Reaching for less-than-healthy foods could be worsening your menopause symptoms. Discover which foods to avoid during menopause.
As you move through menopause, what you eat may have a big impact on how you feel.
Following a healthy, well-balanced diet is a good idea in general, but it can also help with the unpleasant symptoms that often accompany menopause, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, LD, a nutritionist in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Good nutrition can make a big change in how you feel with regard to menopause symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, and exhaustion, as well as bloating and possible weight gain,” Jamieson-Petonic says. Women of menopausal age should make sure to eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein for optimal health, she says.
However, there are also certain foods that may be wiser to avoid during menopause. Next time you go to the grocery store, make sure to cross these items off your list:
Processed foods. Potato chips or cookies might taste good, but they’re usually high in sodium or loaded with added sugars (or both), which can make you retain water and feel bloated, Jamieson-Petonic says. If you’re craving a snack, try a healthier alternative like string cheese, carrots dipped in hummus, or a few whole-grain crackers with peanut butter — they’ll satisfy your need to nibble without filling you up with the bad stuff.
Spicy foods. Think twice before you add that extra-hot salsa to your taco. Foods that rate high on the heat scale can actually trigger hot flashes, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. If you’re looking to add some kick to a boring dish, Jamieson-Petonic suggests skipping the jalapenos and sprinkling on spices that provide flavor without as much heat, like cumin, curry, turmeric, and basil.
Fast food. In a rush? Drive-through restaurants may be convenient when you’re short on time, but their meals often serve up a massive amount of fat, Jamieson-Petonic says. Fatty foods can increase your risk for heart disease, a condition that women are already at greater risk for when they reach menopausal age, according to the American Heart Association. “These foods also tend to promote weight gain, which can exacerbate menopause symptoms as well,” Jamieson-Petonic says. The better solution is to have quick, healthy foods on hand by freezing leftovers at home or packing a lunch. If you have to eat a meal on the fly, skip the cheeseburger and choose healthier things on the menu. A grilled-chicken sandwich on a whole-grain bun with lettuce and tomato is a good alternative, she says.
Alcohol. Although it may not be necessary to swear off all cocktails and wine, there are plenty of good reasons to keep your alcohol consumption moderate. As suggested in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, moderate drinking for women is defined as one drink per day or less.
According to the North American Menopause Society, women who have 2 to 5 drinks a day have 1.5 times the risk for breast cancer as those who don’t drink at all do, and heavy drinking also can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. Plus, some women find that alcohol makes them more susceptible to hot flashes, Jamieson-Petonic says.
“I tell women to listen to their bodies,” she says. “If alcohol aggravates their menopause symptoms, then they should try to avoid it.” If you still want to indulge occasionally, Jamieson-Petonic suggests trying a white wine spritzer with fruit, which is lower in alcohol than most standard drinks.
Caffeine. Love your morning cup of joe? It could be worsening your menopause symptoms. A study published in the journal Menopause in July 2014 found that menopausal women who consumed caffeine were more likely to have hot flashes than women who didn’t have caffeine. If you’re craving a warm drink, try a hot ginger or peppermint tea, both caffeine-free, Jamieson-Petonic says. Or if you’re in need of some extra energy, try going for a quick walk instead of relying on caffeine for a kick.
Fatty meats. Besides being high in saturated fat, foods like brisket and bacon can lower the body’s serotonin levels, Jamieson-Petonic says. “When serotonin drops, we feel angry, grumpy, and irritable,” she says. When you’re shopping for meats, skip the greasy, marbled cuts and go for trimmer alternatives like chicken, turkey, and ground beef that’s 90 percent lean or better.
The foods that are good for you during menopause are good for you at any stage in your life. Build healthy eating habits now and you’ll enjoy better health for years to come, including through menopause.
This is not our original article. No copyright infringement intended. It was originally published at everydayhealth.com
By Jennifer Acosta Scott | Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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