Some risk factors and symptoms linked with aging and menopause can't be changed. But good nutrition can help prevent or ease certain conditions that may develop during and after 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.
Foods to Help Menopause Symptoms
Plant-based foods that have isoflavones (plant estrogens) work in the body like a weak form of estrogen. For this reason, soy may help relieve menopause symptoms, although research results are unclear. Some may help lower cholesterol levels and have been suggested to relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Isoflavones can be found in foods such as tofu and soy milk.
Avoid Foods During Menopause?
If you're having hot flashes during menopause, you may find it helps to avoid certain "trigger" foods and drinks, like spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
Supplements After Menopause
Because there is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis, the following supplements, combined with a healthy diet, may help prevent the onset of this condition:
Calcium. If you think you need to take a supplement to get enough calcium, check with your doctor first. A 2012 study suggests that taking calcium supplements may raise the risk for heart attacks in some people -- but the study showed that increasing calcium in the diet through food sources didn't seem to raise the risk.
Vitamin D. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. People ages 51 to 70 should get 600 IU each day. Those over 70 should get 800 IU daily. More than 4,000 IU of vitamin D each day is not recommended, because it may harm the kidneys and weaken bones.
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