Perimenopause Nutrition: The Key To Feeling Your Best

February 25, 2020.

Perimenopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life. It marks the start of the transition from being fertile to menopause. For most women, this season of life is accompanied by changes in your body that can be unpleasant and challenging. While the 34 symptoms of perimenopause are completely normal and expected, it doesn’t mean that it is easy.

There are many remedies available to help alleviate some of the more aggravating symptoms of perimenopause. While supplements, hormone replacement therapy, creams, and alternative therapies can offer wonderful relief, there is also a natural, healthy way that can help improve your perimenopause symptoms – your diet!

More and more, science is finding a greater connection between our diet and overall health. Certain foods have demonstrated restorative and even healing properties for our bodies. Indeed, a diet consisting of the right foods can have the power of reducing menopause-related conditions such as osteoporosis and improving perimenopause symptoms including hot flashes, weight gain, mood instability, headaches, and migraines. Let’s take a look at the nutritious foods that you should consider incorporating into your diet to thrive during perimenopause.

Foods To Eat On A Perimenopause Diet

Healthy Fats – We tend to associate fat with negativity. And indeed, there are certain types of fats that are harmful to our bodies. However, fat is an essential part of our physical makeup and a healthy body needs certain types of fats from our diet. Try to incorporate unsaturated fats in your diet. For example, avocados, peanut butter, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola, and olive oil), nuts and seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon.

Dairy Products – Dairy products can be a great source of calcium and vitamin D. Women are susceptible to osteoporosis and bone fracture after menopause because estrogen levels decline. Our bodies not only have a harder time building and maintaining bone, but our bodies have a harder time absorbing and utilizing vitamin D and calcium. Therefore, it is important for women in perimenopause to supplement vitamin D and calcium, as well as to increase our intake of foods with these nutrients.

Whole Gains – A diet that contains whole grains has been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, premature death, and some cancers. Compared to refined grains, whole grains are also better for your gut health, which can be a source of aggravation for many perimenopausal women. Try to ditch the white bread and sugary cereals and incorporate whole oats, whole wheat, buckwheat, barley, spelt, and quinoa into your diet. Consider a breakfast of yogurt and granola to have a powerful start to your day.

Fruits and Vegetables – Grandma was right – eat your fruits and veggies, dear! At least half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables at mealtimes and for good reason: fruits and vegetables are packed with necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that keep your body healthy and happy. And, they are great at controlling weight gain.

One large study found that women who ate more fruits and vegetables had significant improvement in their hot flashes compared to women who did not increase their fruit and veggie intake.

Quality Proteins – Women in perimenopause should begin to increase their protein intake as muscle mass begins to decline in menopausal women. Try adding meat such as chicken, fish, and some red meats for added protein. Protein comes in many other forms besides meat. Incorporate eggs, legumes, and some dairy products for added protein. Some women also add protein powder such as collagen to improve bone density and build muscle.

Phytoestrogen-Containing Foods – Certain foods have been found to act as weak estrogens in your body. When estrogen levels decline, it can be helpful to increase your intake of phytoestrogens to help reduce your symptoms. Phytoestrogen-containing foods include soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, grapes, plums, berries, green tea, black tea, peanuts, and flaxseeds. While the evidence is not strong suggesting that a diet high in phytoestrogens alone can help control symptoms, all of these foods contain key nutrients necessary for overall health. So, if they have the potential to help boost estrogen and curb hot flashes, it may be worth adding to your diet.

Think About Your Essential Nutrients – Essential nutrients are those that you cannot build on your own. That is, these nutrients must come from your diet. Along with carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water, there are other nutrients that are important. For example, omega-3’s are essential nutrients that help regulate a number of body systems. There is a close connection between omega-3’s and the thyroid.

Women in middle age have difficulty regulating their thyroid. For example, you may struggle with temperature irregularity. Try adding more omega-3’s in the form of fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Finally, omega-3’s may improve brain fog.

Foods To Avoid On A Perimenopause Diet

We focus so much on what we should avoid so let’s make this brief: try to limit the not-so-good-for-you foods. And, if you must indulge (which we all do), enjoy in small quantities. The following foods have the ability to worsen perimenopause symptoms including insomnia, headaches, migraines, hot flashes, weight gain, irritability, and fatigue.

  • Processed carbohydrates
  • Foods with added sugars
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Foods high in sodium
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods

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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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