Menopause Nutrition — A Recipe for Feeling Good

By Naomi Braun, MPH, MSW • Published 3/11/2024

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Hanway

a variety of vegetables with nutrients to eat during menopause

As a health communications expert, I’ve done my fair share of researching and educating about the importance of eating a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet at all stages of life. The top benefits, from my perspective, include:

  • Having the energy you need to stay active throughout the day.
  • Getting nutrients to help keep your bones, muscles, and heart healthy.
  • Helping your digestive system function properly.
  • Lowering the risk of some diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

However, it wasn’t until I became a member of the menopause community that I started truly understanding the connection between the foods I was eating and the symptoms I was feeling.

Good menopause nutrition

Before we dive into what foods can help (and hurt) during this phase of life, let’s focus on what foods make up the building blocks of good menopause nutrition. In general, eating a diet filled with whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats is a solid way to work towards giving your body the foods and nutrients it needs during menopause.

There’s evidence that following a Mediterranean-style diet may help reduce the risk of hot flashes and cognitive decline. This type of diet includes:

  • Plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Olive oil as a primary fat source.
  • Dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry in low to moderate amounts.

Heart health

Estrogen protects the cardiovascular system through its antioxidant properties that help reduce plaque formation. Plaque is a sticky substance that can build up inside your arteries and is made up of cholesterol, fat, blood cells, and other substances in your blood.

As a result, during menopause, when estrogen levels drop, the risk of heart disease increases. A healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids can help lower cholesterol levels, which can in turn help reduce the risk of heart disease by slowing or stopping the buildup of plaque.

Food ideas: Whole grains, lean proteins, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, flaxseed, and walnuts

Bone health

Estrogen plays a vital role in maintaining bone health by promoting the growth of cells that help strengthen and support bone formation. The decline in estrogen during menopause can therefore lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition that puts you at a higher risk of bone fractures. Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can help to support bone health. Calcium, which is a mineral in your body, is one of the main building blocks of your bones and vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium.

Food ideas: Calcium-rich foods, low-fat dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.

Hormonal balance

Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, work to help the cells in your body function properly. They can also help maintain hormone balance in your body to better regulate hormones. While not a replacement for medical treatment, including foods rich in these nutrients may offer some relief to some menopause symptoms.

Food ideas: Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, eggs, walnuts, flaxseeds, and soy.

­­­­Mood and energy

Menopause can bring about mood swings and fatigue because of shifting hormone levels. Nutrient-dense foods, including complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, can help provide essential vitamins and minerals that support mood, mental health, and high energy levels.

Food ideas: Whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean protein.

Weight management

As estrogen levels drop, there is a natural decline in the size and number of muscle fibers in your body, causing your muscle mass to decline. Less muscle mass can lead to a slower metabolism. This means that your body burns fewer calories at rest, and the calories that are not burned get stored as fat. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to reduce the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Food ideas: Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, calcium.

a couple eating at the table and talking about healthy nutrition for menopause


As estrogen declines during menopause, fat is redistributed in the body, often settling in your middle – also known as menopause belly. Body fat in this area can increase inflammation. Progesterone, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone, also decreases throughout the menopausal transition. So as both hormones decrease, the risk for chronic inflammation can increase. Some menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, joint pain, and mood swings, are often linked to inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants may be helpful.

Food ideas: Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, berries, and leafy greens.

What are some examples of foods in each of these categories?

Now that you understand the importance of nutrition for menopause, let's focus on the specifics — the types of foods, vitamins, and minerals you can eat to help you feel your best.

  • Whole grains. Examples include quinoa, brown rice, cornmeal or masa, barley, millet, sorghum, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and whole grain breakfast cereals.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Eat the rainbow by incorporating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure a wide range of nutrients. 
  • Lean protein. Examples include poultry, fish, beans, and tofu.
  • Calcium. Examples include low-fat dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and supplements if necessary. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you should be taking supplements.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Examples include fish like salmon and tuna, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.
  • Healthy fats. Examples include avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

What are some other healthy nutrition for menopause habits to focus on?

In addition to the types of foods you should be eating, here are a few additional things to think about as you work to incorporate healthy eating into your routine.

  • Manage portions to avoid overeating and maintain a healthy weight. Use smaller plates to help control portion sizes. You can also read food labels to learn about recommended serving sizes and use a measuring cup or a food scale to gauge your portions.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day to support overall health and alleviate symptoms like bloating and dry skin. Some people find it helpful to always have a glass of water alongside any meal or snack they eat.
  • Include phytoestrogen-rich foods, often derived from soy, such as tempeh or tofu. These foods mimic estrogen in the body and can help to reduce menopause symptoms caused by estrogen’s decline.
  • Cut down on sugar and processed foods as they add extra calories without adding much in the way of nutrition. 
  • Limit trigger foods and beverages that can trigger hot flashes, such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods.
  • Keep a food diary to identify personal triggers and make informed choices.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider or registered dietitian. Menopause affects everyone differently, so it's essential to get personalized guidance.

Be kind to yourself

Eating a balanced diet is a journey that will inevitably have ups and downs along the way. Making healthy food choices is a daily task that sometimes will go well, and other times not so much. There are so many temptations to eat food that may not be on the recommended list but that tastes good and fulfills a craving in the moment. It’s okay to have these moments. To treat yourself in moderation. If you are craving bacon and a high fat muffin for breakfast, think about making healthier choices for the rest of the day. Be kind to yourself along the way and enjoy the journey.

As I mentioned, my own personal menopause and nutrition journey has helped me manage some of my own symptoms and increase my energy level. But remember that your menopause journey is unique, so consulting with healthcare professionals for personalized advice is helpful to help you manage your own health during menopause. Embrace this new phase of life with nourishing choices, and you can emerge stronger and healthier.

Last Updated 3/11/2024



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