Healthy Eating Tips From Around The World That Can Make Menopause Easier

Islamic women eating healthy food
While most of modern medicine focuses on hormone therapy, pills, and creams to alleviate or reduce menopause symptoms, sometimes it’s as simple as focusing on what you eat. Clinical studies and research of menopause experiences around the world show foods affect how you feel. Focusing on healthy eating long before menopause symptoms start, and during the hormonal shift, can reduce and potentially even eliminate common symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain.
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    Healthy eating around the world

    Hormonal shifts are a natural part of the menopause life cycle, and there are natural ways to manage the challenges this stage of life presents. First, look at your lifestyle, specifically the foods you eat.
     

    In a pausitive health survey, over a third of women+ identified hot flashes and a slowing metabolism as their main issues. But that’s not the same experience for women around the world

    Anecdotal evidence from surveys of women around the world shows that a balanced nutrition plan can affect menopause symptoms.
     
    In some parts of the world, women experience far fewer menopause symptoms than in the Western World. Healthy eating is thought to be one of the reasons why.
    In Asia, meat and dairy are not common foods. It’s often a plant-based diet.

    There’s also speculation about soy in the Asian diet and its impact on symptoms. But, we’ll talk about the benefits of adding soy to a Western diet later on when we discuss food recommendations.
     
    American women eat more meat, four times more fat, and one-quarter to half as much fiber compared with Asian women. That’s a significant difference and the impact is seen during menopause.

    Greek and Mayan women during menopause

    It’s not just Asian women who have fewer symptoms. A study by a medical anthropologist from the University of California found a difference between Greek and Mayan women during menopause.

    About three-quarters of the Greek women surveyed experienced hot flashes, yet Mayan women didn’t even know about hot flashes. Again, eating habits appear to be one factor that make a difference.
     
    Mayans eat corn, corn tortillas, beans, tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, radishes, and other vegetables. The Greek diet is traditionally high in vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and milk. Meat is not a staple of the Mayan diet, and there’s almost no dairy.

    “Sometimes, women have been told, when it comes to the symptoms they’ve been having, their eating habits don’t have anything to do with it. And, so I’m always flabbergasted by that. Your nutrition has everything to do with everything."

    Foods as medicine during menopause

    Food choices play a significant role in how you feel during menopause. But, it’s not always a top choice in the Western World. 

    You may hear about hormone replacement therapy before they mention food. But, the reality is food can be considered medicine too due to its transformative impact on your symptoms.
     
    These are the top three ways women helped improve their symptoms in the pausitive health survey:
     
    1. Physical activity/exercise
    2. Hormone therapy
    3. Changes in eating patterns
    A holistic nurse practitioner who participated in the survey said she stresses nutrition with the women she treats in menopause and peri-menopause.
     
    Not only did her training show healthy eating makes a difference, but she also experienced the impact firsthand.
    “I thought I was doing everything healthy at the time. And realized everything I thought was healthy as far as nutrition went, it wasn’t. Got rid of the frozen dinners for my lunches and the diet soda. Like many people think it helps maintain your weight, but it doesn’t.”

    She now eats whole, organic foods. She removed processed foods and sugar during menopause and felt it made a significant difference.

    What to eat and avoid

    If you haven’t started, begin on the journey to healthy eating.

    Consider investing in a consultation with a registered dietician if you’re unsure of the best plan for you, given your health history and physical activity. (Some health plans even cover such services if you have certain chronic conditions.)

    And check with your healthcare practitioner to check on any changes which would not be appropriate for you.
     
    In general, try eating this and avoiding these foods to improve menopause symptoms
     

    Eat

    1. Add 5 servings of fruit and vegetables to your plate throughout the day.
    2. Increase whole grains to 6 servings a day.
    3. Try global diets like the Mediterranean or foods common in countries where menopause symptoms are lower or are so-called Blue Zones, longevity hotspots around the world.
    4. Try a primarily plant-based eating approach.
    5. Increase fiber.
    6. Eat 1/2 cup of cooked soybeans.

    Avoid or limit

    1. Avoid quick-fix diet fads.
    2. Avoid processed foods.
    3. Eat less saturated fat and eliminate trans fats.
    In the low-fat plan, the woman ate 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and increased their whole grains to 6 servings. Also, 20 percent of their energy came from fat.
     
    Not everyone lost weight. However, even the women who gained ten pounds still experienced fewer menopause symptoms after they followed the nutrition plan. Ready to get started? Add these menopause foods to your grocery cart.
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    Mediterranean diet

    The Mediterranean diet has long been though of as beneficial during the aging process due to its ability to reduce your risk of diseases and even lower the risk of early death.
     
    Those looking to slow down the aging process often look to the Mediterranean diet.
     
    It’s high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in addition to nuts and seeds. You eat less red meat, saturated fat, and dairy than a traditional American diet. Red wine, a popular choice in the Mediterranean, is a regular staple.
     
    Menopausal women are at increased risk of the development of osteoporosis. A Brazilian study found the Mediterranean diet was helpful concerning bone health. Women who followed the Mediterranean diet had higher bone mineral density and muscle mass.
     
    With half of all adults age 50 and older at risk for breaking a bone, this may be something to consider. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says women are more likely to break a bone than have a heart attack, stroke, or breast cancer combined.
    Healthy eating tips from around the world that can make menopause easier

    Estrogen-rich foods for menopause

    Due to the minimal menopause symptoms reported in Asia, many Americans are following diets high in soy and plant-based foods. They view it as an alternative to hormone therapy, especially since some of these foods contain phytoestrogen or naturally occurring estrogen. Some women believe they can prevent some of the symptoms they feel as estrogen naturally decreases in their body.
     
    Soy and flaxseed contain phytoestrogens and plums, pears, beans, sprouts, red clover, lentils, and chickpeas are estrogen-rich foods.
     
    The Cleveland Clinic says soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils have the most plant estrogens. However, they point out they’re much less effective than human estrogen.
     
    However, the jury is still out on soy, and results have been mixed in various studies although a 2021 study published by Menopause Society showed promising results.
     
    The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS) published in 2021 by The Menopause Society, found a plant-based diet rich in soy can reduce moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84%. Women went from five hot flashes a day to fewer than one per day and 60% of women became hot flash free. 
     
    The women ate a low-fat vegan (plant-based) diet and 1/2 cup of soybeans in a salad or soup each day.
     
    There are other randomized studies of significant drops in severity and frequency of symptoms, but there’s also evidence that women given a placebo also experienced fewer symptoms.
     

    Healthy eating

    These global differences in eating patterns should be considered by women+ long before reaching menopause. You can’t predict how your body will react to the decrease in hormones, but you can set yourself up for success by focusing on the foods you eat long before symptoms like weight gain occur. Prevention is the key to success.
     
    If you want to make a small change during menopause, consider what you’re eating. It can help you lose and manage your weight and reduce menopause symptoms.

    Many women do not need a pill to treat menopause. After all, menopause is not a disease. It is a life transition; part of that transition may be adjusting what you eat.

    Since food is so closely related to how you feel, cutting out foods or reducing certain ones early, may reduce the likelihood and or intensity of symptoms. make menopause a more enjoyable experience. The earlier you start the better!

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    Kroenke CH, Caan BJ, Stefanick ML, Anderson G, Brzyski R, Johnson KC, LeBlanc E, Lee C, La Croix AZ, Park HL, Sims ST, Vitolins M, Wallace R. Effects of a dietary intervention and weight change on vasomotor symptoms in the Women’s Health Initiative. Menopause. 2012 Sep;19(9):980-8. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31824f606e. PMID: 22781782; PMCID: PMC3428489.

    Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan and Beginner’s Guide | Healthline

    Aging? How Old Will You Feel 10 Years From Now? | PeopleTweaker

    The Endocrine Society. Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass, bone density after menopause. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2018. 

    Osteoporosis Fast Facts | National Osteoporosis Foundation

    Hot Flashes | Cleveland Clinic 

    Barnard ND, Kahleova H, Holtz DN, Del Aguila F, Neola M, Crosby LM, Holubkov R. The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS): a randomized, controlled trial of a plant-based diet and whole soybeans for postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2021 Jul 12;28(10):1150-1156. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001812. PMID: 34260478; PMCID: PMC8462449.

    Bacciottini L, Falchetti A, Pampaloni B, Bartolini E, Carossino AM, Brandi ML. Phytoestrogens: food or drug? Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2007 May;4(2):123-30. PMID: 22461212; PMCID: PMC2781234.

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