When it comes to managing menopause symptoms, what you eat goes to the front of the line. Making smart food choices is the number one way to manage night sweats, hot flashes, and the other miseries you may experience during this life transition.
Eating by the plate is the best way to ease menopausal woes. When you choose the right foods, you balance your hormone levels, steady your blood sugar levels, and find and maintain your ideal weight—all of which help manage symptoms of menopause.
To do that, you’ll want to incorporate the magic trifecta of protein, healthy fats, and fiber into every meal. My favorite way to do that is with lateral shifts, or simple swaps that upgrade your go-to foods.
The Best Foods to Eat for Menopause Symptoms
I’ve provided nine simple, science-based swaps below to reduce the unpleasant symptoms that often accompany menopause. Some are hormone-focused upgrades for perfectly healthy foods. For others, you’ll trade unhealthy foods for more nutritious options.
1. Swap Your Poultry or Beef for Wild-Caught Salmon
You are what you eat, ate. When you eat meat from factory-farmed animals that are fed things like corn and wheat and pumped with hormones and antibiotics, you’re getting those same things in your meat. (Hello, hormonal imbalance.)
To avoid those problems, you can swap out conventional meats for pasture-raised poultry or grass-fed beef. Even better, however, is if you choose wild-caught salmon, which uplevels protein with omega-3 fatty acids.
Why swap it?
The omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught fish, such as salmon, can help with menopause-related hot flashes, depression, and cognitive symptoms, like brain fog.1 Most of those benefits come from their ability to lower inflammation, which can benefit heart health, immune function, and so much more.2
Wild salmon also provides a powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, which gives it its pink hue.3 Menopause can impact your body’s antioxidant defense system, creating a damaging condition called oxidative stress.4 Eating a wide variety of antioxidants, including those in vegetables and foods like salmon, can help reduce that damage.
Simple swap: This Blackened Salmon recipe gets its bold flavor from spices like paprika and cayenne pepper.
2. Swap Your Sugary Breakfast for a Loaded Smoothie
Most breakfast choices like cereals, muffins, and oatmeal provide a sugar overload that spikes and crashes your blood sugar. Subsequently, you’re hungry a few hours later, and your symptoms are raging.
Why swap it?
Even “healthy” breakfast choices (think: instant oat packets) can contain too much sugar, which sends your glucose levels on a roller coaster ride that’s set to crash before noon. Studies show that women who have higher blood sugar levels are more likely to experience hot flashes.5
A fast, filling loaded smoothie is the antidote to empty-nutrient breakfasts. It’s the perfect way to break your morning fast, while slipping in a ton of nutrient-loaded ingredients that help you manage menopausal symptoms.
Simple swap: This Hot Flash-Halting Protein Shake provides flaxseed, leafy greens, berries, and other nutrient-packed ingredients along with cravings-crushing All-In-One Shake protein powder.
What’s for breakfast? Whether you’re craving overnight oats, chia pudding, or a loaded smoothie, you’ll find over 60 fast, fabulous recipes in my Loaded Smoothie Cookbook. It’s FREE, so download your copy here.
3. Swap Your Corn for Lentils
When it comes to managing menopause symptoms and other hormone imbalances, fiber is critical. Optimal amounts of dietary fiber improve the quality and quantity of gut bacteria while promoting the production of colon-supporting short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).6
Why swap it?
Studies show that SCFAs can prevent bone loss after menopause.7 Fiber does much more, including supporting a healthy gut. It can also bind excess hormones, like estrogen, preventing them from recirculating and creating havoc. When your gut is unhealthy, you can reabsorb estrogen, which may worsen your symptoms. 8
Most side dishes, such as corn, are low in fiber. What’s more, corn (niblets, creamed, or on the cob) can mess with your blood sugar levels and create a similar reason to the gluten in wheat.
An easy upgrade is to swap this grain for lentils. They’re loaded with fiber along with protein and nutrients like folate.
Simple swap: This Lentil Bacon Soup provides a delicious, flavorful way to enjoy these beans along with nitrate-free bacon. (Need I say more?)
4. Swap Your Dip for Hummus
Besides lentils, chickpeas are another fiber-and-protein superstar… plus, they’re so darn versatile.
Why swap it?
Eating chickpeas during menopause can balance insulin and blood sugar levels, ease digestive troubles, support stronger bones, and improve memory and mood… all of which can help manage symptoms like hot flashes.9
Simple swap: Chickpeas work well as a side dish, on top of a salad, or as hummus. My personal favorite is this Garlic Hummus With Lentil Chips!
5. Swap Your Banana for Avocado
Bananas are a popular loaded smoothie ingredient. However, they’re high in fructose, a simple sugar that can create problems for your liver in large amounts.
If you can’t resist bananas, add half a barely ripe one to your loaded smoothies—as in, on the greener side. As bananas ripen, their starchiness increases and their pectin (a type of fiber) decreases.
Better yet, swap out that banana for an avocado, which provides that same creaminess but takes your nutrient intake to the next level.
Why swap it?
Besides fiber and hard-to-get nutrients like potassium, avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fat. This healthy fat (the same stuff in extra-virgin olive oil) can help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (all conditions that can increase during menopause).10
Simple swap: I love throwing half an avocado into my loaded smoothie. Feeling something a little sweet? Try these Avocado Fudge Brownies.
6. Swap Your Canned Nuts for Brazil Nuts
Almonds and other nuts are nutrient powerhouses, packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, and hard-to-get nutrients like magnesium.
Unfortunately, many canned nuts “steal” some of that healthiness by adding inflammatory oils, reactive foods (like gluten or corn), and even added sugars. One innocuous sounding “dry roasted almonds” on the supermarket shelf contains the following (I’ve bolded the problem ingredients):
ALMONDS, Seasoning (Maltodextrin, Salt, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Paprika, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavors), Vegetable and Nut Oil Blend (ALMOND, BRAZIL NUT, Canola, CASHEW, PEANUT, PECAN, Safflower, Sunflower and/or WALNUT Oils), Corn Starch, SOY Lecithin.
Slow-roasted Brazil nuts make a smart swap. They’re awesome sources of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients.
Why swap it?
Researchers attribute these benefits to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power of selenium. A single Brazil nut, in fact, packs a whopping 68–91 mcg of this critical mineral.11 One review among 124 postmenopausal women found that those who got higher amounts of selenium were less likely to have the bone disease osteoporosis, which can increase around menopause.12
7. Swap Your Rice for Cauliflower Rice
White rice is an empty-nutrient, carb-heavy food. Fortunately, this ubiquitous side dish is easy to upgrade with nutrient-loaded cauliflower rice.
Along with fiber and nutrition, cauliflower delivers the compound sulforaphane, which provides antioxidants and anti-inflammatory power.
Why swap it?
When you eat cruciferous veggies, you support liver detoxification pathways (helpful to move out excess hormones like estrogen) and improve gut health.13
Simple swap: Cauliflower Rice With Lentils and Pomegranate combines this cruciferous veggie with pomegranate arils, lentils, bone broth, and other nutrient-packed ingredients.
8. Swap Your Vegetable Oil for Avocado Oil
Processed, refined vegetable oils have long been positioned as healthy. They’re not.
Among their problems, many of these oils are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. High heat and other processing methods can damage these fragile amino acids, contributing to chronic inflammation that is associated with nearly every disease on the planet.14
Fortunately, avocado oil is an easy swap that equally holds up well under higher heat.
Why swap it?
Avocado oil is about 70% oleic acid (a type of monounsaturated fat), which is great to reduce the risk of heart disease and other conditions that increase during menopause.15
Learn why heart disease is the #1 killer among women (but it doesn’t have to be).
Simple swap: Dr. Mark Hyman’s Feel-Good Pesto Steak Salad is a super-yummy, satisfying dish that incorporates avocado oil. You’ll find lots more recipes with avocado oil on my recipes page.
9. Swap Your Cow’s Milk for Coconut Milk
Menopause can significantly speed bone loss, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. In fact, up to 20% of bone loss can occur during menopause.16
Why swap it?
Contrary to what you’ve been told, dairy does not support strong bones.
One study found that dairy doesn’t necessarily protect menopausal women from bone fractures or low bone density. Looking at 1,955 premenopausal or menopausal women over a decade, researchers found that they had a similar risk of fractures, despite how much dairy they had consumed.17
Simple swap: Unsweetened coconut milk is packed with healthy fats, with zero reactivity that cow’s milk creates.
Most of the fat in coconut milk comes from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easier to metabolize and may even help you burn fat.18
What’s more, about half the fat in coconut milk is lauric acid. One study showed that this fatty acid could improve insulin sensitivity and support healthy mitochondria (the little energy plants within your cells). 19
Menopause can create so much fear and dread along with its (potentially) accompanying anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and loss of libido. Your food choices are the #1 way to reduce symptoms and ease the menopausal transition.
When you eat by the plate and incorporate the food swaps I’ve discussed here, you’re getting critical nutrient support to manage menopause and reduce or eliminate the miseries that can accompany this transition.
I transitioned through menopause feeling and looking better than I ever have, and I’d like to support your journey, too. I’ve got lots more content to help:
- The Best Foods for Menopause Symptoms
- How to Avoid Menopause Belly
- How Menopause Affects Your Sleep
- 7 Tips to Help You Feel Your Best During Menopause
- Managing Menopause (an episode of Ask the Health Expert with Dr. Anna Cabeca)
Because the right nutrient support is key during this transition, I created Menopause Support. Each pack comes with three softgels that include annatto with geranylgeraniol (GG), CoQ10, and DIM to support menopausal symptoms, improve estrogen balance, and reduce inflammation.* Putting them together in a single, convenient pack makes it easy to ensure you don’t miss a single day of great health. Order yours here.
The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
- Ciappolino V, Mazzocchi A, Enrico P, Syrén ML, Delvecchio G, Agostoni C, Brambilla P. N-3 Polyunsatured Fatty Acids in Menopausal Transition: A Systematic Review of Depressive and Cognitive Disorders with Accompanying Vasomotor Symptoms. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jun 23;19(7):1849. doi: 10.3390/ijms19071849. PMID: 29937484; PMCID: PMC6073395.
- Mori TA, Beilin LJ. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammation. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2004 Nov;6(6):461-7. doi: 10.1007/s11883-004-0087-5. PMID: 15485592.
- Sztretye M, Dienes B, Gönczi M, Czirják T, Csernoch L, Dux L, Szentesi P, Keller-Pintér A. Astaxanthin: A Potential Mitochondrial-Targeted Antioxidant Treatment in Diseases and with Aging. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019 Nov 11;2019:3849692. doi: 10.1155/2019/3849692. PMID: 31814873; PMCID: PMC6878783.
- Doshi SB, Agarwal A. The role of oxidative stress in menopause. J Midlife Health. 2013 Jul;4(3):140-6. doi: 10.4103/0976-7800.118990. PMID: 24672185; PMCID: PMC3952404.
- Thurston RC, El Khoudary SR, Sutton-Tyrrell K, Crandall CJ, Sternfeld B, Joffe H, Gold EB, Selzer F, Matthews KA. Vasomotor symptoms and insulin resistance in the study of women's health across the nation. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;97(10):3487-94. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-1410. Epub 2012 Jul 31. PMID: 22851488; PMCID: PMC3462945.
- Makki K, Deehan EC, Walter J, Bäckhed F. The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Jun 13;23(6):705-715. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.05.012. PMID: 29902436.
- Lucas S, Omata Y, Hofmann J, Böttcher M, Iljazovic A, Sarter K, Albrecht O, Schulz O, Krishnacoumar B, Krönke G, Herrmann M, Mougiakakos D, Strowig T, Schett G, Zaiss MM. Short-chain fatty acids regulate systemic bone mass and protect from pathological bone loss. Nat Commun. 2018 Jan 4;9(1):55. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02490-4. PMID: 29302038; PMCID: PMC5754356.
- Blum, Esther. See Ya Later, Ovulator! NY: Hybrid Global Publishing (October 4, 2022).
- Cabeca, Anna. MenuPause. PA: Rodale Books (April 12, 2022).
- Hayes J, Benson G. What the Latest Evidence Tells Us About Fat and Cardiovascular Health. Diabetes Spectr. 2016 Aug;29(3):171-5. doi: 10.2337/diaspect.29.3.171. PMID: 27574372; PMCID: PMC5001225.
- Grili PPDF, Vidigal CV, da Cruz GF, Albergaria BH, Marques-Rocha JL, Pereira TSS, Guandalini VR. Dietary consumption of selenium inversely associated with osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Front Nutr. 2022 Sep 12;9:997414. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.997414. PMID: 36172523; PMCID: PMC9511160.
- Gottfried, Sara. Women, Food, And Hormones. OR: Harvest (December 13, 2022).
- Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, Carrera-Bastos P, Targ S, Franceschi C, Ferrucci L, Gilroy DW, Fasano A, Miller GW, Miller AH, Mantovani A, Weyand CM, Barzilai N, Goronzy JJ, Rando TA, Effros RB, Lucia A, Kleinstreuer N, Slavich GM. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019 Dec;25(12):1822-1832. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0. Epub 2019 Dec 5. PMID: 31806905; PMCID: PMC7147972.
- Flores M, Saravia C, Vergara CE, Avila F, Valdés H, Ortiz-Viedma J. Avocado Oil: Characteristics, Properties, and Applications. Molecules. 2019 Jun 10;24(11):2172. doi: 10.3390/molecules24112172. PMID: 31185591; PMCID: PMC6600360.
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- Tham YY, Choo QC, Muhammad TST, Chew CH. Lauric acid alleviates insulin resistance by improving mitochondrial biogenesis in THP-1 macrophages. Mol Biol Rep. 2020 Dec;47(12):9595-9607. doi: 10.1007/s11033-020-06019-9. Epub 2020 Dec 1. PMID: 33259010.