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The 10-step menopause diet: your no-nonsense guide to healthy eating

Yes, food can help you get through menopause. No, we’re not talking about the ice-cream-eating-while-watching-Bridget-Jones’-Diary extravaganza you might have in mind. This 10-step menopause diet is about boosting your energy, potentially reducing your symptoms, and helping you live a long and healthy life. This is not a quick-fix diet, but a long-term approach to ageing well for women experiencing menopause. We also regularly publish menopause-friendly recipes, which include many of the recommended foods in this diet.  

1. Steal estrogen from plants

Increasing your intake of plants, such as adding seeds and nuts to your morning muesli, could help you manage some of the symptoms of menopause. Plants naturally produce something called phytoestrogens (plant estrogen), which are not that different from the estrogen that your own body produces. Eating phytoestrogens can produce some of the same effects as human estrogen, which may help some women cope with symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. (For a higher boost of estrogen, chat to your doctor about menopausal hormone therapy or MHT.) 

Eating phytoestrogens can produce some of the same effects as human estrogen, which may help some women cope with symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.

What to do:

  • Increase your intake of soy products, such as soybeans, tofu, miso and soy milk. You could try soy milk in your morning latte or add tofu to a stir fry.
  • Eat grains such as oats in your muesli for breakfast, and brown rice or quinoa with lunch or dinner.
  • Snack on seeds and nuts, such as flaxseed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios and almonds.
  • Make soups or salads with legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, alfalfa, mung beans or split peas. 

2. Make fish a regular part of your diet

Australian Heart Foundation recommends eating 2–3 serves of fish a week to keep your heart health on track. As you go through menopause, your estrogen levels decrease and your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. It’s the unfortunate reality of getting older. You can reduce your overall risk of heart disease with a diet high in omega-3 oils. 

What to do:

  • Eat fish 2-3 times each week, especially salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, herring and canned sardines which are high in omega-3. 
  • You can also get omega-3 by eating nuts, linseed, flaxseed, chia seeds, canola and soybean oil. 

3. Sushi train, anyone? Boost your seaweed and sea vegetable intake 

The Japanese are onto something. It turns out, seaweed is incredibly nutritious, often containing higher levels of certain nutrients than most other foods. It has a range of health benefits, and being high in iodine helps promote thyroid function.

You can get the benefits of seaweed with just a few servings a week.

You can get the benefits of seaweed with just a few servings a week. But take note, you need to limit your intake of kelp, kombu or dulse as it contains very high amounts of iodine. 

What to do:

  • Eat Japanese food regularly, as it’s often rich in sea plants. Opt for sushi rolls, miso soup and seaweed salad.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, cruise the Asian aisle of your supermarket or specialty store for nori, sea lettuce, kelp, kombu, dulse, and wakame. 

4. Make friends with fibre

Constipation is common, affecting about one in five people every year. Fibre can help, and can also restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut. It can be found in all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.

What to do:

  • Get your wheat bran and oat bran fix by adding it to cereal, smoothies or yoghurt. Next time your in the mood for baking, replace one quarter of your flour with bran.
  • Opt for whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, quinoa, cous cous and outmeal. 

5. De-stress with leafy greens, berries and chocolate. Yes, chocolate

Menopause may be stressful life event. You may want to reach for the bag of crisps, but your inner calm will benefit long-term from choosing the healthy option. Leafy green vegetables are rich in magnesium, which can help reduce anxiety. Berries are full of antioxidants, which may help reduce anxiety and depression.

Berries are full of antioxidants, which may help reduce anxiety and depression.

And, then there’s chocolate. If the thought of steamed kale or a bowl of berries doesn’t quite do it for you, then you’ll be relieved to know that chocolate is also jam-packed with magnesium and antioxidant goodness. Go for dark chocolate, and check the sugar content.

What to do:

  • Add a serving of leafy green vegetables to your lunch or dinner meal.
  • Snack on berries or add a handful to your cereal. Berries also make a great healthy dessert with yoghurt and honey.
  • Indulge in chocolate – preferably dark and in moderation. 

6. Keep your bones strong with daily calcium

After menopause, low levels of estrogen can weaken your bones bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. That’s why it’s important to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet every single day. Luckily, calcium can be found in some of life’s most enjoyable foods, including dairy and some alternatives.

What to do:

  • Include dairy products in your daily diet, such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese.
  • There are non-dairy options for getting your calcium too, including spinach, broccoli, canned salmon or sardines (with bones), and almonds. 

7. Maintain a healthy weight 

As you reach your 40s and 50s, it’s common to put on weight. You can blame your hormones for some of the problem, as changes in perimenopause might mean your tummy is a little pudgier than before. But, lifestyle also plays a part. We know, you’ve heard it all before. Being overweight is bad for your health: it increases your risk of lots of chronic disease, including diabetes and cancer. For many women, menopause can be a time of reflection, change and empowerment. With the increase in ‘me-time’ that often comes at 45 and beyond, becoming healthy can become a doable life priority. 

For many women, menopause can be a time of reflection, change and empowerment.

What to do:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Make aerobic exercise a regular part of life.
  • Build and maintain your muscle mass with strength training such as weight training or weight-bearing exercise like walking. 

8. Know the fat on fats 

Fat is an important part of your diet, but the tricky part is knowing which ones to eat and which ones to avoid. There are four types of fats; some good and some bad. Unsaturated fats – including polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats – offer many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels. This fat naturally occurs in many foods, including olive oil, avocado, some nuts and oily fish. 

Saturated fats contribute to high blood cholesterol levels and increase risk of heart disease, and therefore should be limited. This is the fat often found in processed food, but is also in dairy products and meats. Trans fats are also bad. These are fats created by processing unsaturated fats and are commonly found in deep fried food, and manufactured foods like cakes. 

What to do:

  • Choose unsaturated fats, found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, brazil nuts, cashews almonds and oily fish.
  • Eat small amounts of high-quality saturated fats, like butter and cheese.
  • Avoid processed foods, like shop-bought pizza, biscuits, cakes and pastries.
  • Check the labels on food packaging for the amount of saturated and trans fat. 

9. Put the lid on the biscuit tin

We all know that too much sugar isn’t good for you. 

Avoid food and drinks with added sugars, such as soft drinks, lollies and some dairy products like sweetened yogurt or milk. You might also be surprised them some savory foods, like tomato sauce, contain added sugar. 

You might also be surprised them some savory foods, like tomato sauce, contain added sugar. 

This is particularly important after menopause because the changes in your hormone levels affect how your cells respond to insulin.  So you might find that your blood sugar levels are more variable than before. Try eating fruit instead of foods high in added sugar, or low GI foods, which gradually increase your blood sugar.

What to do:

  • Avoid soft drinks and sugary foods like biscuits, cakes and lollies.
  • Check the sugar content on food packets at the supermarket before you buy them.
  • Opt for low GI foods, such as soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge and lentils.


10. Know your menopause symptom trigger foods, and avoid them

Hot flushes can be triggered or worsened by certain foods and drinks, such as spicy food, caffeine and alcohol. Pay attention to your responses to certain foods so you can cut them out of your diet.  

What do to:

  • Take note of what you’ve eaten when you experience symptoms, and whether the severity is affected.
  • Consider avoiding spicy food, caffeine and alcohol if these are a trigger for you.  

Here’s what to do next

Taking control of your diet is a great way to help manage the symptoms of menopause – and boost your health and longevity. Get inspired with our menopause-friendly recipes. Also discover other ways to improve your journey through menopause, from exercises for menopausal women to treatment options for menopause symptoms. And if you’re feeling peckish, grab yourself some berries or nuts to nibble on while you browse this site.    

©Pfizer 2017
Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. 38-42 Wharf Road, West Ryde, NSW, 2114. PP-DU-AUS-0225, 11/2017

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