A Complete Guide to Perimenopause Diet

woman holding a dish of healthy food to illustrate a perimenopause diet
Medically Reviewed
January 8, 2024

Perimenopause is the transitional time leading up to menopause, marking the end of your reproductive years. It typically starts in your mid-40s but can begin earlier and may last up to 12 years. Its duration, intensity, and symptoms can also vary widely.

It can be a struggle to understand the many transformations during this perimenopause period – from sleepless nights to hot flashes and persistent body fat that won’t go away despite all your efforts and exercises.

We get you! But simple tweaks to your perimenopause diet are the key to helping you manage all these changes and relieve your symptoms.

Today, we’ll show you how food can be your friend (or foe!) during your perimenopausal years. Read on to learn about the power of a healthy diet to manage these years and improve your overall health.

Table of Contents 

Understanding Perimenopause

The Role of Nutrition in Alleviating Hormonal Changes

Weight Management During Perimenopause: the Problem

Addressing Symptoms with a Perimenopause Diet

Nutrients and Foods to Include in Your Perimenopause Diet

Foods to Limit or Avoid in Your Perimenopause Diet

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle with the Right Nutrition During Perimenopause

 

patient listening to doctor to learn about perimenopause

Understanding Perimenopause

Every woman experiences perimenopause differently. You may not notice any difference in your body shape, metabolism, or mood during the years leading up to menopause. But most women, unfortunately, get the whole package of undesirable symptoms!

These symptoms happen because, during perimenopause, your ovaries no longer produce the same amount of estrogen and progesterone, which are essential for your sexual life and overall health. This leads to a hormone imbalance.

Irregular periods may be the first sign that shows you’re probably in perimenopause. Your menstrual cycles seem off, with changes in the length and flow of your periods.

These irregular periods will last until your final menstrual cycle when you officially enter menopause – the day you complete a whole year without menstruating.

But it’s not only about irregular periods.

Hormones basically control you. Think of sleep patterns, sex drive, mood, metabolism, fertility – you name it. That’s why even the slightest hormonal imbalance can become a real burden that may trigger some of your menopausal symptoms, including the following:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings, including irritability, anxiety, and even depression in some women
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Changes in libido
  • Changes in bone health and density
  • Weight gain
  • Cognitive changes

So, does that mean you need to spend at least 10 years of your life feeling low, anxious, overweight, and struggling with insomnia just because that’s expected during perimenopause?

No! Many women find relief with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Others cannot, or maybe choose not to replace hormones . This decision should be made in agreement with your healthcare provider based on your medical history and other factors.

But for all women, there’s a simple dietary solution to help you embrace perimenopause healthily. And it involves adopting a perimenopause diet.

two women preparing a meal good for a perimenopause diet

The Role of Nutrition in Alleviating Hormonal Changes

Diet plays a crucial role in managing perimenopause symptoms and hormonal imbalance. So, it’s essential to investigate the root causes of all your changes to understand your body’s needs and what it’s lacking in terms of hormones and nutrients.

Based on that information, you can adjust your diet and lifestyle to meet your body’s specific needs and health goals – because each body is unique, and so is the way you experience perimenopause.

But despite this fact, some general nutrition ideas remain true for almost everybody.

For example, conscious dietary choices can help alleviate your symptoms and support overall wellbeing with foods rich in phytoestrogens and nutrients essential for your health as you age.

On the other hand, some foods may trigger gut inflammation, alter cholesterol levels, and increase blood sugar spikes, resulting in fat storage and other age-related health conditions.

Once you understand this, you can avoid specific foods, replacing them with healthy nutrients to relieve symptoms – adopting an anti-inflammatory diet for perimenopause.

And if you combine adjustments to your diet with lifestyle changes and medical interventions, perimenopause can become just another of life’s milestones instead of a burden.

So, before getting into what to eat when perimenopausal, let’s dive deep into the #1 concern of most perimenopausal women: weight management.

sporty woman carrying scales to illustrate managing her weight with a perimenopause diet

Weight Management During Perimenopause: the Problem

One of the most common symptoms of perimenopause is lean body mass loss along with weight gain, especially in the abdomen area. No matter how active you are, how many cardio exercises you do, and all the food restrictions, you still struggle to lose that belly fat.

You may have tried all the fad diets or subscribed to a gym but continue to feel frustrated: Why is it so challenging to lose weight during perimenopause? How to get rid of this menopausal belly?

The answer is this: It’s not only your hormone production that changes as you age. Your metabolism and your body’s response to food intake also transform during perimenopausal years.

Main Reasons for Weight Gain:

Hormonal Changes

Estrogen plays a role in the way your cells switch from fat burning between meals and carb use after meals. It means that with estrogen decline, your body is less efficient in using and storing energy, which, in turn, affects how it stores and distributes fat. This leads to an increase in blood sugar spikes and fat storage.

In addition to the physical change, this accumulation of fat is also associated with a higher risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic Changes

Your metabolism tends to slow down with age, and the hormonal fluctuation during perimenopause can further decrease your metabolic rate. This means your body may burn fewer calories at rest, making weight loss more challenging.

Muscle Mass Loss

Combined with hormonal decline, aging can lead to a loss of muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, decreasing muscle mass can contribute to a slower metabolism and consequent weight gain.

Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity may also decrease during perimenopause, leading to challenges in blood sugar regulation. This can contribute to cravings and weight gain.

But don’t panic! Now that you know why you’re struggling with the scale, let’s get to what really matters and explore some strategies to address perimenopausal symptoms with diet – promoting healthy body weight, hormonal balance, and improving your overall health and wellbeing.

sources of omega-3 as part of good perimenopause nutrition

Addressing Symptoms with a Perimenopause Diet

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for a balanced diet, an integrative approach to perimenopausal health involves incorporating certain nutrients and foods into your perimenopause diet. This can help

  • alleviate symptoms,
  • promote hormonal balance, and
  • support healthy weight management.

Below is a breakdown of specific vitamins and diet for perimenopause, followed by a list of foods you should avoid or limit.

After each one, we’ve also gathered some key information about why these nutrients are good or bad for your health and how they can help you embrace perimenopause and all its changes. Our experience at Nava Health is that good nutrition will help you feel your best.

Nutrients and Foods to Include in Your Perimenopause Diet

Fiber

Fiber is vital for optimizing digestion and metabolism. But unfortunately, many people don’t consume enough. Fiber intake is essential if you’re in perimenopause because hormonal changes can sometimes affect your digestion.

Including fiber-rich foods like whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats), fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes can promote digestive health and help you manage symptoms like bloating and constipation.

In addition, fiber intake promotes gut health by increasing beneficial microbes. It also helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. This contributes to satiety and decreased cravings, which, in turn, can help your weight management. Fiber can also lower your bad cholesterol, especially soluble fiber found in oats, apples and beans. It binds to cholesterol in the intestines and removes it from the body. 

So, replace it with nuts next time you crave a pack of chips.

Protein

Protein is as essential as fiber for perimenopausal women. That’s because adequate protein intake is crucial for maintaining lean muscle mass, helping with weight management and satiety.

Increasing your daily protein intake during perimenopause will help you manage your appetite, improve your cholesterol levels, maintain your muscles, and reduce body fat. This reduces your risk of heart disease.

So, include at least one protein-rich food in your meals, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, beans, lentils, and plant-based protein sources.

Calcium and Vitamin D

During perimenopause, your decline in estrogen levels can lead to a decrease in bone density, so you need to increase your calcium and vitamin D intake to promote bone health and maintain strong bones.

Aim for two or three portions of calcium-rich foods daily to protect your bones and prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so we recommend you include it in your diet via foods or supplements.

Good dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, fortified plant-based milk (soy, almond, etc.), leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli), tofu, and fortified foods.

You can obtain vitamin D from fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), fortified dairy or plant-based milk, and exposure to sunlight. But you can also take supplements if dietary intake is insufficient.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As mentioned above, hormones decline during perimenopause. This can affect your cardiovascular health, so it’s essential to include in your diet foods that can help decrease heart disease risks, like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds, chia seeds, olive oil, and walnuts.

These foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and have anti-inflammatory properties that support heart health (so you avoid heart disease) and help alleviate mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

Healthy Fats

While you’re struggling to lose weight, please don’t avoid consuming all fats. Some foods are rich in healthy fat, which promotes cardiovascular health, and (again) help avoid heart disease. Try eating avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish.

Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are plant-based foods that have estrogen-like effects in your body, helping to mitigate declining estrogen levels during perimenopause and balance hormonal fluctuations.

Foods rich in phytoestrogens include organic, non-processed soy products (tofu, tempeh, soy milk, edamame), flaxseeds, whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables.

These foods can reduce symptoms like menopausal hot flashes and mood swings by balancing hormonal fluctuations.

Magnesium

Many of the foods we’ve already mentioned contain magnesium. This can help with maintaining healthy muscles, sleep, managing stress, and blood sugar regulation – among other things. Alongside a vitamin D supplement, you can also take magnesium via a supplement if necessary.

female nutritionist giving advice about good diet during perimenopause

Foods to Limit or Avoid in Your Perimenopause Diet

Now, let’s talk about the foods and drinks that don’t help you feel your best in the perimenopause years.

Caffeine

Too much caffeine can trigger some menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes and sleep disturbances. But you don’t need to cut it completely. Instead, try slowly reducing caffeine intake or replacing your coffee habit with a decaf or with tea.

Alcohol

As tempting as it is to have one, two, or three glasses of wine after a long day, excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to hormonal imbalances and disrupted sleep. So, if you limit your intake, you may feel relieved of symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, and insomnia.

Added Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates

It goes without saying that ultra-processed food is not good for your health, but this is especially true for perimenopausal women, as processed foods are high in sugars, refined carbs, additives, and preservatives. All these can exacerbate inflammation, disrupt blood sugar levels, contribute to weight gain and increase your risk of heart disease.

So, if you’re serious about losing that menopausal belly, replace the sweets with some nuts or dark chocolate.

older woman smiling to illustrate having kept to a healthy perimenopause diet

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle with the Right Nutrition During Perimenopause

Nutrition is a powerhouse for you if you’re in perimenopause. Eating a healthy diet – with colorful and diverse meals that combine complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and healthy fats – will help alleviate perimenopausal symptoms, so you get your life and energy back on track.

But to have the best health benefits of nutrient intake, you should consider asking for personalized advice based on your health needs, preferences, and goals.

A functional nutritionist will tailor a nutrition plan based on your needs that addresses specific perimenopausal symptoms and supports your overall wellbeing.

Nava Health’s Certified Nutritionists Can Help with Your Perimenopause Diet

Are perimenopause symptoms disrupting your life? Unleash the power of nutrition and discover how the right foods can be your allies in managing perimenopause changes.

At Nava Health, we understand the unique challenges of perimenopause and offer personalized nutrition and weight loss solutions to help you reclaim control.

Nava’s certified clinical nutritionists craft personalized perimenopause diet plans based on your individual needs. They address your symptoms with targeted dietary interventions, taking into account your overall health, lifestyle, and goals.

Ready to embrace the power of nutrition for a smoother perimenopause experience?

Take the first step towards a healthier, more vibrant you with Nava Health.

Contact us today to explore personalized nutrition solutions designed to support you on your perimenopause journey.

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A Medical Director, and one of the first physicians to join the Nava Health & Vitality Center, Dr. Douglas Lord has made significant contributions to our Center and its founding principles. Dr. Lord has helped develop and implement the Nava Method™—Nava’s proprietary approach to total body wellness. He has also been instrumental in liaising with other expert practitioners to successfully implement Nava’s range of therapies, treatments, and products.

Summary
Article Name
A Complete Guide to Perimenopause Diet
Description
Discover how a perimenopause diet can help address any challenging symptoms and give you your life and energy back via your food choices!