Many of us assume that a good diet is …well, a good diet, no matter what our age. But increasingly doctors recognize that certain stages of life present unique and different nutritional challenges. And menopause is no exception.
From day -to- day symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and fatigue, to long range risks for heart disease, breast and endometrial cancer and osteoporosis - doctors now know that what you eat, especially at mid-life, can play an integral role in your immediate and your long term health.
To help you cope with symptoms today and lay down a foundation for feeling better tomorrow, check out these “Menopause-Friendly" foods - and the ones you should avoid.
Menopause Friendly Foods
1. Hormone Boosters: Cherries, bananas, apples, and citrus fruits can act much like a booster shot for waning hormones. The key lies in their high concentration of “phytoestrogens'- plant hormones that that can take some of the edge off symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia, which ca occur when hormone levels dwindle. Other hormone boosters include whole grains like wheat, barley, brown rice and oats and rye, plus spices like fennel, parsely, red clover, sage and cinnamon.
2. Vitamin E Boosters - Many experts report that foods high in vitamin E - like wheat germ, nuts, and soybean or safflower oil - are true energy boosters, battling of perimenopause. Add them to your diet and you may also experience a new sense of well being, and fewer mid-life symptoms, including intimate dryness and hot flashes.
3. Calcium/Vitamin D Boosters - It's no secret that foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can increase bone strength and improve your overall skeletal health. But now new evidence shows these same foods may also help calm jangled hormonally harassed nerves and even reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Foods to include every day : 1 cup of low fat yogurt, 1 cup of skim milk, I ounce of low fat swiss cheese (naturally low in sodium), or low fat cheddar cheese.
4. Hot Flash Eliminators:
*Fish high in omega 3 oils and vitamin E including mackerel, blue fish, tuna, salmon, butterfish, pompano, haddock - up to 12 ounces weekly.
*Nuts including brazil and walnuts.
*Seeds such as anis, flax or sesame.
*Citrus pulp, and grapes.
*Cayenne pepper (in moderation reduces flashes - excess can bring it on so experiment with small doses first).
*Soy foods including tofu, soy milk, soy flour.
Foods to avoid during menopause:
*Processed meats/high sodium foods (hidden sources include baking soda, baking powder, canned and cured foods, canned soups, frozen dinners, frozen fish, packaged turkey or chicken roll).
*Excess Caffeine - because it may increase your risk of hot flashes and leech calcium from your bones.
*Excess Sugar - because it can stimulate cravings, increase appetite, and suppress the body's ability to utilize calcium and phosphorus needed to build bone.
*Fats and cholesterol: As estrogen levels plummet, cholesterol can s rise. Reducing fatty food intake can compensate for the control you lose when hormone levels plummet.
*Alcohol - A little is good, a lot can increase menopause symptoms so limit intake to one glass of wine a day or less - and much less if you are at risk for breast cancer.
Colette Bouchez is the author of "Your Perfectly Pampered Menopause: Health, Beauty and Lifestyle Advice for the Best Years of Your Life. "/ (Broadway/Random House, NY) and the director of http://www.YourMenopause.com/