What diet and lifestyle changes help menopause?

What diet and lifestyle changes help menopause?

If you want to stay healthy and enjoying life to the full for as long as possible, a healthy diet and regular exercise is essential.

Here are some healthy eating tips for any time of life:

  • Eat 3 meals per day, at regular times and avoid skipping meals
  • Eat a variety of foods at each meal covering the range of food groups (fruit, veg, protein, dairy, healthy fats, grains)
  • Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re feeling satisfied. It can take 20 minutes to feel full, so it helps to eat slowly
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Sometimes thirst is misinterpreted as hunger
  • Have meat-free day/s every week, cut down on foods with high sugar or salt, and reduce the processed snacks, microwave meals and takeaways. Avoid trans and saturated fats as much as possible.
  • Avoid ‘diet thinking’. There are no quick fixes to lose weight and no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, it’s about balance and introducing small changes you can stick to for life.


Mediterranean style diet

This type of diet consistently ranks top in terms of longevity, weight management, reducing future health risks and providing the best quality of life. It’s focussed around plant sources of food, so veg takes centre stage, with the supporting roles being wholegrains, seafood and fish, legumes, pulses and beans, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, fermented dairy (yogurt and cheese) and extra virgin olive oil. Meat makes a rare appearance and there’s very few foods that are processed, or high in salt, sugar, trans and saturated fats.

This type of eating is usually high in fibre, contains plenty of prebiotics which support a healthy gut, has anti-inflammatory effects and is high in Omega 3 fatty acids.


Nutrients to prioritise around menopause:

  • Calcium: this is crucial for keeping your bones strong and healthy and for your mood and sleep. It works in partnership with magnesium and vitamin D. Found in dairy foods, leafy green vegetables, grains, tofu, summer squash, and many more. 
  • Magnesium: this helps you absorb calcium from the blood into the bone to keep them strong but also helps balance glucose and may calm the nervous system, helping headaches. Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, summer squash, broccoli, cucumber, green beans, celery, and a variety of seeds. 
  • Vitamin D: also crucial for proper uptake of calcium and your bone health. This sunshine vitamin helps your muscles and teeth stay strong too and may provide a boost for your mood and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the summer months, you’ll get most of what you need from sunlight if your skin is regularly exposed around midday (for around 10 mins twice a week if you’re light-skinned, extending to approximately 30 mins or longer if you’re dark-skinned), but if you don’t get enough sun at other times of the year, or you tend to stay indoors or covered up, you may want to take a vitamin D supplement, as it can be hard to get all that you need from diet alone. 
  • B vitamins: these can help with energy, mental health, and the actions of our hormones, especially B6 and B12. Most plant-based foods have B vitamins and good sources of B12 are dairy, eggs, seafood, and chicken.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients (polyphenols): you can get these as a supplement, but all plant sources of food contain polyphenols which are plant compounds good for your gut bacteria and have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Apples and red onions for example contain quercertin.
  • Phytoestrogens: some plant foods contain a type of oestrogen called phytoestrogen which is weaker than the oestrogen your ovaries produce, but plant sources may still help if you’re body’s suffering because of depleted oestrogen. Tofu/soy, chickpeas, ground flax or linseeds, chia seeds and raw almonds are great sources of phytoestrogens.
  • Healthy fats like Omega 3 and Omega 6 (or vegan DHA equivalents): they act as anti-inflammatories and have multiple benefits in the body.

Alcohol and nicotine (or other drugs), caffeine, and white flour products such as white bread, rice and pasta are best left alone or reduce them, as they can trigger or worsen menopause symptoms and may increase your risk of health conditions in the future.


What exercise should I be doing?

Aim for a combination of the following:

Balance activities: these are really beneficial and reduce the risk of having a trip or fall. Pursuits like yoga, Pilates and tai chi are great for this, but you can simply carry out some balance exercises at home like walking backwards, doing a few sit-to-stands, reaching up high on tiptoes, or standing on one leg to help your balance too.

Aerobic exercise: anything to raise your heart and breathing rate (walking, swimming, dancing, climbing the stairs).

Weight-bearing exercise: anything where you’re holding your own weight and it impacts through your joints, especially through changing direction of movement and having bursts of more intense movement in between lighter spells (think racquet sports, brisk walking/jogging, star jumps and squats).

Muscle strengthening exercise: work your muscles harder than usual against resistance or your own body weight (resistance bands, press ups, sit ups, lift weights, lift anything!)

Weight-bearing and strengthening exercises are crucial for your bone health. When your muscles pull on your bones it helps them renew and get stronger, making them much less likely to break.

How much and how often?

Any activity is better than none so if this seems out of reach for you, start small with realistic changes that you can build up slowly.

    • Aim for 2 and a half hours a week (or around 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity aerobic exercise
    • Or you can do 1 hour and 15 minutes a week (15 mins per day, 5 days a week) of more vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, or a workout class
    • And muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
  • Aim to spread all your exercise evenly over 4 to 5 days a week, rather than one very long session.