Best diet for menopause

Basic Dietary Guidelines for Menopause

During menopause, eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Since women’s diets are often low in iron and calcium, follow these guidelines:

Get enough calcium. Eat and drink two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day. Calcium is found in dairy products, fish with bones (such as sardines and canned salmon), broccoli, and legumes. Aim to get 1,200 milligrams per day.

Pump up your iron. Eat at least three servings of iron-rich foods a day. Iron is found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and enriched grain products. The recommended dietary allowance for iron in older women is 8 milligrams a day.

Get enough fiber. Help yourself to foods high in fiber, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Most adult women should get about 21 grams of fiber a day.

Eat fruits and vegetables. Have at least 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables each day.

Read labels. Use the package label information to help yourself make the best choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Drink plenty of water. As a general rule, drink eight glasses of water every day. That fulfills the daily requirement for most healthy adults.

Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, cut down on portion sizes and eat fewer foods that are high in fat. Don’t skip meals, though. A registered dietitian or your doctor can help you figure out your ideal body weight.

Cut back on high-fat foods. Fat should provide 25% to 35% or less of your total daily calories. Also, limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Saturated fat raises cholesterol and boosts your risk for heart disease. It’s found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream, and cheese. Limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less per day. And watch out for trans fats, found in vegetable oils, many baked goods, and some margarine. Trans fat also raises cholesterol and increases your risk for heart disease.

Use sugar and salt in moderation. Too much sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure. Also, go easy on smoked, salt-cured, and charbroiled foods — these foods have high levels of nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.

Limit alcohol to one or fewer drinks a day.

Menopause is a natural phase of every woman’s life. But the side effects of
fluctuating hormones feel anything but normal. Additionally, hormonal changes during menopause increase the risk of serious diseases, including osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. But increasing your consumption of the following seven foods can help.

1. Buckwheat

Technically a seed (not a whole grain), buckwheat is an excellent source of complex carbs, essential for serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked with memory and mood. Studies show that complex carbs help relieve depression and elevate mood. According to other research, having a carb-containing meal at dinner may shorten sleep onset. Buckwheat is gluten-free and rich in B vitamins, which also impact mood.

Try this: Stir-fry cooked buckwheat with eggs, green onions, carrots, ginger, and tamari for a twist on fried rice; toss cooked buckwheat with chopped parsley, red onions, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and olive oil; soak uncooked buckwheat, chia seeds, and coconut milk overnight, then serve with berries and honey as a quick breakfast.

2. Collard greens

Calcium is essential during menopause; osteoporosis affects one of three postmenopausal women, and for those women, the lifetime risk of fractures is higher than the risk of breast cancer. One cup of collards has as much calcium as a cup of milk, and some studies suggest the absorption of calcium from vegetables is twice as high as from dairy. Plus, collards are rich in vitamin K and magnesium, also critical for bone health.

Try this: Sauté shredded collard greens, chickpeas, and garlic in olive oil and harissa; tear collard leaves into chip-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast until crispy; massage thinly sliced collard leaves with olive oil and vinegar, then toss with radishes, sweet onions, and crumbled feta cheese for a quick salad.

3. Sardines

Like salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish, sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent hot flashes and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer. Omega-3 fats also reduce triglyceride levels and protect the heart—especially important for women receiving hormone therapy, which can increase triglyceride levels. And if you eat canned sardines with bones, you’ll also be getting calcium.

Try this: Mix canned sardines with bread crumbs, minced onions, chopped parsley, and eggs, form into patties, and cook in olive oil; in a food processor, combine smoked sardines, yogurt, smoked paprika, and black pepper, process until just smooth, and serve with vegetables for dipping; spread mashed avocado on toast, layer with grilled onions and sardines, and sprinkle with parsley.

4. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are the richest source of lignans—phytoestrogens that are structurally similar to estrogens and may reduce breast cancer risk. Flax has also been shown to reduce night sweats and hot flashes and improve quality of life during menopause. In some studies, 40 grams per day of flaxseed had effects similar to hormone replacement therapy for decreasing menopausal symptoms.

Try this: Beat ground flaxseeds with buckwheat flour, honey, and eggs, and make silver-dollar pancakes; blend ground flax with sunflower seeds, basil, garlic, arugula, and lemon for a nut-free pesto; mix flaxseeds with chia seeds, coconut milk, and coconut sugar, then top with cacao nibs and toasted coconut chips.

5. Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a concentrated source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, some studies show that lycopene can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. While tomatoes in general are high in lycopene, cooking them breaks down cell walls and makes the lycopene more available; adding olive oil further increases bioavailability.

Try this: Cook tomato sauce with pumpkin purée, shallots, and stock, add miso paste and purée until smooth; simmer tomato sauce with minced onion, garlic, Kalamata olives, capers, and anchovies for a fast puttanesca sauce; heat tomato sauce and chopped spinach in a shallow pan, crack in eggs, simmer until whites set, and serve hot with shaved Parmesan.

6. Tempeh

Like flax, soy contains phytoestrogens that mimic the actions of estrogen and can relieve symptoms of menopause. Findings on the effects of isoflavones—phytoestrogens in soy—are mixed, but some studies show a benefit to hot flash frequency and/or severity. In one study, soy reduced hot flashes by 45 percent. Populations with a high soy consumption also have a significant reduction in breast cancer incidence, and isoflavones may also have protective effects on cardiovascular and bone health. Soy can be hard to digest, so stick to tempeh; because it’s fermented, tempeh is easier to digest and has a higher content of B vitamins and increased antioxidant capacity.

Try this: Stir-fry sliced tempeh with broccolini, thinly sliced onions, shiitake mushrooms, and cashews; simmer crumbled tempeh with onions, peppers, tomato sauce, and seasonings for a vegan sloppy Joe; marinate tempeh cubes in tamari, olive oil, and garlic powder, then bake until crispy for grain-free croutons.

7. Black Beans

Black beans and other legumes are loaded with fiber, which protects against breast cancer after menopause. They’re also rich in B vitamins, important for mood, and magnesium, which protects bone health, improves sleep, and may relieve anxiety and depression. Black beans have higher levels of antioxidants than other varieties of beans; they’re especially rich in anthocyanins, which have been shown in studies to protect against the risk of heart disease after menopause.

Try this: Cook black beans with shredded sweet potatoes, chopped kale, and cumin for quick-and-easy breakfast hash; simmer black beans with green bell peppers, onions, bay leaves, and oregano, and top with avocado, cilantro, and sour cream; purée black beans with tahini, olive oil, and garlic, then stir in finely minced jalapeño peppers for a spicy hummus for snacking.

Recipe

Try our Grilled Black Bean Chili Rellenos recipe.

Many women worry how their bodies will change when they reach menopause. But what you might not realize is that perimenopause—AKA the change before the change—is when you’re most apt to start noticing symptoms.

Menopause, which women hit, on average, around 51, simply means that you’ve gone a full year without having a period. Some people get there with nary a glitch, so you won’t necessarily notice anything before your periods vanish. But many others aren’t quite so lucky: As your body wraps up its fertile years, your hormone levels can start to fluctuate—and symptoms like mood swings and hot flashes may arise.

Being in perimenopause—which can start as early as 10 years before menopause—also means that certain aspects of your health are about to change. Right now your estrogen levels may be slowly dropping, but it’s only a matter of time before they reach an all-time low… and stay there for the rest of your life. As a result, your risk for health conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease are about to go way up.

That might sound scary, but by making some changes to your eating habits you might be able to ease a lot of the discomfort and keep your body healthier as you age, says Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Here are five dietary moves worth making when menopause is on the horizon.

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Get more calcium.

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The official word from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is that your calcium needs increase to 1,200 mg per day (from 1,000 mg) starting at age 50. But don’t wait until 50 to focus on this important mineral: As soon as you enter perimenopause your estrogen levels start declining, and as that happens your bones have a harder time retaining calcium. That puts you at risk for thinning bones, AKA osteopenia or osteoporosis, which can later lead to debilitating fractures.

Fortunately, calcium is pretty easy to consume. “One glass of milk or one cup of yogurt has about 300 mg,” says Ross. Some leafy greens (like kale and bok choy), canned fish containing bones (like sardines and canned salmon), and fortified juices, breads, and cereals also contain calcium. (Dairy-free? Here are 10 more milk-free sources of the bone builder.)

If you suspect you won’t get enough through diet alone, talk to your doctor. Calcium supplements carry an increased risk of kidney stones and heart attacks, and research has shown that they might not even prevent fractures or broken bones.

Track your triggers.

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About 75% of women struggle with sudden hot flashes and night sweats, according to the North American Menopause Society. While no one knows exactly what causes them, it likely has to do with the drop in estrogen and a super-sensitive hypothalmus—the portion of the brain that controls body temperature. (Here are 6 reasons you might be sweating more after 40, besides menopause.)

Although hot flashes can seemingly come out of nowhere, some women notice that certain foods up their chances of overheating. Be on the lookout for spicy foods and those with caffeine and alcohol so you can cut back if necessary.

Meanwhile, adding more oats and fatty fish like salmon to your diet might help. These foods may lower your cholesterol, and studies have found that women with high cholesterol levels more frequently suffer from hot flashes.

PREVENTION PREMIUM: 6 Best Yoga Poses To Soothe Menopause Symptoms

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

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“Drink as much water as possible,” says Ross. The reason? Hormonal changes during perimenopause can result in water retention and increased gas, both of which lead to bloating. The perfect antidote to water retention and bloat, strangely enough, is to drink even more water. Ross recommends sipping two to three liters every day, or eating ample water-based foods like berries, celery, cucumber, lettuce, and watermelon. Drinking green tea—a natural diuretic—may also help banish bloat. (These five simple snacks help eliminate belly bloat.)

Conversely, it’s important to watch your intake of salty foods, as well as gas-producing ones like beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Make your water taste even better with these sassy water recipes:

Drink less alcohol.

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A glass of Riesling may be a welcome treat after a long day, but too much booze could increase your risk of breast cancer. A 2015 review published in the journal Women’s Health showed that alcohol consumption was positively associated with breast cancer risk, and your chances are already going up just by being over 40.

Alcohol seems to be problematic because it causes estrogen to spike, and elevated levels of this hormone have been linked to breast cancer. Cocktails and beer also have a tendency to pack on the pounds, and fat cells also produce estrogen. If you do decide to imbibe, one drink a day should be your max.

MORE: 5 Things You Should Do After Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Eat less junk.

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As you age, your muscle mass naturally decreases while your fat stores increase. Not surprisingly, many perimenopausal women have trouble losing or even maintaining their current weight. If the scale starts creeping up on you, Ross recommends cutting back by 200-300 calories per day to maintain your size—but not at the expense of good nutrition. (These are the 14 best weight loss-friendly snacks you can buy on Amazon.)

“If you have to cut calories, choose to nix foods with less nutritional value, like alcohol or fats,” she says. Cutting the junk and adding in lean proteins and water-based foods will also reduce your risk of heart disease and improve cognitive function as you age.

Sarah Watts Sarah Watts is a health and science journalist based in Chicago.

A balanced diet is a cornerstone of health. Women, like men, should enjoy a variety of healthful foods from all of the foods groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean protein. But women also have special nutrient needs, and, during each stage of a woman’s life, these needs change.

Eating Right

Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to reduce the risk of disease. A healthy eating plan regularly includes:

  • At least three ounce equivalents of whole grains such as whole-grain bread, whole-wheat cereal flakes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or oats.
  • Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products including milk, yogurt or cheese; or calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives.
  • Five to 5-and-a-half ounce equivalents of protein such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • Two cups of fruits — fresh, frozen or canned without added sugar.
  • Two-and-a-half cups of colorful vegetables — fresh, frozen or canned without added salt.

Iron-rich Foods

Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women prior to menopause. Foods that provide iron include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and some fortified ready-to-eat cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. So eat fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices or add tomatoes to lentil soup.

Folate (and Folic Acid) During the Reproductive Years

When women reach childbearing age, they need to eat enough folate (or folic acid) to help decrease the risk of birth defects. The requirement for women who are not pregnant is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. Including adequate amounts of foods that naturally contain folate, such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, beans and peas, will help increase your intake of this B vitamin. There also are many foods that are fortified with folic acid, such as breakfast cereals, some rices and breads. Eating a variety of foods is recommended to help meet nutrient needs, but a dietary supplement with folic acid also may be necessary. This is especially true for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, since their daily need for folate is higher, 600 mcg and 500 mcg per day, respectively. Be sure to check with your physician or a registered dietitian nutritionist before taking any supplements.

Daily Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements

For healthy bones and teeth, women need to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. Calcium keeps bones strong and helps to reduce the risk for osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. Some calcium-rich foods include low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, sardines, tofu (if made with calcium sulfate) and calcium-fortified foods including plant-based milk alternatives, juices and cereals. Adequate amounts of vitamin D also are important, and the need for both calcium and vitamin D increases as women get older. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, eggs and fortified foods and beverages, such as milk, plant-based milk alternatives, some yogurts and juices.

Foods and Beverages to Limit

Women should avoid excess added sugars, saturated fat and alcohol.

  • Limit sweetened beverages, including regular soft drinks, candy, cookies, pastries and other desserts.
  • Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day, if you choose to drink and are of legal age. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat. Opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean proteins instead of their full-fat counterparts. Cook with olive oil instead of butter and coconut oil. Incorporate more plant-based protein foods, such as beans, lentils and tofu, into your diet.

Balancing Calories with Activity

Since women typically have less muscle, more body fat and are smaller than men, they need fewer calories to maintain a healthy body weight and activity level. Women who are more physically active may require more calories.

Physical activity is an important part of a woman’s health. Regular activity helps with muscle strength, balance, flexibility and stress management.

The Best Diet Plans for Women in 2020

Whether it’s that excess baby weight you just can’t shake, a voluptuous rear end, or some other part of your body you just don’t love—there’s a diet plan out there for you.

1. Nutrisystem

Pros

  • Offers women lots of variety
  • Eat small meals throughout the day
  • Removes all guesswork

Cons

  • Limited options for substitutions

Plan

Price per day

Basic Plan

Core Plan

Uniquely Yours

The hardest part of dieting for so many women is the restrictions it puts on us. Let’s be honest, we love food! And the fact that a diet plan tells us what we can eat, when we can eat, and how much we can eat really pisses us off. The Nutrisystem diet is a breath of fresh air for those dieters who are sick of all the restrictions.

For one thing, there is plenty of variety in terms of what you can eat. It offers more than 150 different menu options, so boredom will never settle in. Another key factor to ward off that choking feeling of diet craze is the fact that the Nutrisystem diet wants you to eat 6 meals a day. That’s right, 6! You are encouraged to eat frequently for 2 reasons:

  1. So that your metabolism is constantly working (good job!)
  2. So that you never feel that grumbling in your tummy that makes you hate dieting and want to quit

Finally, Nutrisystem makes dieting easy by doing all of the brain work for you. You get meal plans, prepared food, and pre-portioned meals, so you don’t have to measure, cook, plan, or do anything but get on with your life.

What’s a day look like on Nutrisystem?

With the Uniquely Yours meal plan, you can enjoy the following:

  • Breakfast: Dig into some buttermilk waffles
  • Mid-Morning snack: Dark chocolate and sea salt nut bar
  • Lunch: Grilled Chicken sandwich
  • Afternoon snack:
  • Dinner: Ravioli Formaggio
  • Dessert: Lemon Zest Cake

Nutrisystem View Plan

Read the full Nutrisystem review

2. Noom

Pros

  • Focuses on the head, designed by doctors and psychologists
  • Excellent mobile app, tools, and group and professional support
  • No foods totally off limits

Cons

  • A lot of involvement

Plan Price

Monthly

2-Months

4-Months

6-Months $149 8-Months $159 Annual $199

Noom is a weight loss program that works exceptionally well for women. That’s because, in addition to creating a healthy diet plan, Noom focuses on the mental aspects involved in weight loss and dieting. The program is geared toward breaking through those mental barriers that have stopped you in the past from achieving your weight loss goals. It also works with behavioral changes within your life to create a more holistic (and successful) program.

To get started, you’ll answer a detailed questionnaire to determine the best diet and fitness program for your weight loss goals and lifestyle. Noom takes into consideration a lot of factors, including your age, activity level, and eating habits.

Noom offers tons of awesome tools to help assist you in your fitness and weight loss journey. You’ll get a convenient mobile app with tools like food tracker, feedback and analysis on logged meals, daily challenges to keep you going, and nutrition tips. What’s even more helpful is the virtual support group and one-on-one coaching that you get from a Noom trainer, nutritionist, and health coach.

What’s a day look like on Noom?

Noom gives you free rein of your diet, so long as it stays within the calorie limit. That being said, Noom does encourage you to fill up your plate with healthier alternatives, so you could choose something like this:

  • Breakfast: Egg-white omelette and cup of berries
  • Lunch: Pan seared salmon with spinach and bok choy salad
  • Dinner: Chicken steak with rice and broccoli
  • Healthy snacks: Throughout the day, as long as they fit into your calorie limit—fruits, nuts, veggie sticks, and granola are recommended

Noom View Plan

Read the full Noom review

3. Jenny Craig

Pros

  • Created by a woman, for women
  • Personalized instruction and guidance
  • Lose up to 16 pounds in the first month

Cons

  • No vegan or gluten-free plan

Trial Plan

Premium Plan

Monthly Fee

Enrollment Fee

Free

Now: $49

Plan Length

12 weeks

12 months

Planned, produced, and perfected by a woman, the Jenny Craig program is guaranteed to give you results. Jenny Craig focuses on your mind, body, and spirit, so the all-encompassing nature ensures that you see results and incorporate the plan into your day-to-day lifestyle. Besides, this diet plan has won awards for being the easiest to follow, so you can’t go wrong!

This 4-step program has an initial stage with prepared meal delivery, a transitory stage where you start to cook for yourself, a weaning process, and a totally go it on your own stage. What women love about the program is that you get personalized assistance, tailoring your diet as you go to see what works for you. There are also tons of online tools, menu planners, exercise plans, and diet consultants available.

What’s a day look like on Jenny Craig?

  • Breakfast: Apple cinnamon oatmeal
  • Lunch: Cheesy potatoes and chicken
  • Dinner: Fish and chips
  • 2 healthy snacks: Chocolate lava cake and an iced oatmeal cookie

Jenny Craig View Plan

Read the full Jenny Craig review

4. South Beach Diet

Pros

  • Doctor-crafted for optimal results
  • No need to count calories
  • Lose up to 9 pounds in 2 weeks

Cons

  • Limited variety of food

Plan

Price per month

Auto-delivery

Basic Plan (for 4 weeks)

$299.99+$1.99

Snacks

$40+$1.99

We’re busy enough with our day-to-day lives without having to add complex mathematics to our schedule. That’s one of the reasons the South Beach Diet works so well for women. There’s no calorie counting, so you can put away your excel sheets, and just relax. Designed by a practiced cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston, the South Beach Diet was carefully crafted for optimal health and results. It’s built on healthy eating, minimizing poor food choices, and encourages long-lasting habits.

The best part is that you can lose up to 9 pounds in the first 2 weeks. For those of us who like to see results fast, this is a major benefit. What’s also nice about the South Beach Diet plan is that it helps wean you off the plan naturally. Rather than being tied to prepared meals forever (something that gets expensive), the program teaches you how to cook and prepare healthy meals for yourself while you’re still on the program. This way, when you’re ready to move on, you already know how.

What’s a day look like on the South Beach diet?

  • Breakfast: Vegetable frittata and avocado slices
  • Morning snack: Dark chocolate nut bar
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich
  • Afternoon snack: Movie-fest butter flavored popcorn
  • Dinner: Chicken Roma

South Beach Diet View Plan

Read the full South Beach Diet review

5. Bistro MD

Pros

  • All inclusive diet plan for easy maintenance
  • Has a special plan for menopausal women
  • Delicious meals prepared by chefs

Cons

  • No full vegetarian or vegan options

Plan

5 days a week

7 days a week

2 meals a day

3 meals a day

BistroMD is another worthy option for women who want to lose weight. It packs everything you could need into a well-rounded diet plan, making it easier to stick with the diet and see results. BistroMD offers a personalized weight-loss program that is designed by professionals according to your needs. You’ll get personalized support, diet analysis, and prepared meals. So, you do not have to do any work. BistroMD creates the diet plan, prepares the food, and delivers it all to your doorstep.

BistroMD meals are a blend of health and good taste. What this means is that both doctors and chefs are in on the planning stages of these recipes. You get delicious foods that are also healthy for you. BistroMD has a lot of different diet plans, and it even has a special plan just for women going through menopause. So, it really caters to your specific needs.

What’s a day look like on the BistroMD diet?

On the standard, full program, you’ll get breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 7 straight days.

  • Breakfast: Cheese omelet with turkey sausage
  • Lunch: Beef chipotle chili with corn pudding
  • Dinner: Turkey breast with cranberry chutney and wild rice blend
  • Snacks: Depending on your plan you can enjoy snacks like chocolate gelato, cinnamon toast pretzels and mini strawberry cheesecake

Bistro MD View Plan

Read the full BistroMD review

Ladies: Let’s Lose Weight Now!

It’s the dawn of a new era. One where dieting doesn’t have to be painful, restrictive, or frustrating. Today, you can find plenty of healthy diets that’ll help you lose weight, feel great, and keep the weight off forever.

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