Six thousand women reach menopause every single day, entering the world of hot flashes, weight gain and sleeping problems. With the rising life expectancy age, the number of post-menopausal women grows significantly every year. Healthcare costs can rise 40% for women due to menopause medical expenses or absences from work. Nutrients in foods can help alleviate symptoms. Best of all, many of these foods already reside in your kitchen! Here are seven that are proven to help balance your hormones and ease symptoms.
Naturally loaded with tons of vitamin A (about 150% your daily need in one sweet potato), these tubers show an estrogen-like effect when eaten. Researchers published these findings in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Postmenopausal who ate yams every day for 30 days, had higher levels of estrone and estradiol, both important female sex hormones. Low levels of these hormones contribute to several uncomfortable menopause symptoms including hot flashes and night sweats. Sweet potatoes are fiber-rich, important for cardiovascular and gut health.
Looking for new ways to enjoy them? Try replacing 1/3 of your taco meat with roasted sweet potato cubes. Mashed yams offer a colorful side dish to any meal. Natalie Rizzo, MS, RDN created a delicious sweet potato chip recipe—perfect for snacking or your next party.
Power-packed with soy isoflavones, this versatile vegan protein option may reduce hot flash symptoms in perimenopausal women. Tofu is one of the richest protein sources for vegetarians and vegans. Despite what you’ve probably heard, quality, minimally processed soy is good for you and shouldn’t be avoided. In fact, solid research shows soy products reduce hot flashes and depression in menopause.
Not sure how to cook with tofu? Here are a couple of ideas. For breakfast, scramble tofu with your favorite veggies and spices like this delectable recipe from Whitney English, MS, RDN. For dessert whip silken tofu with just a few ingredients for a healthy and vegan chocolate mint mousse to satisfy your sweet tooth, courtesy of Julie Harrington, RDN. You can also blend tofu in smoothies with seasonal fruit for a rich, velvety texture.
Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Getting to sleep and staying asleep challenges menopausal women regularly. High-carb fruits allow tryptophan to change to serotonin, the wonderful sleep-inducing neuro-transmitter. Interestingly, studies demonstrate that kiwi can improve sleep quality if eaten before bedtime. Kiwi fruit naturally contains serotonin, as well as nutrients potentially affecting sleep such as folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Certainly, kiwi can be enjoyed freshly scooped with a spoon for a bedtime snack. But, if you want a more creative twist on eating your kiwi, how about a yogurt paleta (popsicle!) made with kiwi from Christy Wilson, RDN. The coolness may even alleviate those night sweats, too.
Related: How To Grow Kiwi In Your Garden
Turns out turkey isn’t the only food making you sleepy. Eggs are rich in tryptophan, the amino acid associated with relaxation and sleep. Insomnia and difficulty staying asleep are common complains for middle-aged women. Eggs are protein-packed so they’re a satisfying snack or main course. Plus, they’re a super economical source of protein.
Hard-boil several over the weekend and enjoy as a bedtime snack. Healthy egg muffins with just 5 ingredients, brought to you by Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN, are perfect for weekend meal prepping and quick workday breakfasts. Tired of bland egg salad? Judy Barbe, RDN created a curry egg salad for a spicy twist on the classic. (Bonus: the spices used in this recipe demonstrate anti-inflammatory actions.)
Night sweats—ugh! If you’ve experienced them, you know how uncomfortable they make you feel. Hydration is key when these night sweats hit. Watermelon certainly won’t prevent them from happening, but the high fluid content will restore what is lost.
Nearly everyone loves plain watermelon chunks, ideal for breakfast after a night of sweating. Mix watermelon with fresh mint and other veggies for a delicious and refreshing watermelon salad from Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN.
Keeping in line with the hydration theme, cucumbers also contain a high water content. Whether it’s night sweats, hot flashes, or just dry skin, replenishing fluids is essential.
Cucumber slices make great dippers for salsa, hummus or black bean dip. Cucumbers add a crunch to your favorite sandwich or salad. Or, how about Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RDN’s, delicious and simple cucumber-apple spiralized salad for some flair at lunch?
Remember the old tradition of warm milk at bedtime to improve sleep? Well, there actually may be something to it. Milk is rich in vitamin D, associated with improved sleep duration. One study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture demonstrated that milk obtained from cows at nighttime was higher in melatonin than milk from daytime milking. Melatonin is known to promote sleep.
Not crazy about drinking a plain glass of milk? Try blending milk with your favorite fruit for a nutrient boost at bedtime. If sweets at night are your thing, this layered chocolate pomegranate chia pudding from Julie Harrington, RDN satisfies your craving while providing healthy antioxidants.