by Ellen Blake
I’m two years into menopause and still have insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, hot flashes and mood swings. These symptoms make me miserable and my generally healthy diet goes out the window. My favorite comfort foods make me feel better and so I reach for them on the more difficult days; unfortunately, some of my unhealthy food choices seem to worsen my menopausal symptoms.
I know that simple choices, such as fruit instead of a cupcake, could make a big difference in my day and my mood. In fact, an overall diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high quality protein and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish may reduce menopause symptoms overall. The key is to be disciplined enough to make these good choices – which is sometimes easier said than done, especially when I feel uncomfortable.
Foods to avoid during menopause:
You can decrease fatigue and weight gain by controlling your blood sugar. Try to snack on fruits and vegetables in place of desserts and other sugary treats. Don’t completely avoid desserts though; you will only want them more if you tell yourself you can never have them. Just limit them. Have less today than you did yesterday to get started. Then do it again the next day.
Potato chips and frozen dinners might taste good, but foods high in sodium can cause you retain water and feel bloated. Healthier alternatives like a few whole-grain crackers with peanut butter or string cheese can satisfy snack cravings without triggering menopause symptoms.
Spicy foods can trigger symptoms of hot flashes like sweating and flushing,according to the National Institute on Aging. So think twice before you add the extra-hot salsa to your huevos rancheros. Consider using spices that provide flavor without the high heat. Cumin, curry, turmeric and basil and flavorful spices can replace the jalapenos and still add the kick you want to an otherwise bland dish.
High fat meats with large amounts of saturated fat not only increase your risk of heart disease, but may also lower the serotonin levels in our bodies. If you sometimes feel cranky and cross, it may be due to a low serotonin level. Try to choose chicken, turkey and ground beef that’s 90% lean or better in place of the marbled cuts in your recipes.
Fast food restaurants are certainly convenient when short on time, but do not provide a lot of healthy options. Most of the menu times contain massive amounts of saturated fat, which promotes weight gain in addition to increasing your risk of heart disease. One solution might be to prepare healthy foods in advance to keep on hand for those busy days Freezing leftovers from dinner the night before makes a great lunch the next day. If you must eat at a fast food restaurant, go with the grilled chicken sandwich in place of the cheeseburger.
Some women find that alcohol makes them prone to hot flashes. It is a good idea to limit your alcohol consumption for this reason and others. For example, women who have two to five drinks a day have 1.5 times the risk for breast cancer as those who don’t drink at all, and heavy drinking increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, according to the North American Menopause Society. Those who enjoy a drink now and again don’t need to stop entirely, but limit the amount you drink. Moderate alcohol consumption for women is defined by the 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans as one drink per day or less.
I love my morning coffee, but it could be worsening my menopause symptoms according to a Mayo Clinic study published in February 2015 in the journal Menopause This study found menopausal women who consumed caffeine more likely to experience hot flashes than those who did not. I’m not sure I can do without my morning cup of joe, but I am willing to try to perhaps have a cup of caffeine-free tea in place of my afternoon cup of coffee.
The bottom Line
Can you give up some of the above items to hopefully help with menopause symptoms? I’m going to make an effort to do so, one step at a time. How about you? The foods that are good for us during menopause are beneficial at any stage in life. If we build healthy eating habits now, we will enjoy better health for years to come. I will keep you posted on my progress…hope you will do the same!
image credit: Court Cook