Eat to ease the menopause

What is the menopause and how can you eat to ease some of the unwelcome symptoms associated with it? Nutritionist Jo Lewin has some practical advice...

Woman with glass of milk

About the menopause

Most women dread the word menopause. In reality it affects women in completely different ways, but the most common symptoms include hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, anxiety, impairment of memory and fatigue. Long term consequences can include a decline in libido, osteoporosis, heart disease, even dementia – all linked to reduced oestrogen levels.

Typically, a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs in her early 50s, and the menstrual cycle stops. Some women can sail through with only the odd hot flush, but others can struggle with symptoms such as weight gain and fluctuating emotions. The physiological reason why the body starts changing is largely down to the drop in oestrogen production and the effect this has on other hormones.

As the ovaries stop manufacturing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, symptoms may begin. For example, oestrogen helps lift our mood so, when levels drop, we may feel depressed.  Some women opt for hormone replacement therapy (HRT); others try natural remedies. Whether or not you decide to take HRT, following the guidelines below won't hurt and will assist in the pursuit of an all-round healthy lifestyle.

It has been noted that eating, and avoiding, certain types of foods can make the menopause a lot more bearable. Here are common problems those going through the menopause may face and some foods to watch out for...

Dietary solutions...

Hot flushes

Selection of chillies
Try to cut down on foods that are likely to trigger or worsen hot flushes and night sweats. For instance, avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and chocolate and spicy foods, especially at night - they're notorious for setting off hot flushes.


Avoid snacking on sugary foods – all too often a sharp rise in your blood glucose level may be followed by a sharp dip which leaves you feeling tired and drained. Choose fresh fruit with a few nuts instead.


Weight gain

Person standing on scales
Many people associate the menopause with weight gain but, as we get older, we need fewer calories. Eating a bit less sounds a simplistic solution but it will help. Watch the amount of fat in your diet and cut back on sugar. Eat complex carbohydrates, such as brown grains, wholemeal pasta, bread and rice, as they will help balance blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.


Dry skin

Almond butter on bread
Legumes, nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, almonds contain vitamin E, zinc and calcium. These nutrients and the oils in nuts and seeds may help prevent dry skin and normalise hormone levels.


Depression and irritability

Ensure you eat enough protein foods which contain the amino acid tryptophan. You can find it in turkey, cottage cheese, oats and legumes. Tryptophan helps manufacture the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin helps moods and may help control sleep and appetite which can make you feel better in yourself. Other useful strategies to help you feel less irritable are to eat breakfast and not miss meals in order to ensure you keep your blood sugar stable. Erratic blood sugar levels may lead to irritability and mood swings.


Bone health

Apples on wooden boards
Women going through the menopause should increase their intake of food sources of calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K to maintain integrity of the skeleton. In addition, high amounts of phosphorous – found in red meat, processed foods and fizzy drinks – should also be avoided. Too much phosphorous in the diet accelerates the loss of minerals such as calcium and magnesium from bone. Reducing sodium, caffeine and protein from animal products can also help the body maintain calcium stores.

Eat foods high in magnesium and boron. These are minerals which are important for the replacement of bone and thus help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Apples, pears, grapes, dates, raisins, legumes and nuts are good sources of boron.

Talk to your doctor about whether you may benefit from a calcium supplement. Other vitamins and minerals that are vital for bone health are magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc. Weight-bearing exercise is important too, but if you have been diagnosed with any form of bone loss, check with your doctor that you can exercise safely and effectively.

Find out more about the best sources of calcium and learn about what affects osteoporosis and bone density.


Eat more phyto-oestrogens

Chicken and rice in bowls
Phyto or plant oestrogens found in certain foods are oestrogenic compounds that bind with oestrogen receptor sites in the body cells, increasing the total oestrogenic effect. By acting in a similar way to oestrogen, they may help in keeping hormones a little more in balance. A high intake of phytoestrogens is thought to explain why hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms rarely occur in populations consuming a predominantly plant-based diet. Increase your intake of phyto-oestrogens by eating more: soya milk and soya flour, linseeds, tofu, tempeh and miso, pumpkins seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.

This page was last reviewed on 8 August 2018.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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Samantha Merry's picture
Samantha Merry
22nd Sep, 2019
As a counsellor in Bromley, Kent my clients often report Menopause as a difficult and often confusing time. It's something we all need to talk about more. This is a useful article.
16th Jun, 2015
Great article. Sharing this related article I read recently
22nd Dec, 2014
Transitioning through menopause is a complicated time in any woman’s life, with all the different hormones fluctuating and hitting pretty much every part of your body. Since we can all use some guidance when crossing these dark waters, I’ve created this blog to give you recipes:
Simone Millard's picture
Simone Millard
30th Apr, 2018
I am in full menopause and make my own free range beef marrow bone broth, is this good for me?
goodfoodteam's picture
9th May, 2018
Hi Simone, thanks you for your question. Our nutritionist is not aware of any contraindications of consuming bone broth post menopause, however would encourage it as part of a broad, varied diet. Any concerns with menopause or symptoms should be discussed with the GP.
Michelle Smith's picture
Michelle Smith
21st Jan, 2018
Hi,I'm new to this menopausible thing,I had a large fibroid removed recently,I was told I was peri menopausible,I've already started gaining the weight,I'm looking for advice,as it's first for me,I haven't got a clue about the menopause,or what to eat and not to eat,or things I can and can't,it would be nice to hear from woman in similar 48,hot flushes mainly at night,low feeling,weight gain,even a can to open is hard,feel like I'm loosing my strength,electric shocks through my head,feeling full,I do yoga and that seems to be a struggle,I also walk every morning,I was active 6 months ago,gym etc,any ideas thankyou
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