What is the Best Diet to Follow During Menopause? | Stella
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Best diet for menopause

byLe'Nise Brothers

The transition through perimenopause to menopause can feel like a second puberty. It is a big hormonal shift at a time in your life when you might finally feel that you’ve got everything figured out. Suddenly, changing hormones mean that you may find it harder to find the right diet for you. Read on to find out how diet changes can help support your health during menopause and later life.

Should you change your diet during menopause?

Your body is changing and your nutritional needs will too. Menopause is a great time to start thinking differently about what and how you eat. Relying on takeaways, treats and coffee isn’t going to cut it anymore. 


In perimenopause, fluctuating oestrogen levels lead to changes in metabolism. Metabolism refers to how your body gets its energy from food. One form of oestrogen called oestradiol influences how your body breaks down carbohydrates. Lower levels of oestrogen can therefore mean changes to the way your body digests carbs like rice, pasta and bread. This can lead to an increase in weight, which mostly happens around the middle at this life stage.

On top of this, muscle mass decreases 3-8% per decade after the age of 30 and this happens even faster after the age of 60. Less muscle also negatively affects your metabolism, which means you burn calories slower. 


It’s not all bad news though. You may find that you have fewer fluctuations in energy, metabolism and hunger levels when you reach postmenopause. So hang in there, things will likely calm down in a while.

Read more about the stages of menopause.

The best diet for menopause

The four key foundations of a healthy diet during menopause are:

  1. Protein
  2. Healthy, unsaturated fats
  3. Fibre
  4. Fruit and vegetables

Protein and healthy fat

Proteins and healthy fats are essential for stabilising blood sugar fluctuations that can lead to hot flushes, mood swings, night sweats and brain fog. 

Here are some good food sources.

  • Red meat and poultry
  • Dairy
  • Pulses and beans
  • Oily fish like salmon and mackerel
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado
  • Butter


Research shows that eating at least 30 grams of fibre a day positively affects blood sugar levels, which means that you’re less likely to reach for the biscuit tin at 3pm. This is roughly the amount in six apples.

Add more fibre by:

  • Including two types of vegetables in every meal 
  • Not peeling root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes
  • Eating brown rice and whole grain bread and pasta

Fruit and vegetables

Focus on brightly coloured fruit and vegetables to increase the number of antioxidants in your diet. Antioxidants are useful to have in your diet because they can counteract harmful oxidative stress. This is a process that seems to increase due to ageing and menopause. Eating more antioxidant-rich foods at this time may help prevent illnesses associated with oxidative stress.

Add more fruit and vegetables by:

  • Choosing a colour each week and adding fruits and vegetables of that colour to your meals. For example, purple could include aubergines, plums, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, figs, red onions and beetroot
  • Focusing on adding one new vegetable to your dinner every day for a whole week

Here are the pros and cons of some popular diets you might already follow or want to try during menopause…

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet offers many benefits at all ages: 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish benefit brain health and cognition. This includes salmon, mackerel and sardines.
  • A wide variety of brightly coloured, antioxidant and polyphenol-rich fruit and vegetables help lower blood pressure and inflammation levels in the body. These aren’t expensive superfoods – apples, broccoli, carrots and berries fit the bill.
  • High-fibre grains and legumes help balance blood sugars and provide prebiotics that support gut health. Try to gradually add more beans, chickpeas and lentils to your meals.
  • A variety of protein sources also help balance blood sugar levels. Try to choose more plant-based sources such as tofu, nuts and chickpeas rather than eating red and processed meat every day.

Vegan and vegetarian

A vegan or vegetarian diet can be beneficial during menopause if you make sure you fill a few nutritional holes.


Eat a variety of iron-rich food sources in each meal if you still have periods – even if they are irregular. 

A 2019 Italian study found that women with heavy periods lose five to six times more iron per cycle than women with normal-volume periods, who lose on average 1mg of iron per cycle. Eating iron-rich foods helps the body generate new blood to replace what is lost during menstruation. 

Plant-based, iron-rich foods include: 

  • Legumes, such as lentils
  • Beans
  • Kale
  • Beetroot
  • Quinoa

Vitamin C increases iron absorption, so make sure you also include foods high in this nutrient, such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Citrus
  • Spinach
  • Berries
  • Tropical fruits such as pineapple

Vitamin B12

A vitamin B12 supplement is important if you are vegan, as it’s hard to get enough from non-animal sources. Vitamin B12 is needed for energy production. 

An easy way to get your daily dose is through a high-quality multivitamin that contains a highly absorbable form of vitamin B12 called methylcobalamin.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can help improve your muscle to fat ratio and manage weight postmenopause

This is when you restrict the time window for eating to a set period, and don’t eat anything outside of this window. One of the most popular types of intermittent fasting is called 16:8, which involves fasting for 16 hours and eating all your meals within an eight-hour window.
In postmenopause, intermittent fasting can help reduce fasting blood glucose, support insulin sensitivity and increase the flexibility of your metabolism, which means you can access energy more easily when exercising.

How to give intermittent fasting a go safely

  1. Start slowly. Try a 12-hour eating window first, such as 9am to 9pm.
  2. Always eat breakfast. Contrary to what you may have heard, skipping breakfast is not the best way to try intermittent fasting. In fact, you shouldn’t skip any meals. Breakfast helps slow a natural rise in cortisol levels first thing in the morning and establishes good blood sugar levels at the start of the day. 
  3. Take your time. After two to three weeks or when you feel ready, consider moving to a 10-hour eating window, such as 9am to 7pm. Eventually, you will reach an eight-hour eating window, such as 9am to 5pm.  
  4. Make each meal count. Eat three times a day and make sure every meal contains enough protein, fat, fibre and fruit and vegetables to give you all the nutrients you need. 
  5. Stay hydrated. You can of course drink water and unsweetened tea and coffee during the fasting window. Maintain the usual six to eight glasses per day.

Speak to your doctor before considering intermittent fasting if you have a history of disordered eating or eating disorders.

Should you avoid any foods during menopause?

No, it’s more helpful to focus on adding healthy foods to your diet rather than taking things out. This approach is more empowering and may be less overwhelming when you’re already experiencing so much change.

You could consider if you rely too much on sugar or caffeine to prop up your energy levels or balance your mood. Cutting down on these things could help you stay healthy and manage menopause symptoms if this is the case.

Drinking too much can also be unhealthy and alcohol may make some menopause symptoms – such as hot flushes and low mood – worse. If you think you could be dependent on alcohol, it is important that you do not stop drinking suddenly. For further help visit Alcohol Change UK.

Is the Western diet bad for menopause?

A typical Western diet includes lots of pre-made meals and processed foods that make our busy, modern lifestyles easier. But this means it is often high in sugar, saturated fats and trans-fats that are unlikely to leave you feeling your best self. 

Generally, the more you can cook from scratch using whole foods, the healthier your meals will be, but this can be a real challenge to do everyday. Meal planning and buying ingredients in advance can help – and even save money.

Need some inspiration? Try our top recipes for menopause.

What nutrients can help menopause?

Key nutrientWhy it’s importantFood sources
Vitamin CHelps the adrenal glands make estrone – the dominant form of oestrogen – after menopauseCitrus fruits, berries, broccoli, spinach, kiwi, red and yellow peppers, mango, pineapple
Vitamin B6Helps to make your happy hormones serotonin and melatonin, which help you get to and stay asleepChicken, sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, jackfruit
Vitamin B12Helps your body make energyRed meat, eggs, poultry, dairy
Vitamin DSupports your bones, immune system and mental healthMushrooms, fortified dairy, eggs
MagnesiumHelps manage your stress response and supports mood, sleep and bone mineral densityDark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, cacao, legumes, pulses
CalciumSupports bone mineral density and nerve and muscle functionDairy, dark leafy greens, sardines with bones, canned salmon with bones
IodineSupports thyroid functionSeaweed, seafood, Jersey potatoes, strawberries, dairy
PhytoestrogensSupports the health of the brain, heart, bones, breasts and ovaries. May help reduce hot flushes and night sweatsFlaxseeds, fermented soy, lentils, chickpeas, carrots
Key nutrients to have in your diet during menopause

How to change your diet

You don’t need to change your diet beyond recognition in order to make a real difference. The key is to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

  1. Add healthy ingredients – such as extra veg or pulses – to meals that you already make, rather than restricting foods. This will make the meal more nutrient-rich and you won’t have to cook outside your comfort zone.
  2. Attach the change you’d like to make to a habit that you already have in place. For example you could try drinking a glass of water while you’re making a cup of tea. You’ll find the new habit easier to remember, so you’re more likely to do it consistently.

Unsure where to start? Begin by asking yourself what you could add to your breakfast. A simple bowl of porridge could be transformed just by adding:

  • Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds
  • A tablespoon of nut butter
  • A handful of berries

You can read more about building sustainable habits into your daily routine.

Final word

What works for your friend, neighbour or family member might not work for you. There is a lot of advice about the best way to eat in menopause and beyond, but the most successful approach for you is the one that you can keep up in the long term.

For more information about other menopause topics, read more on our blog or symptoms library.