Eating well during the #menopause



Menopause is the name given to the time when your ovaries slowly stop working. This leads to a fall in levels of the hormone oestrogen and is thought to be related to a variety of symptoms such as aching joints, and calcium loss from bones. HRT is not suitable or liked by everyone but, whether you use it or not, taking care with your diet may help alleviate some of the symptoms.


A good diet will enable you to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and may help protect you from illness. You may want to try: •Eating less fat, especially saturated fat

•Eating less salt and sugar

•Eating more wholegrains and fibre

 How to Eat Less Fat

Fats in general are very high in calories and saturated fat in particular, may raise cholesterol levels.So:

•Cut down on butter, suet, lard and ghee.

•Measure oil using a spoon rather than just pouring it into the pan.

•Instead of frying or roasting with fat, try grilling, microwaving, poaching, baking, boiling or steaming.

•Try spreading butter, spreads as thinly as possible.

• Cut down on pastries, pies, samosas, crisps, olives, croissants, cakes, biscuits and chocolate.

•Cut all visible fat off meat and take the skin off poultry.

•Instead of sausages, burgers, salami, pates and processed meats, try lean cuts of meat and use more poultry and fish or vegetarian options.

•Try skimmed, 1% or semi-skimmed milk and half fat or cottage cheese rather than whole milk and full-fat cheese. Replace cream with low fat yogurt or fromage frais.

Curtting down on sugar

To save calories you may also want to cut down on Sugar. Sugar is not an essential part of your diet, but can add taste to your food and its health implications are that in excess may lead to extra calories.. Cut down on:

• Ordinary fizzy drinks or squashes.

•Sugar, fructose, artificial sweeteners containing sugar

•Jam, marmalade, lemon-curd, honey.

•Sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes.

Try instead:

• Sugar free or “no added sugar” drinks and mineral water.

•Sweeteners without sugar.

•Low sugar jam, marmalade or pure fruit spreads.

•Fruit, plain biscuits (e.g. Rich Tea, Digestive)

Eating less Salt

You only need about a teasponn of salt every day, and that includes the salt in bought food such as bread. Indeed 75% of your daily salt comes from food you buy. So choose lower salt varieties (read the label and compare brands) and do not add salt if you can (or just the very minimum) in cooking or at the table

How to Eat More Wholegrains and Fibre

Try to eat starchy wholegrain foods at each meal as they provide a steady release of energy and are less likely to cause weight gain or heart disease compared to fats. Wholegrain cereals are a good source of magnesium, a nutrient which is essential for a healthy menopause but may be low during this time.   wholegrains also tend to be higher in fibre.  Wholegrain foods include, wholegrain bread, brown rice, brown pasta, and wholegrain breakfast cereal.

Fibre may help to prevent constipation and keep your bowels healthy and help reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of developing some cancers. To eat more fibre:

  •  Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread/pasta and brown rice.
  •  •Try using wholemeal flour (or a half/half mixture of wholemeal and white flour) when: baking.
  • •Have larger portions of salad. vegetables and fruit (fresh or tinned in natural juice).
  •  •Try using beans, peas, lentils and sweetcorn in soups, stews and casseroles.


NB It is important to drink plenty of fluid (at least 6 – 8 cups/day) to allow the fibre to work properly.


 How to Eat More Vitamins and Minerals

You should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need by eating a wide variety of foods:

•Try to have five portions of fruit/vegetables daily (not including potatoes).  A portion of fruit is:

  •  A piece of fruit e.g. an apple, an orange, a banana.
  •  A small bowl of tinned or stewed fruit.
  •  A small glass of fruit juice.
  • A handful of smaller fruits, e.g. strawberries, cherries, and grapes.
  • A portion of vegetables is: 2 tablespoons cooked vegetables. A small side-salad.
  • Beans and pulses also count as a portion even if canned


Fruit and vegetables are good sources of many vitamins and minerals and are believed to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease. They are also a rich source of magnesium, which may help to relieve some menopausal symptoms.

•Try to eat fresh fruit and vegetables within one to two days of purchase, as the vitamin and mineral content decreases over time. Remember frozen can be just as nutritious as fresh.

• Cook vegetables in a small amount of water for as little time at possible to preserve the nutrient content.

Reducing your Alcohol Intake

Drinking too much alcohol is bad for everyone. The recommended guideline for sensible drinking in women is no more than 14 units/week, spread throughout the week with two drink-free days. You may find that during the menopuse you cannot drink as much alcohol as you used to before it starts to have an effect on your judgement etc

1 unit of alcohol is:

•1 pint of standard strength beer/larger.

•1 glass wine or sherry.

•1 measure spirits.


It is important to maintain a healthy weight, as it will reduce your risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes and may help to reduce hot flushes. . However, take care not to lose too much as, this will lower oestrogen production, put you at greater risk of osteoporosis and may make your symptoms worse.



This is the name given to the condition where bones lose calcium and so become fragile and prone to breaking easily. From the age of about 25, there is a slow loss of bone in both men and women. However, during the menopause, oestrogen levels drop, causing an increased loss of calcium from bones. This is more common in menopausal women, who are not on HRT, as HRT replaces oestrogen. In order to get sufficient calcium in your diet you need to have at at least 3 helpings of calcium rich foods in your diet everyday. Four helpings are advisable if you are at risk or have osteoporosis or do not take HRT. These include:

• 1/3 pint of milk or milky drink/milkshake

•1/3 pint fortified soya milk •Small pot of yogurt

•25g (1oz) of hard/medium hard cheese (about the size of a small matchbox

•A pudding made with milk such as rice pudding, custard

•Ice cream

•A portion of pizza containing cheese

•A portion of quiche containing cheese •A sauce made with milk or cheese

•A portion of fish with edible bones e.g. sardines (eat the bones)

•A portion of tofu (soya bean curd)

Other foods also contain some calcium and can help to boost your daily intake:

• Bread



•Green leafy vegetables especially spinach, cabbage and broccolli

•Nuts, especially peanuts, almonds and Brazils

•Beans, for example baked beans, butter beans

•Dried fruit, especially figs, apricots and dates

If you are still concerned about your calcium intake then see the doctor and/or seek referral to a state registered dietitian. Drinking too much alcoholic may increase you risk of osteoporosis and make hot flushes worse, as may eating too much salt. Vitamin D is essential for bone health too, as it allows the calcium to be absorbed from your diet. It is found in eggs, oily fish, margarine, butter and some breakfast cereals are fortified with it. The body manufactures most of our vitamin D when sunshine falls on the skin. If you avoid the sun, or are over 65 years of age, it is advisable for you to take a cod liver oil supplement that contains vitamin D.

Breast Tenderness

Reducing your caffeine intake may help with this and other symptoms such as hot flushes, anxiety and mood swings. To reduce your intake:-

• Cut down on coffee, tea, cocoa and caffeinated fizzy drinks (e.g. cola).

•Try mineral water, herbal tea, decaffeinated tea and coffee.

Following a low fat diet (see earlier) may also help breast tenderness. You could also try evening primrose oil (2-4 capsules twice daily). It can take up to 4 months for it to have an effect. If you have not noticed any improvement after this time, then it should be discontinued.

Fluid Retention

Many women experience this during the menopause. Try the following suggestions:

•Drink at least 6-7 glasses or mugs of liquid daily. This helps your kidneys to work efficiently.

•Reducing your salt intake may help to relieve bloating and may also help to offset the rise in blood pressure which can happen during and after the menopause.

 Plant Oestrogens (Phytoestrogens)

Some foods from plant sources contain natural oestrogen which scientists now believe could help boost a diminished oestrogen production and hence help reduce menopause symptoms and maintain bone health without the use of HRT.    Good sources include Soya beans and Soya mil. Rice, barley, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables and grains also contain some. Supplements containing plant oestrogens can also be purchased. Plant oestrogens seem to work for some women but not others.


Last of all , remeber to still enjoy your life and take pleasure in eating!


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