When it comes to managing and alleviating the symptoms of the menopause, optimising our diet is essential. This is because there is now incredibly robust medically reviewed evidence to show how certain food groups can help to powerfully balance our hormones, reduce the side effects of falling oestrogen levels and reduce the prevalence and severity of menopausal symptoms.
Indeed, the evidence around the use of dietary approaches in the management of the menopause is now so compelling that in our clinic, assessing and optimising diet is usually the first treatment approach we implement when managing a patient who is suffering with menopausal symptoms.
On November 20th at 7.30pm, we will be running a free online webinar titled “The Menopause: An Evidence-Based Management Plan.” Over the duration of this 1-hour interactive webinar we will overview in detail the key components of the Menopause Balancing Diet whilst also discussing the role of herbal medicines, supplements and lifestyle practices as a means of optimising health and wellbeing during the menopausal years.
However, in this article, I want to highlight arguably two of the most important food groups and provide an awesome recipe that is loaded with oestrogen balancing foods that will help to minimize the primary symptoms of the menopause.
Food Group 1: Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Other Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fatty acid provides proven benefits for women going through menopause. One reason for this is that Omega-3s facilitate increased hormone production, including oestrogen. As a result, the regular consumption of Omega-3s helps to alleviate the primary symptoms of the menopause which are largely caused by falling oestrogen levels.
For example, a clinical review of 483 menopausal women concluded that those taking Omega-3 supplements or who had a high Omega-3 diet saw a significant decrease in the frequency of hot flushes and the severity of night sweats compared to women who consumed low levels of Omega 3s.
Furthermore, Omega-3 fats can protect the heart, promote smooth skin and help to counteract inflammation in the body. Some of the best sources include wild-caught salmon, halibut, sardines, mackerel and anchovies, along with flax, chia and hemp seeds. Studies show that frequently consuming Omega-3s might help to minimise collective menopausal problems, postmenopausal osteoporosis, heart complications, depression and breast cancer.
Aside from Omega-3 oils, other healthy fats are also fundamental to optimal menopausal health. While it’s true that fats have more calories than protein or carbohydrates, they are also the building blocks for hormone production which help to optimise oestrogen production, thereby minimising the effects of falling oestrogen levels. They also help to keep inflammation levels low, boost metabolism and promote satiety that is important for preventing weight gain. Unrefined healthy oils provide essential vitamin E that helps regulate oestrogen production. The best options include virgin coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil. Other sources of healthy fats include avocado, coconut milk, nuts, seeds and wild seafood.
Food Group 2: Cruciform Vegetables
It is essential that we consume abundant levels of fruit and vegetables when adopting an optimal menopause balancing diet. The Government campaign of “5-day” is good but not enough. In reality, to obtain all of the profound health benefits that vegetables and fruits provide, we need to be aiming for 5 portions of veg and 3 portions of fruit per day.
The reason for this is that fruit and veg are packed with vitamins and minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Not only is eating high levels of fruit and veg linked to lower risks of heart disease, cancer and strokes, doing so also induces significant benefits upon the management of menopausal symptoms.
For example, a one-year study of over 17,000 menopausal women showed that those eating more vegetables and fruit (over 4 portions of veg and 2 portions of fruit per day) experienced a 19% reduction in hot flushes compared to those women eating less fruit and veg. That’s a very significant reduction for very little effort.
It also appears that cruciferous vegetables may be especially helpful for menopausal women. Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale contain indole-3-carbinol, which naturally helps to balance oestrogen levels and can have a profound impact upon reducing hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Cruciform veggies are also high in fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K and electrolytes that are important for blood pressure and heart health. As such, we need to ensure a sufficient daily intake of this specific group of vegetables (ideally ½ a cup of cooked cruciform veg per day) if we are to minimise the primary symptoms of the menopause.
To help you increase the consumption of Omega-3 oils, healthy fats and cruciform veg, try out the following recipe which is super easy to make, tastes great and is loaded with menopause supporting foods:
Menopause Busting Vege-Balls
1. Add the chopped broccoli to a pan of boiling water and cook for 2-minutes until it just begins to soften, before draining.
2. Blend the soya flour, nuts, flax seeds, chilli, turmeric and parsley in a food processor and then add the broccoli, cheese and eggs and whizz until the mixture is fully blended.
3. Scoop out the mixture and roll into 1.5 inch diameter balls.
4. Place the balls onto a baking tray and place into an oven at 200 degrees C and cook for around 25-minutes.
5. Serve with either homemade sweet potato chips, brown rice, wholemeal pasta or on a bed of courgetti, ideally with stir-fried kale, chard or winter greens, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
More information about our free online webinar on how to optimise health during the menopause using evidence based natural medicines and dietary approaches can be found here.