Best Diet for Perimenopause: Here’s What You Should Eat

Last updated 01.06.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 12 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Irrespective of whether you are experiencing menopause or not, diet always plays a vital role in helping you maintain a healthy life, shielding your body from several harmful diseases. In menopause, the hormonal imbalances trigger several symptoms. One of the many ways you could put up a brave fight against fluctuating hormones is by eating healthy.

I had chanced upon a study conducted in Iran on 393 women who had reached the postmenopause stage. The findings revealed that those who included fruits and veggies in their diet experienced fewer menopausal symptoms than those who didn’t follow a healthy diet. When I was in my late 40s, my doctor always advised me to eat healthy. Initially, I couldn’t stop myself from mainly binge-eating to get rid of the stress and long hours of sleeplessness, which at one point had become troublesome.

However, eventually, I gave up on all the junk foods, which was taking a toll on my health, and began eating healthy. Trust me, I began feeling much better.

Are you keen to know how maintaining a healthy diet will help you in the perimenopause phase? Do read my article then. I have highlighted the importance of diet in perimenopause and the foods to eat and avoid. Let’s get started.

What is the Importance of Diet in Perimenopause?

When in perimenopause, your body goes through several troublesome symptoms that could hamper your daily life. By eating the proper diet, you can manage many of your perimenopausal symptoms, if not eliminate them.

Hot flashes occur due to fluctuating hormonal levels. The diet plays a significant role in affecting the severity. And frequency of hot flashes. Many doctors have suggested eating fresh fruits and veggies before sunset will help normalize blood flow and lessen hot flashes.

Focus has also been laid on having a Mediterranean diet comprising whole grains, lean meat, fish, olive oil, vegetables, and fruits. A study suggested that women having this kind of diet were at a lessened risk of hot flashes by around 20%.

Let’s discuss another troublesome menopausal symptom – vaginal dryness due to reduced estrogen levels. It leads to a burning and itching sensation in the vagina, alongside other uncomfortable symptoms. When you eat the right kind of diet, it will benefit your vaginal health too. Cranberry juice, rich in antioxidants, helps to prevent bacterial growth in the bladder and vaginal walls. Sweet potatoes have a high Vitamin A and beta carotene content. Getting these nutrients in sufficient amounts helps keep the body’s mucous membranes, including the vagina, healthy. In this way, you can lessen the chances of vaginal infections during menopause.

So, it is evident from the above-mentioned facts that a healthy diet helps you manage most of the disturbing symptoms. That’s why it is essential to eat healthy in the perimenopause phase.

What to Eat in Perimenopause?: A Brief Guide

What to Eat in Perimenopause

As mentioned, in perimenopause, your body goes through several symptoms; to combat them, you must take special care about what you eat. Here is a guide on the perfect diet to follow during the menopause transition phase.

1. Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet stresses a plant-based diet comprising whole grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and beans. Besides these, the Mediterranean diet even includes eggs, poultry, dairy, and seafood. The fat source is mainly derived from nuts and olive oil. It has been observed that opting for a Mediterranean diet is beneficial in many ways during perimenopause and menopause. It helps to lessen hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms.

A study conducted on 6040 women showed that those on a Mediterranean diet were at a lessened risk of night sweats and hot flashes than those who ate a diet high in fat and sugar. The fruits that are a part of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Clementines
  • Figs
  • Cherries
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruits
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Oranges
  • Pomegranates
  • Pears
  • Tangerines
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

The veggies which are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet are:

  • Carrot
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Beet
  • Collard Green
  • Okra
  • Mustard Green
  • Potato
  • Pepper
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Pea
  • Leek
  • Eggplant
  • Celery

Other foods that are a part of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Poultry ( Duck, turkey, chicken)
  • Dairy (Milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Seafood (Mackerel, clam, shrimp, oyster, sardine, tuna, trout, salmon)
  • Whole grains (Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, rye, corn, barley, oats, pasta, whole wheat bread)
  • Spices and herbs (Rosemary, nutmeg, basil, garlic, mint, sage, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg) 
  • Seeds and nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

However, I did not follow a wholesome Mediterranean diet. However, I included most of the veggies and fruits mentioned above in my daily platter, such as soups, salads, stir-fries, and smoothies.

2. Protein-rich Diet

In menopause, hormonal imbalances lead to several changes in your body. Moreover, you may require specific nutrients in more significant amounts to cope with hormonal level fluctuations. In menopause, low estrogen levels lead to a reduction in the strength and muscle mass.

Researchers have deduced that the body’s protein requirement is high in perimenopause. When the body’s protein requirement isn’t met correctly, it is substituted with fats and other energy forms that aren’t too healthy when overeaten. Moreover, researchers have highlighted that the body doesn’t lose energy in the same way as it gains. That’s why consuming more protein and less carbohydrates and fats is advised.

Some foods that are a good source of protein and a preferred choice in perimenopause and menopause include:

  • Chicken
  • Beans
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Almond
  • Quinoa
  • Lentil
  • Yogurt
  • Egg

According to a reputed dietician, it is advisable to equally distribute your protein intake over the three meals you have, alongside the snack you eat in between. Smearing your toast with peanut butter would be fine. A chicken or baked salmon salad for lunch would be another good option.

Some beans would serve as an excellent appetizer for dinner before you move on to a full-course meal.

3. Fiber-rich Foods

Like protein, eating fiber-rich foods will also help in many ways during perimenopause. It allows you to remain full and lessen your cravings. Menopause leads to weight gain. Increased estrogen levels and high food cravings are some of the many reasons for the same. That’s why adding fiber to your diet will help you cope with weight gain in menopause and its transition phase. Adult women who have experienced menopause or are nearing it require a daily fiber intake of around 21 grams.

Women are more susceptible to bloating in perimenopause due to the fluctuating hormone levels. So, a high-fiber diet helps to boost your digestive health and bowel movements. When opting for a diet high in fiber, the foods that you should keep on your list include:

  • Vegetables (broccoli, beets, carrots, collard greens, Swiss chard, artichokes)
  • Fruits (Strawberry, banana, apple, orange, raspberry, mango, guava, persimmons)
  • Rice
  • Whole-grain breads,
  • Pasta
  • Cereals

If you are on a low-fiber diet and wish to increase your fiber intake, do it slowly and gradually. Adding too much fiber in a go might be difficult to digest, resulting in stomach disorders. You can also talk to a doctor to increase your fiber intake. I have always been in the habit of consulting with my healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes.

4. Foods High in Calcium

With menopause, your bone health goes for a toss. The low estrogen levels can be blamed for the same. It increases your risk of osteoporosis, which means weak bones that could be broken and fractured easily. To maintain your bone health, it is a mandate to include a sufficient amount of calcium. Women in the perimenopause and postmenopause phase require at least a daily intake of 1200 mg of calcium. Some of the calcium-rich foods you may opt for include:

  • Dairy products
  • Canned salmon, sardine, and other fish with bones
  • Legumes
  • Broccoli

When concerned about upping your calcium intake, it is essential to seek your healthcare provider’s advice, who would decide on your daily intake. If needed, your doctor might prescribe calcium supplements.

5. Soy Products and other Phytoestrogen-rich Foods

Soy products have isoflavones, which is an essential phytoestrogen alongside lignans. Phytoestrogens are compounds derived from plants that function similarly to estrogen. Menopause means low estrogen levels. Eating foods containing phytoestrogen compounds may help compensate for the lessened estrogen.

Soy products like tofu, soybeans, tempeh, and soymilk are good options. Soy foods significantly function towards lessening night sweats and hot flashes. Clinical studies revealed that postmenopausal women with a daily intake of 30-60 grams of soy protein experienced fewer hot flashes than those who ate few amounts of soy. There are other foods rich in phytoestrogen alongside soy. These include:

  • Berries
  • Carrots
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Sesame seeds
  • Rice
  • Dried beans
  • Mung beans
  • Alfalfa
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat
  • Barley

6. Foods Containing Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In the perimenopause stage, there is a decline in estrogen levels, which leads to deteriorated bone health, mood swings, and aches and pains. When you include sufficient omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, it helps to lessen inflammation and improve your mood. It allows you to cope with depression and manage hot flashes symptoms.

Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids. There are other fish on the list, like mackerel, herring, oyster, and sardine. Then, there are flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, walnuts, and dairy products on the list. To balance your omega-3 fatty acid, it is necessary to have at least two servings of fish each week of a four-ounce measurement. Flaxseed oil helps in boosting mood. Adding it to your diet may help.

7. Iron-rich Foods

You should take care of your iron intake in perimenopause as you are still menstruating. Three servings of foods containing iron are ideal. Some foods with iron include poultry, eggs, lean red meat, leafy greens, fish, and nuts. Older women need, at most, 8 mg of iron daily.

What Are the Foods to Avoid During Perimenopause?

We discussed the foods you should eat in perimenopause to be healthy. Likewise, there are certain foods to avoid, too, as having them could worsen your symptoms. Here are some foods that you must avoid in perimenopause.

1. Alcohol

You can have alcohol in menopause but in moderation. Many healthcare providers have advised having no more than one drink daily. Different women have different triggers. Alcohol is one of them and is known to aggravate specific perimenopausal symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes.

So, if your hot flashes worsen after a drink, it is better to avoid them altogether. A similar thing would happen to my friend who felt hotter after a drink. When she cut down on her daily alcohol intake, she felt a lot more better. Your sleep is also affected in perimenopause, and drinking alcohol, particularly before bedtime, could make things miserable.

2. Spicy Foods

This one is another no-no in the menopause transition phase when you are susceptible to hot flashes. Hot foods could make you feel more flushed. In perimenopause, your digestive system gets sensitive. Eating spicy foods may trigger digestive disorders and acid reflux, worsening things.

I had my first hot flash after eating a jalapeno sandwich. From then onwards, I realized that spicy foods make me feel hotter and more uncomfortable. That’s when I resorted to less spicy options. I like bell pepper, which isn’t spicy but has that crunchiness that enhances flavor of the foods I add it to.

3. Caffeine

Coffee and caffeinated products are also triggers that could worsen your hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep problems. So, if you swore by a cup of coffee to date like me, it is time that you reformed your habits just as I do. Many prefer decaf coffee as an alternative. However, it is essential to know that decaf coffee also contains caffeine. The better substitute would be herbal or fruit teas.

4. Sugary and Foods

As you near menopause, you should make a conscious effort to adopt a healthy diet sans any processed or junk foods. So, the potato chips, cakes, cookies, hot dogs, etc., should exit your food list. I did the same. Eating foods high in salt and sugar could affect your health adversely. 

When too much sugar gets into your system, it could worsen several menopausal symptoms. Similarly, increased salt intake may trigger dehydration, intensifying your night sweats, hot flashes, and anxiety.

FAQs

What is a good breakfast choice for perimenopause?

There are ample healthy breakfast options to opt for when you are in the perimenopause phase and nearing menopause. You could go for a bowl of oats and nuts. You could even add flax, sunflower, sesame, or pumpkin seeds. Some unsweetened yogurt and a plate full of healthy fruits would complete your breakfast.

Which foods are good for hot flashes?

Certain cooling foods are said to lessen the intensity and severity of hot flashes. These include:
• Apples
• Bananas
• Spinach
• Broccoli
• Green Tea
• Eggs

Conclusion

When you eat healthy in perimenopause, and bid adieu to all the unhealthy foods, you will be able to deal with most of the symptoms your body goes through in the transition phase. 

Remember, you must also stay hydrated. This will help you cope with the moisture loss that your body goes through due to night sweats and hot flashes. Moreover, low estrogen lessens your body’s ability to remain hydrated. That’s why drinking sufficient fluids is a mandate.

However, consulting a doctor is of utmost importance whenever you plan to make any significant dietary changes.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.