Log In Sign Up

Best foods for perimenopause

Discover the best foods for perimenopause, featured in delicious recipes from our Nutritionist, James and Professional Chef, Jason.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional phase leading up to menopause, the permanent end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. Perimenopause is the time when a woman’s hormones fluctuate, and you can expect hot flashes, irregular periods, mood changes and night sweats etc.

It’s important to note that medically, you are deemed to be in menopause on the 12-month anniversary of your last period, so up until this point, you’re in perimenopause. After you’ve had this 12-month phase, you would be post-menopausal.

We make these distinctions as symptoms ‘cluster’ around the perimenopausal phase, although for many women symptoms will continue after menopause as hormones still fluctuate.

Perimenopause typically occurs in a woman’s 40s, though it can start in the 30s or 50s and symptoms can last for up to 10 years.

Unsure whether you are perimenopausal? Check out James’ e-book 17 Signs You Are in Perimenopause. It comes with a symptom tracker you can use too to monitor your symptom load over time.

Hormonal changes in perimenopause

Of course, as this is the phase where your period stops ,there are some hormonal shifts taking place in your body, we outline what you might expect below.

Oestrogen fluctuations: Oestrogen levels can become erratic during perimenopause, with periods of both higher and lower levels than usual. As perimenopause progresses, oestrogen levels generally decline.

Progesterone decline: Progesterone levels tend to decrease during perimenopause, leading to an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) increase: As oestrogen levels decline, FSH levels increase in an attempt to stimulate the ovaries to produce more oestrogen.

Symptoms of Perimenopause

Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort
  • Decreased libido
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain

Other systems at play

How we eat, move, relax, sleep and think all play a role in our overall health but are crucial at this important life stage.

Stress in particular is the enemy of perimenopause and there are clear links between an increased severity of menopausal symptoms and women who experience high levels of stress.

To explain… The adrenal glands produce your stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin to help us deal with stress (1). As oestrogen production starts to decline from the ovaries, the adrenals take over some of the work to help supplement oestrogen production… but the adrenals will always prioritise survival, meaning oestrogen production gets shunted to the back of the queue.

It follows then that at perimenopause and into post-menopause, if you are overly stressed, the adrenals can become worn out.

Given we know that stress and anxiety can increase during this life stage, putting a strain on the adrenal glands can therefore worsen symptoms.

Stress can also be a key factor in causing hot flushes and night sweats through the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline causes increased heart rate and narrowing of elements of the circulation system such as veins and arteries – in turn, this can lead to an increase in temperature.

A hot flush is the body’s reaction to an increase in temperature, which it attempts to cool down by sweating.

Optimum adrenal function is therefore important and hence support for the adrenal glands is a necessary consideration for menopause transition (2, 3).

Oestrogen also plays a role in bone mass in women, and so declining levels can cause a brittling of the bones which develops into osteopenia followed by osteoporosis. As such, supporting bone strength by both nutrition and weight-bearing exercise is important.

Eating for the menopause

Eating a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and alleviate perimenopause symptoms such as hot flushes and anxiety. Here are some key nutrients to think about which can help with symptoms.

B vitamins

Vitamin B6 may support hormone related depression as it helps with the metabolism of various neurotransmitters.

Deficiencies in vitamin B6 have been reported in women with hormone related depression such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD).

It is thought that vitamin B6 may be useful in supporting hormone related depression based on an association between B6 deficiencies and symptoms of depression, as well as its role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and sex steroid hormones.

B6 is important for both the production of serotonin and oestrogen, however folate (B9) and B12 play a further role when it comes to mood. B vitamins also help to support the functioning of the adrenal glands, provide energy and regulate mood swings.

Studies have shown that pantothenic acid (B5) in particular, can boost adrenal hormone production. Vitamin B1 and B6 have been shown to be beneficial in reducing hot flushes and mood swings. B3 and folate (B9) are needed for the production of oestrogen (3).

Essential fats

Several large studies have demonstrated an inverse correlation of omega-3 or oily fish intake and improvements in depressive symptoms or disorders in women but not in men.

This gender specific association could be explained by the oestrogen–associated effects of omega-3 fatty acids (4). Studies on 500mg of evening primrose oil taken twice daily have found it can reduce the severity of hot flashes compared to a placebo (5)

Zinc

Low zinc levels have been associated with depression. It is also essential for regulating hormone production as well as modulating the stress response (3).

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency had been attributed to low mood associated with seasonal affective disorder. It has been suggested that vitamin D influences nerve growth factors, acetylcholine, serotonin, testosterone and thyroid hormone all of which have implications in the pathogenesis of depression (3).

Furthermore, vitamin d can play a big part in bone health too. By ensuring you get enough vitamin d, especially in winter when the most of us aren’t getting enough sun, you can help to support your perimenopause symptoms, and your bone health too.

Vitamin C

In the body, the highest concentration of vitamin C sits in the adrenal glands and is used there for the production of the adrenal hormones, including cortisol.

Stress increases the demand for vitamin C and chronic stress can rapidly deplete levels, so it is important to ensure there are plenty of vitamin C rich foods in the diet, such as leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits to help support oestrogen production.

Magnesium

Another necessary nutrient for addressing stress. Stress can deplete magnesium and when levels are low symptoms can occur such as lack of energy, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression.

Vegetables can boost levels and help relieve symptoms. Oral magnesium supplementation was found to be an effective treatment for perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms (6).

Magnesium deficiency is also a risk factor for osteoporosis and obesity. Magnesium has calming effects on the nervous system, and several studies have found magnesium to be an effective intervention for insomnia and improving sleep, as well as supporting cortisol production (3).

Adaptogenic herbs

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine and has demonstrated great results for lowering cortisol and balancing hormones in small trials (7).

Clinical trials on Ayurvedic herbs including ashwagandha concluded that it was beneficial for mild to moderate physical and psychological symptoms of menopause (8).

Phytoestrogens and perimenopause

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that can mimic oestrogen in the body, which may help alleviate some perimenopause symptoms. Food sources include Soy products, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and some legumes.

Want to find out more about how to eat well to support your body through perimenopause? Sign up to our masterclass with clinical nutritionist, James and Professional Chef, Jason.

Best Foods for Perimenopause – Shopping List

To support a perimenopause diet that helps you manage symptoms and stay healthy, we’ve listed out some of the foods you should aim to include in your meals on a regular basis.

Leafy greens

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage

Rich in calcium, magnesium, and iron, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are not only an essential part of a healthy diet, they’re also great for supporting with the hormone fluctuations that are part of perimenopause.

Nuts and seeds

  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews

Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, magnesium, and B vitamins, which help to make up a varied diet and ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to help with hormone metabolisation, and counter some of the symptoms of perimenopause.

Lean protein

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Legumes

Provides essential amino acids and iron, along with supporting the muscle mass in your body, which can be impacted by fluctuations in your hormone levels. It’s an essential part of any perimenopause diet.

Whole grains

  • Oats
  • Cereals
  • Brown Bread
  • Seeded Bread
  • Lentils

High in B vitamins and fibre, including whole grains in your perimenopause diet is a great way to ensure you’re enjoying a balanced diet, but it can help to relieve menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings too.

Foods to avoid or limit for perimenopause/menopause

Cut back on processed foods, caffeine and alcohol, and excessive sugar to prevent exacerbating perimenopause symptoms.

Caffeine is okay in moderation – it has been shown to be beneficial for some hormone related challenges but may exacerbate others. We’d recommend getting the best quality coffee you can.

We recommend Exhale as one of our favourite brands.

Breakfast Recipes for Menopause

Hormone-friendly smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups liquid: Preferably soya milk, green tea or water
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 scoop protein powder, pref vegan
  • 1 apple or pear
  • 1 cup spinach
  • ¼ cup avocado
  • 1tsp ginger

Here’s the reasoning behind James’s hormone friendly smoothie

2-3 cups liquid: Preferably soya milk, green tea or water. Soya has isoflavones that can help mitigate some of the effects of falling oestrogen. Green tea can help with weight loss and also contains polyphenols that have anti-cancer properties.

2 tbsp binder: Preferably flaxseed, but you can use a nut butter too. Flax can also mediate oestrogen levels, while it is high in important omega-III fats and fibre, so it can help with digestion, energy and immune function.

1 cup frozen fruit: Preferably mixed berries. Berries have a lower GI than other fruit and so can help balance blood sugar levels. Blueberries are especially good as they contain resveratrol which has been shown to enhance cognitive function in postmenopausal women,

1 scoop protein powder: Preferably a vegan one like Vivo Life. Studies show adequate protein may delay the onset of menopause, and may reduce post-menopause cancer risk.

1 portion of green fruit: Preferably a green apple or pear. Apples and pears contain large amounts of pectin which supports good bacteria in the gut that contribute to improved immune function.

1 cup greens: Preferably spinach. Spinach is packed with B vitamins, iron and magnesium, all important for hormone health, while studies show higher consumption of leafy greens leads to a significant reduction in overall menopausal symptoms.

¼ cup ‘good’ fats: Preferably avocado. Rich in healthy fats and fibre, avocado can reduce the absorption of excess oestrogen, and also help with heart health.

1tsp anti-inflammatory spices: Preferably ginger, but you could use turmeric or cinnamon (in which case, cut to ¼ spoonful). Reducing inflammation caused by stress and the environment is always a good thing. Ginger can also help sooth hormone-related anxiety.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Lunch Foods for Menopause

 

Feta and Edamame Bean Salad - Elevated Premium Recipes

Feta and edamame bean salad

In this recipe we have a lovely light vegetarian salad with tangy Greek feta and edamame beans that is great for lunch or dinner, perfect for all the family but particularly women who are looking to better support the effects of changing hormones.

The star ingredient here is the edamame which contains phyto-oestrogenic compounds known as isoflavones. These isoflavones have the potential to mimic oestrogen and can be a beneficial dietary addition to aid in the relief of some symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

See the recipe here

Dinner Recipes for Menopause

Organic field mushrooms on sourdough - Elevated Premium Recipes

Organic field mushrooms on sourdough

In this female-hormone-friendly recipe we are using wild, organic field mushrooms that are low in calories but high in fibre and with high levels of B vitamins for central nervous system control, and bone-strengthening vitamin D.

We’re marrying them with heart-healthy garlic both for the flavour (and because the risk of heart trouble in women increases post-menopause) and wilted kale, spinach or cavolo nero. Research shows that higher consumption of leafy greens and cruciferous veg can help reduce menopausal symptoms.

See the recipe here

References

  1. Gordon JL, Girdler SS, Meltzer-Brody SE, et al. Ovarian hormone fluctuation, neurosteroids, and HPA axis dysregulation in perimenopausal depression: a novel heuristic model. Am J Psychiatry. 2015;172(3):227-236. doi:10.1176/APPI.AJP.2014.14070918
  2. Wartzman LC, Edelberg R, Kemmann E. Impact of stress on objectively recorded menopausal hot flushes and on flush report bias. Health Psychol. 1990;9(5):529-545. doi:10.1037//0278-6133.9.5.529
  3. Bland J et al. Textbook of Functional Medicine.; 2008.
  4. Ciappolino V, Mazzocchi A, Enrico P, et al. 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;19(7). doi:10.3390/IJMS19071849
  5. Kazemi F, Masoumi SZ, Shayan A, Oshvandi K. The Effect of Evening Primrose Oil Capsule on Hot Flashes and Night Sweats in Postmenopausal Women: A Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. J Menopausal Med. 2021;27(1):8. doi:10.6118/JMM.20033
  6. Porri D, Biesalski HK, Limitone A, Bertuzzo L, Cena H. Effect of magnesium supplementation on women’s health and well-being. NFS Journal. 2021;23:30-36. doi:10.1016/J.NFS.2021.03.003
  7. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022
  8. Modi MB, Donga SB, Dei L. Clinical evaluation of Ashokarishta, Ashwagandha Churna and Praval Pishti in the management of menopausal syndrome. Ayu. 2012;33(4):511. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.110529

 

Elevate Your Health

Unlock Access to Hundreds of Recipes With Step-by-Step Video Instructions

Rather than just provide you with 100’s of delicious recipes, you get a whole lot more from Elevated. We are a nutrition focussed recipe subscription. This means all of the recipes we offer are absolutely packed with health-boosting ingredients that will help you live life better.