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6 Essential Menopause Foods for Your Midlife Diet

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Updated July 29, 2008

Are there essential menopause foods that you should know about? Menopause is a time in your life when eating gets tricky. Although we seem to be endlessly conscious of what we eat, what we weigh, and how we look, menopause brings a special attention to the importance of a healthy diet. Add to that a slowing metabolism and health risks that rise with age, and it’s clear that we have to make every calorie count for something good. How do we set priorities in the face of all these competing needs? We want to stay healthy, look good, and yet not overdo. When making our daily choices, which foods are a must?

1. Calcium

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As you get past menopause, bone health comes into focus. Daily calcium is part of the recipe for strong bones, along with vitamin D and exercise. Low-fat dairy products, sardines, almonds, fortified orange juice and some mineral waters are all ways to get your calcium from food. If you decide to use a supplement, be sure it has the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol on it so you can be sure it does not have contaminants such as lead. Your daily total for calcium should be 1200 mg, including both supplements and food sources.

2. Fiber

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Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that is not readily digestible. Adding fiber to your diet in the form of whole grains, fruits and vegetables can lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose, and prevent constipation – all health concerns as you get to menopause and beyond. It has the added benefit of making you slow down to chew, which can help you eat more slowly and register when you are full. Try replacing one helping a day of refined carbohydrates like white bread or pasta with a whole grain version. Ideally, you’ll get about 21 grams per day to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Mayo Clinic has a helpful fact sheet on dietary fiber.

3. Water

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In her book The Menopause Diet Larrian Gillespie calls water, “liquid oxygen.” And just as oxygen nourishes every cell, water is critical for menopausal women to hydrate cells, moisturize skin, and eliminate toxins from the body. Try to get at least a quart and a half a day. (If you measure it into a large bottle or pitcher at the beginning of the day, you can see your progress and try to finish it up by bedtime.)

4. Good Fats

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You need some fat in your diet each day. Fat helps moderate hormones, appetite, insulin response and vitamin absorption. But all fats are not created equal. Increasing the amount of monosaturated fat can lower your cholesterol rather than adding to the problem. Substituting olive or canola oil for butter in your cooking is the perfect start. The About.com low fat cooking guide has more detail on the role of unsaturated fats in your diet.

5. Soy

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Soy contains phytoestrogens, which for some women can improve menopause symptoms. Beyond these plant estrogens themselves, the isoflavones in soy also trigger certain women to produce more equol – an estrogen that forms in the intestine, which can also help naturally treat hot flashes and other symptoms. Hormones aside, soy is a great source of fiber and some types of tofu also provide calcium. If you substitute soy for red meat at least twice a week you will tip the balance toward menopause health.

6. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

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Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. If you begin to eat unsweetened fruits instead of sugary desserts, and boost your vegetables while you decrease your intake of red meats, you are moving in a direction that will help you lose weight, keep your blood glucose stable, and nourish every cell without clogging arteries. Hard to argue with that.

7. Sources

Sources:

Gillespie, L, The Menopause Diet, Healthy Life Publications, Beverly Hills, CA, 2003

Jou HJ, Wu SC, Chang FW, Ling PY, Chu KS, Wu WH., Effect of intestinal production of equol on menopausal symptoms in women treated with soy isoflavones. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2008 Jul;102(1):44-9. Epub 2008 Apr 8, accessed July 27, 2008

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