Menopause Diet: 5 Foods to Help Relieve Your Symptoms

Relief from menopause symptoms may be as simple as eating these five foods.

Hot flashes, mood swings and trouble sleeping are oftentimes associated with menopause—a time when estrogen levels decline and menstrual periods stop. With this change in hormones, you may experience uncomfortable and sometimes severe menopause symptoms. Thankfully, including certain foods in your diet may help offer some relief.

We'll talk about what menopause is, how your diet may affect your symptoms and the specific foods that may help.

Pictured Recipe: Instant-Pot Cashew Yogurt

What Is Menopause?

Menopause is so much more than hot flashes. Typically, menopause begins in a female's life during their mid-40s, when estrogen levels begin to decline. The drop in estrogen hinders the body's ability to naturally ovulate, which affects your ability to become pregnant.

Since "nearly all cells have estrogen receptors, most of the body is affected by this change," says registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward, M.S., RDN, co-author of The Menopause Diet Plan. "During perimenopause, which typically starts in the mid-40s and lasts 4 to 10 years, women can experience a laundry list of symptoms that signal menopause, including irregular periods, hot flashes, brain fog, weight gain, insulin resistance, changes in digestion and mood swings," she explains.

Can Your Diet Affect Menopausal Symptoms?

While menopause can trigger a wide variety of symptoms, not every female experiences each one. Every body is different, so this hormonal dip can affect one person differently than another.

Certain factors may affect a person's menopausal experience as well, with dietary choices being one potential consideration. "There is no one 'menopause diet,' although the Mediterranean diet, which is plant-based, is often said to be beneficial during the menopause transition," Ward says. A Mediterranean diet is one that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil.

a recipe photo of the Instant Pot Cashew Yogurt
Brittany Conerly

5 Best Foods to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

If you're focusing on what to eat to help with menopause symptoms, there are some specific foods that may offer therapeutic benefits for this stage of life.

1. Fish

Aim to eat at least 8 ounces of fish per week, recommends the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. "Fish, particularly fattier species such as salmon and tuna, are concentrated sources of omega-3 fats in addition to high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals," says Ward. People who eat more oily fish may experience less severe hot flashes, according to a 2019 study in Climacteric. As Ward explains, "There's some research that suggests that regular fish-eaters may experience less depression, which can be a problem for women starting in midlife." Try some of our Healthy Salmon Recipes to help include more fish in your diet.

2. Yogurt

"Yogurt with active cultures is a probiotic food that is rich in protein and calcium for bone health," says Ward. And since one out of every two postmenopausal females will develop osteoporosis, according to the Endocrine Society, including foods that support bone health is critical.

Probiotics are a bonus because they promote gut health and "play a role in calcium and magnesium absorption in the colon, further supporting bone health," Ward says.

A well-balanced diet that includes milk and dairy products, like yogurt, may also help improve sleep quality, according to a 2020 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. About one-quarter of those in menopause report severe enough sleep problems to have insomnia, according to a 2018 study in Nature and Science of Sleep.

Enjoy a Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie or a satisfying Cucumber-Yogurt Salad for a boost of yogurt in your diet.

3. Beans

As a source of plant-based protein, fiber and a slew of micronutrients, beans can be an important part of a diet to help with menopausal symptoms. "Black beans, chickpeas and other types of legumes are rich in fiber, which helps regulate blood glucose levels and could lower the risk for type 2 diabetes as part of a balanced eating plan," says Ward. Research has shown that menopause may be a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, with a prevalence of 13%.

Beans are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan and the mineral magnesium, both of which have been linked to improvements in mood and mental well-being, notes research published in 2019 in BMC Psychology. Since mood changes can be a major symptom of the menopausal transition, including beans in your diet, like in this Sweet Potato-Black Bean Burger or a White Chicken Chili with Avocado Cream, is a good move.

4. Soy

Soyfoods, which include tofu, edamame and unsweetened soymilk, are plant-based sources of high-quality protein that are made from the humble soybean. But what makes soyfoods important for those who have menopausal symptoms is the phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens, that they contain. "Some women find relief from hot flashes and night sweats by adding soyfoods to their diets on a regular basis," Ward says. Try this Banana-Cocoa Soy Smoothie or Green Salad with Edamame & Beets.

5. Nuts

From walnuts to pistachios, nuts provide a source of plant-based proteins, healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants. "Even though nuts are rich in fat, eating an ounce of nuts may actually help you with weight management because nuts are so satisfying and can help reduce food cravings," Ward says. Each nut has its own health benefits. Walnuts may be particularly important during this time. "Regular walnut consumption is associated with a lower risk of depression and a reduced risk for heart disease," says Ward. Try Honey Walnut Shrimp or Quick Walnut Tacos to sneak more walnuts into your diet.

The Bottom Line

The majority of females will experience symptoms of menopause. Though there is not one best diet for menopause, certain foods, especially those found in a Mediterranean diet, such as nuts and soy, may help bring symptom relief—and decrease your risk for chronic disease, too.

Related: 4 Ways to Combat Menopause Weight Gain, According to a Doctor

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