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Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well!

A healthy dose of my diet, nutrition and lifestyle hacks to improve your health. Every bite counts!

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Benefits of a whole food plant based diet in Menopause

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Is there a special menopause diet? I get asked this all the time and finally put the finishing touches on my menopause program earlier this year.

The menopause program includes specific foods, food combinations and strategies to support menopausal needs. In reality, all my programs, and a whole food diet in general, is beneficial during and after menopause.

A whole food, mostly plant based diet has a positive impact on all health risks associated with menopause and provides nutrients that support many symptoms and concerns arising in the peri-menopausal years and beyond.

Before we get in to the nuts and bolts of it all, let’s start with this VERY important reminder: Menopause and peri-menopause are absolutely normal parts of life.

Just like childhood growth, puberty, menstruation and pregnancy, menopause is a healthy process of hormonal change that your body must undertake to get to the next stage of life.

We need to demystify menopause and stop treating it like some dreadful disease to be dealt with or avoided.

Menopause is not a disease. It should not be 'diagnosed,' but should be recognised when it begins, supported with education and managed according to personal need.

It's crucial for every woman to understand what happens during perimenopause and menopause, so we can give ourselves the best shot of navigating symptoms and improving health outcomes for the later part of our lives.

We should know the health risks that increase with menopause:

  • A higher tendency to accumulate and hold fat (contributing to…)

  • Weight gain and increased risk of overweight and obesity

  • Reduced lean body mass and muscle tissue

  • Reduced bone mineral density (contributing to…)

  • Increased risk of osteoporosis

  • Raised blood lipids: cholesterol, triglycerides (contributing to...)

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Increased risk of metabolic syndrome & disorders

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

No wonder menopause has such a bad reputation! And we haven’t even mentioned the night sweats, the flushing or the moods.

A whole food mostly plant based diet addresses each menopausal risk as follows:

  • In the long term, eating a whole food mostly plant based diet is associated with lower body mass and lower incidence of overweight and obesity.

  • In combination with cardio and weight-bearing exercise, this healthy eating pattern improves lean body mass.

  • The increased alkaline minerals plus Vitamins C, E and beta-carotene on a whole food highly plant based diet contributes to improved bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis.

  • A whole food plant based diet high in magnesium, healthy oils, nitric oxide and fibre produces a more favourable cholesterol picture, healthier arteries and lower blood pressure all contributing to better cardiovascular health.

  • Finally, low sugar, low GI and high fibre foods favoured by this healthy eating pattern support better blood sugar levels and reduce risk for metabolic syndrome.

Addressing your diet and lifestyle before and or during peri-menopause is vital to minimise symptoms, and for the best post-menopause health outcomes.

What about those pesky peri-menopause symptoms?

A healthy wholefood mostly plant based diet, with some tweaks can make a huge difference to menopausal health.

I use the word mostly because ‘plant based’ tends to assume no animal foods at all.

For the healthiest menopausal outcomes, good quality protein is essential and some of that should come from premium quality fish, eggs, a poultry if you can tolerate it, small amounts of some dairy foods (like cottage cheese and yoghurt).

These foods are important sources of calcium, Vitamin D, Omega 3, zinc and selenium – all of which support a healthier happier time in hormone transition.

In addition, one specific food shown time and again to support healthy menopause symptom reduction is soy.

Whenever I recommend soy foods, I highlight very specifically that the only soy products that are beneficial are organic, non-genetically modified whole soy foods.

That’s organic soy beans (edamame), whole soy milk (I only know of one, and that’s Bonsoy) and organic non GMO tofu, tempeh and miso.

A diet rich in soy isoflavones, magnesium, anti-inflammatory foods and Omega 3 fats can help reduce the vasomotor symptoms of menopause: the hot flashes, night sweats, changes in blood pressure.

And that my friends, is the beauty of a whole foods mostly plant based diet!

While I do have a specific diet and education program for menopause (and I think every woman should try it!), I strongly encourage everyone to move to a whole foods mostly plant based diet regardless, because it doesn't just support just one health concern (like menopause), it improves many, many aspects of your health.

To finish I want to leave you with this quote from one of the studies I used in writing this article:

The combination of a low-fat plant-based diet and whole soybeans was associated with reduced frequency and severity of hot flashes, the elimination of moderate-to-severe hot flashes for the majority of participants, and quality-of-life improvements in vasomotor, psycho-social, physical, and sexual domains. (Barnard et al., 2021)

*If you have a thyroid issue or have had an oestrogen dependent cancer, soy should be moderately consumed. You can reach out for personal nutrition advice or support here.

To learn more and start making practical steps to support your peri-menopase and menopause journey, check out the program here.

References used in writing this article:

Barnard, N., Kahleova, H., Holtz, D., del Aguila, F., Neola, M., Crosby, L. and Holubkov, R., 2021. The Women's Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS): a randomized, controlled trial of a plant-based diet and whole soybeans for postmenopausal women. Menopause, 28(10), pp.1150-1156.

El Khoudary, S., Aggarwal, B., Beckie, T., Hodis, H., Johnson, A., Langer, R., Limacher, M., Manson, J., Stefanick, M. and Allison, M., 2020. Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 142(25).

El Khoudary, S., Aggarwal, B., Beckie, T., Hodis, H., Johnson, A., Langer, R., Limacher, M., Manson, J., Stefanick, M. and Allison, M., 2020. Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 142(25).

Kim, H., Caulfield, L. and Rebholz, C., 2018. Healthy Plant-Based Diets Are Associated with Lower Risk of All-Cause Mortality in US Adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 148(4), pp.624-631.

Kim, H., Caulfield, L., Garcia‐Larsen, V., Steffen, L., Coresh, J. and Rebholz, C., 2019. Plant‐Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All‐Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle‐Aged Adults. Journal of the American Heart Association, 8(16).

Lombardo, M., Perrone, M., Guseva, E., Aulisa, G., Padua, E., Bellia, C., Della-Morte, D., Iellamo, F., Caprio, M. and Bellia, A., 2020. Losing Weight after Menopause with Minimal Aerobic Training and Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients, 12(8), p.2471.

Nappi, R. and Simoncini, T., 2021. Menopause transition: a golden age to prevent cardiovascular disease. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 9(3), pp.135-137.

Silva, T., Oppermann, K., Reis, F. and Spritzer, P., 2021. Nutrition in Menopausal Women: A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 13(7), p.2149

Wright, N., Wilson, L., Smith, M., Duncan, B. and McHugh, P., 2017. The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(3), pp.e256-e256.

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