop, a woman’s risk of heart disease increases. A number of lifestyle factors can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. These include getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthful weight, and managing stress.
In addition, you may help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by eating a healthful, well-balanced diet that is high in fiber, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in saturated and trans fat, and cholesterol.
Management of Menopausal Symptoms
During menopause, many women experience uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms. It’s possible that dietary changes may help to reduce these symptoms. If you are experiencing anxiety and insomnia, try cutting back on caffeine and alcohol. A high intake of phytoestrogens (hormones in plant foods), called
Isoflavones are found in the following foods:
- Roasted soybeans
- Soy flour
- Processed soy products, such as soy protein and soy milk
However, the studies into isoflavones are conflicting.
Changing Needs for Dietary Iron
While women are menstruating, they need more dietary iron than men as a result of increased blood loss. Sometimes fluctuating hormone levels and other factors may cause heavy bleeding in women as they approach menopause, thus further increasing iron needs. However, once women reach menopause and stop menstruating, the risk for iron deficiency decreases. When this happens, you may no longer need iron supplements, since too much iron can be harmful. Your healthcare provider can make the best recommendations about iron supplementation based on an individual assessment.
Take heart and take control. Menopause is not a disease, and there are many changes you can make in your life to stay healthy and reduce your discomfort. Your kitchen is a good place to start.
American Academy of Family Physicians
North American Menopause Society
Canadian Public Health
Dietitians of Canada
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org .
American Dietetic Association website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org .
North American Menopause Society website. Available at: http://www.menopause.org/default.htm .
Geller SE, Studee L. Botanical and dietary supplements for menopausal symptoms: what works, what does not. J Womens Health. 2005;14:634-49.
The North American Menopause Society. Treatment of menopause-asociated vasomotor symptoms: position statement. Menopause. 2004;11:11-33.
Irwin ML, Yasui Y, Ulrich CM, et al. Effect of exercise on total and intra-abdominal body fat in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2003;289:323-30.
The North American Menopause Society. The role of calcium in peri- and postmenopausal women: 2006 position statement. Menopause. 2006;13:862-877.
Last reviewed May 2009 by
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