Just when you think you’ve got your ideal routine in place, your body pulls a fast one and BAM: perimenopause hits. Whether it’s restless nights, dry skin, maddening brain fog, declining progesterone or wacky estrogen fluctuations, even the most level woman can be stopped in her tracks. We hate to break it to you, but your body has changed, and so has the way you need to nourish it. While each of us have our own eating philosophies and dietary needs, studies have shown certain foods are essential to women’s health at all stages. We’ve broken down the key areas so you can take matters into your own hands.
B vitamins are essential for regulating and stimulating metabolism and for maintaining the functions of the nervous system. They’ve also been linked to concentration and high cognitive functionality in menopausal women. As we age, the acid-levels in our stomach are reduced, making it harder to absorb B12 from food. You can combat this with foods that are rich in B12, such as clams, salmon, trout, tuna, nonfat Greek yogurt or fortified cereal. For our vegetarians out there, some Nutritional Yeast brands are fortified with DV for Vitamin B12. For over-the-counter vitamins, the North American Menopause Society highlights B6 for moderating mood changes.
Elektra Food Tip: Swap chips or pretzels for greek yogurt with honey the next time you need a mid-afternoon snack.
As we hit perimenopause and beyond, women are at a much higher risk for osteoporosis. In fact, in the 5-7 years after menopause, women are at risk of losing 20% of their bone density. You may not be able to see it on the outside, but trust us: the bones and hips of future you will thank you if you add extra calcium to your diet. You can find calcium in low-fat yogurt, leafy greens, broccoli, beans, lentils, almonds and most legumes. Vitamin D has also been shown to help your body absorb calcium, so supplementing your calcium intake with Vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks or fortified milk (dairy or non-dairy) can seriously boost mineral absorption.
Elektra Food Tip: Swap french fries for a side of broccoli, and replace that energy bar with dried figs and almonds.
Like calcium, magnesium is important to bone health, but that’s not all this miracle mineral can do for you. In addition to demonstrated help with relaxation and sleep, one 2011 study showed that magnesium improved hot flashes for breast cancer patients, although note that additional research is needed. Beyond magnesium supplements, Cleveland Clinic recommends nuts, beans, broccoli, spinach and whole grains for magnesium.
Elektra Food Tip: Swap arugula for spinach in your next desk salad.
For some women, phytoestrogens have been shown to improve menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. In fact, studies have shown that an estrogen-rich, plant-based diet can reduce hot flashes by 70%. In case you’re curious about the science: phytoestrogens are found most notably in soy, which can trigger women to produce equol, an estrogen formed in the intestine which can treat hot flashes. Not a huge fan of soy? Flaxseeds, broccoli, black cohosh and carrots also contain phytoestrogens.
Elektra Food Tip: Swap out red meat for tofu for your next meal protein. We’re also a fan of adding flaxseeds to our morning cereal.
As we learned in our July Salon Event with neurologist and integrative nutritionist Dr. Lisa Mosconi, brain health and women’s health are deeply intertwined. If you’re dealing with changes in mood, healthy fats can bolster your response to anxiety and depression, which are very common for women navigating perimenopause and menopause. Good sources of healthy fats can be found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon or tuna.
Elektra Food Tip: When you’re feeling down, treat yourself to that avocado toast. And follow it up with a big plate of salmon to feed your brain.
Wherever your diet needs a boost, it’s important to remember that your diet is closely associated with your fitness during perimenopause and beyond. We know you’ve heard it already, but no diet article would be worth its salt if we didn’t remind you that reducing alcohol intake, drinking lots of water, and getting out for regular exercise has an outsized impact on so many aspects of our health, including breast, heart and mental health. Our bodies are changing (which is totally normal!) and our diet should evolve along with it.
Elektra Food Tip: Swap your glass of red wine for dark chocolate & sleepytime tea. RIP vino, Hello decadence (and a more rested you).
No matter where you are in your health journey, Elektra’s got your back. We’ve highlighted here some fabulous recipes from shero Alice Waters, the legendary chef who brought organic, local food into the mainstream. Enjoy!
- Avocado and Beet Salad: This colorful salad packs a punch with healthy fats and a good portion of fiber.
- Long Cooked Broccoli: Broccoli shows up all over this list and is rich in calcium, phytoestrogens and magnesium. This super simple way of preparing broccoli is a hit every. single. time.
- Slow Cooked Salmon with Lemon Relish: Salmon is good for your brain, bones and metabolism. This recipe is low on ingredients and high on tasty benefits – thank us later.
Updated: Sep 15, 2019