Thursday, June 19, 2008

Menopause Diet Recommendations Include Soy, Calcium and Phytoestrogens

A good menopause diet should be well balanced and nutritionally sound. Foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause are ?nutrient-dense? foods. Foods to be taken during menopause are the same foods that everyone should eat, in appropriate amounts for their caloric needs, on a daily basis. The problem is that the typical American diet does not include many of these foods, so as a woman nears menopause and begins to notice symptoms, she may need to make changes in her diet, adding foods that she is not in the habit of eating.

According to information supplied by the USDA, ?Nutrient-dense foods are those foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories.? Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat sources of calcium are all nutrient dense foods. Processed foods that have added sugars and oils are not nutrient dense. Alcohol is high in calories, but has no real nutritive value. If hot flashes are a problem for you, then you should avoid alcohol and sugar, as well as caffeine, salt and spicy foods. That covers what should be left out of a menopause diet. Now let?s look at the foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause.

To find foods to be taken during menopause, you need to look at vitamins, minerals and other compounds that are particularly important to women during this time of their life. Calcium, Vitamin A, C, D, E, K, B-complex, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, fiber, isoflavones and phytoestrogens are all recommended for a menopause diet. Obviously, there is no single food that contains all of these and eating the right foods in the right combination every day can be difficult. Supplementation or a good daily multi-vitamin provides insurance that a menopause diet contains adequate amounts of each of these. The USDA now recommends that anyone over the age of 50 should add B-12 and D supplements, even if they eat a healthy diet.

Calcium rich foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause include skim milk, fat-free cottage cheese and yogurt, spinach, broccoli and seafood. The RDA for calcium ranges from 1000mg per day to 1500 mg per day. If your mother had osteoporosis (porous, brittle bones that fracture easily and is characterized by a loss of height and humped back bone), then a calcium supplement is a good idea, but be sure to take it with a vitamin D supplement or your body cannot easily absorb the calcium. Additionally a recent study has linked inadequate intake of vitamin K to osteoporosis, although the connection is unclear.

Phytoestrogens and isoflavones are plant components found in soy, whole grain cereals and red clover (an herb). Soy is one of the most commonly recommended foods to be taken during menopause, because it is the best known source of isoflavones. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that have estrogen like effects on the body and can thus reduce the symptoms associated with reduced estrogen production, such as hot flashes. Soy is also a good low fat source of protein, iron and various other nutrients.

No discussion of a menopause diet can be complete without mentioning the importance of regular exercise. Certain things cancel out the positive effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation. One factor that cancels out the effect of calcium is lack of exercise. Women who spend less than four hours a day on their feet are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Exercise reduces the symptoms of PMS and peri menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and insomnia. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, another illness found in many post-menopausal women. Increasing physical activity reduces the likelihood that a woman will be overweight. Overweight and obesity have recently been identified as risk factors for developing cancer and have long been known to increase the risk of heart disease. So, substitute the foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause for the red meat and high sugar, high fat foods that you once ate and increase your level of physical activity.

If you make the necessary lifestyle changes, including adding foods to be taken during menopause to your diet and you still suffer from symptoms related to menopause and peri menopause, a number of natural herbal products may help, including red clover and black cohosh. Additionally, there are some natural remedies that contain adequate amounts of isoflavones that may be helpful if you do not like soy products or are allergic to them. A menopause diet may not provide relief from all of the symptoms you are experiencing at this time, but some of these natural products should.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience as a healthcare professional and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Read more at

To learn more, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.

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