We all know that we should be eating a diet rich in fruit and veg, but did you know that filling up on plants can actually help keep menopausal symptoms under control?
A new study published by The North American Menopausal Society (NAMS) in the journal Menopause has found that fruit and veg may reduce things like hot flushes and night sweats.
Although hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) is the most effective means for treating menopausal symptoms, many women are unable to take it and so there’s a big need to find non-pharmacologic treatment options.
Diet is crucial – even if you’re on HRT
Mediterrean-style diets have been thought to help with estrogen production (which dips significantly during menopause) but this new study goes a step further in looking at specific foods that can help.
Scientists say that some fruits and veg can make symptoms worse while others can ease them. Citrus fruits, for example, are thought to have a negative effect on urogenital scores compared to other foods.
“This small cross-sectional study provides some preliminary evidence regarding the influence of fruit and vegetable intake on menopause symptoms,’ explains Dr Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.
‘There is ample evidence that a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables has a beneficial effect on health in a myriad of ways, but additional study is needed to determine whether various menopause symptoms may be affected by dietary choices.’
It’s worth saying of course that everyone is different and what might trigger a symptom in one woman may be completely fine in another.
Fundamentally, we should all be aiming to eat a diet really rich in fruit and veg (experts tend to agree that at least 10 portions is optimal these days) and low in processed grub.
Eat like an Italian
The Mediterrean Diet is still the gold standard as it’s believed to help protect against heart disease and obesity, as well as other comorbidities and ailments.
The reason that it’s so great is that it relies on fresh produce and really hits all of the essential nutrients that support healthy organ function and robust immune system.
It’s rich in vitamins and phytonutrients from plants, as well as vital good fats from nuts and seeds. Fibre, protein and various minerals can be found in cereals.
Look for phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are chemicals produced by plants to keep them healthy and when we eat them, they can keep us healthy too! They have all kinds of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – helping to stimulate the metabolism, repair DNA and detoxify carcinogens.
You’ll know if something is rich in phytonutrients because they tend to be colourful. By eating the rainbow, you’re guaranteed to get a gut-full of them.
A specific type of phytonutrient, called lignans, can mimic the effects of oestrogen. Studies have shown that lignans can reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women.
You find lignans in kale, broccoli, apricots, flaxseeds and oatbran.
Eat to beat hot flushes
The study found that green leafy and dark yellow veg were particularly good at alleviating symptoms.
Try to fill up on:
- Sweet potato
But as we’ve said, it’s all about eating a variety of colours and testing what works for you.
In general, try to eat a Mediterrean-inspired diet and cut down on the amount of sugar, caffeine and processed fats you eat.