Menopause is the cessation of the menstrual cycle or in broader terms, it marks the loss of ovarian follicular activity. During menopause, a woman undergoes various endocrine changes that characterize the progressive loss of ovarian function. The subsequent decrease in estrogen levels causes urogenital atrophy, bone loss, increased cardiovascular and metabolic risk. Other health issues commonly associated with menopause include obesity and osteoporosis. In order to overcome these problems, women need to focus on their dietary needs and nutrient requirements. Given that they affect longevity and quality of life, nutrition is important for all women undergoing menopause.

Symptoms of menopause

A woman is most likely to hit menopause between the age of 45 and 55 years. During this time, the following symptoms typical to menopause are seen to varying degrees in most women:

  • Irregular periods: This stage is most frequently observed in perimenopausal women, who may have heavy bleeding and more than seven-day periods.
  • Hot flashes: Hot flashes are defined as an increase in body temperature, fast perspiration, and elevated heart rate even while staying in well-ventilated and air-conditioned spaces.
  • Mood swings: Due to low energy and sleeplessness, women in this stage may experience irritability, anxiety, and depression.
  • Loss of bladder control: Urinary incontinence is common in menopausal women due to a decrease in hormones. Leaks can occur when you cough, sneeze, or lift something heavy. The tissues in the urethra and vagina become dry due to lowering of hormone levels. This can lead to recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) and painful sexual intercourse.
  • Insomnia: Sweating at night can irritate the skin, which makes it harder to fall back asleep.

Health complications arising due to menopause

The following health complaints are evident in women in their menopausal stage:

  • Cardiovascular risk: The cardioprotective properties of estrogen are among its primary roles. Elevated levels of stress can cause increase in cortisol along with decrease in estrogen which in totality, increases CVD risk.
  • Weight gain: Hormonal fluctuations lead to an accumulation of fat around the abdomen. As a person ages, their lean muscle mass usually decreases due to various metabolic changes in the body that lead to a decrease in calorie consumption and an increase in fat storage.
  • Osteoporosis: Maintaining bone mass requires estrogen. During menopause, women lose 25% of their body mass. Due to decreased estrogen production, women are unable to retain calcium from their diet, leading to decreased bone mass and you may end up having osteoporosis, also known as “brittle bone disease,” which results in fragile bones.
  • Hair fall and thinning: Estrogen and progesterone promote hair growth. With estrogen coming down and a natural rise of androgens, menopausal females usually face hair thinning due to loss of hair follicles.

Dietary components for various health issues in menopausal women

  1. Dietary protein and lean body mass: Aging increases the need for higher protein intake that is associated with higher lean body mass (LBM) in postmenopausal women. However, studies suggest that recommended dietary allowance (RDA) may be sufficient to maintain LBM in older women.

In this regard, the Mediterranean diet (MD) is supposed to have components that have been linked to better muscle measurements in postmenopausal women. MD entails higher intake of plant-based foods that combine nutrients to act together in order to preserve muscles. MD is rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, which along with vitamins C and E, offer protection against the harmful effects of oxidative stress. Meanwhile, magnesium enhances energy metabolism, transmembrane transport, and the function of skeletal muscle.

  • Dietary carbohydrate and fat mass: Some carbohydrate sources can be beneficial while others are not, depending partly on their fiber content. In a study among postmenopausal women, it was found that the consumption of whole grains had a positive impact on the resting metabolic state and stool energy excretion, which favored energy balance. Thus, whole grains should be opted for instead of refined grains.

Consuming a meal with high glycemic index (GI) evokes a quick pancreatic response to rising sugar levels in the blood, and prompts intense insulin secretion, causing rapid lowering of blood glucose levels. As a result, the individual tends to feel hungry and overeat. Studies show that by incorporating MD, postmenopausal women can lose fat mass (FM) in comparison to other diets. Moreover, a plant-based, low-fat diet is said to promote greater decrease in FM than an animal-based, ketogenic diet.

  • Calcium/vitamin D and bone health: The decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) that happens as you age, is attributed to declining reproductive hormones in the body. BMD is more pronounced in late perimenopause, when menses become more irregular. For better BMD, prevention of osteoporosis, and fractures in older females, adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is essential.

In this regard too, MD has potential benefits for BMD because of the combined presence of nutrient and non-nutrient components in MD. In addition to this, vitamin K also plays a key role in bone formation owing to osteocalcin synthesis by osteoblasts. There are also studies that support the role of vitamin C in lowering the risk of hip fracture and osteoporosis. The positive influence on BMD due to higher selenium levels cannot also be negated as selenium plays a crucial role in bone metabolism.

  • Sodium and cardiovascular risk: Diet is an important, modifiable risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Sodium sensitivity increases in women during menopausal transition period, often leading to intermittent fluid retention (edema) in the hands, legs, and lower eyelids, attributing to greater cardiovascular risks.

Middle-aged women who adopt a diet low in processed meat, red meat, deep-fried foods, and beverages with added sugar have a decreased risk of developing atherosclerosis during their menopausal years.

Dietary tips for menopausal women

By following few dietary guidelines, menopausal women can lead a relatively healthy life, minimizing menopause-associated health issues. Some of these are mentioned below:

  • Consume foods rich in vitamin D and calcium such as tofu, beans, cow milk or plant-based milk, and green, leafy vegetables.
  • Incorporate fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds in your diet.
  • Include omega 3 fatty acid foods such as mackerel, tuna, and plant-sourced flax seeds.
  • Use estrogen-mimicking agents such as soyabean and broccoli to make dishes.
  • Avoid highly processed and packaged food, refined carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, and potatoes, and foods that are high in saturated fats.

To summarize briefly, getting started on a healthy journey may seem daunting at first but it doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated. By watching your calorie intake and charting out a weekly diet plan, incorporating the essential nutrients, you can maintain a balanced and healthy weight even during menopausal years. Staying healthy is a choice and it reaps awesome benefits in the long run!


  1. Nutrition and menopause. British Nutrition Foundation. Accessed on 20 December 2023.
  2. Nutrition in menopause. Women’s health concern. Accessed on 20 December 2023.
  3. Silva, T. R., Oppermann, K., Reis, F. M., & Spritzer, P. M. (2021). Nutrition in Menopausal Women: A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 13(7), 2149. Accessed on 20 December 2023.
  4. Staying healthy after menopause. JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE. Accessed on 20 December 2023.
  5. Understanding the relationship between nutrition and menopause. Duke Health & Well-Being. Accessed on 20 December 2023.

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