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The Menopausal Metabolism: How Your Nutrition Can Help Ease Hot Flashes, Weight Gain, and More

As women approach menopause, many experience dramatic changes in their bodies and metabolism. Fluctuating hormone levels can lead to a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms, from hot flashes and night sweats to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Menopause is a time of major physical, mental, and metabolic changes, with every woman’s body responding uniquely. However, research shows that making strategic dietary choices can help alleviate many of these menopausal woes.

The key is understanding how your body's needs shift during this transition and making nutrient-dense food choices to support your changing metabolism.

Below are some of our research backed, dietitian-approved tips to help ease common menopausal symptoms using nutrition.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

The hormonal rollercoaster of menopause can trigger sudden feelings of intense heat, known as hot flashes. While the exact causes are complex, research suggests that certain foods may help moderate these episodes.

Phytoestrogen-Rich Foods: Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, potentially helping to balance hormone levels and reduce hot flash frequency. Phytoestrogen-rich food sources include: soy products, flaxseeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits (apricot, pears, grapes, kiwi), and vegetables (bell pepper, green beans, carrots, zucchini).

Staying Hydrated: Dehydration can make hot flashes and night sweats worse, so aim to drink at least half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day.

  • The National Institute on Aging also recommends drinking small amounts of cold water before bed if you are prone to hot flashes.

Managing Weight Gain

Many women experience unexplained weight gain during menopause, even if their diet and exercise routines remain consistent. This is largely due to the decline in estrogen levels that occurs during this transition. Lower estrogen can cause the body to hold onto more fat, often concentrated around the midsection.

Additionally, our metabolism naturally slows by 5-10% per decade as we age. When combined with the hormonal changes of menopause, this metabolic slowdown can mean our bodies no longer function the way they once did. As a result, making strategic dietary choices becomes increasingly important during this phase of life.

Recognizing these physiological changes can help you make the necessary adjustments to your diet and lifestyle to better manage your weight during this transition.

Sustain Energy and Balance Blood Sugar: The hormonal changes of menopause can cause blood sugar fluctuations, leading to unwanted energy crashes and mood swings. To help stabilize energy levels, focus on eating a meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours in order to keep your blood sugar consistent and for your stomach to optimally digest.

Combine Carbs and Protein: Pairing carbohydrate-rich foods with protein creates a more gradual rise and fall in blood sugar levels, rather than the sharp spikes and plunges of a "sugar rush" followed by a crash. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, slowing down the rate at which the carbs are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. Beyond stabilizing blood sugars, this combo:

  • Increases feelings of fullness, which can aid in weight management.

  • Supports muscle growth using the amino acids from protein, while the controlled release of glucose provides a steady energy supply.

This balanced approach helps maintain steadier energy and mood throughout the day.

Some winning combos include: Whole grain toast with nut butter, Greek yogurt with berries, grilled chicken with brown rice and vegetables, and hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks.

Prioritize Fiber: Another key strategy is to choose high-fiber, complex carbohydrates over simple sugars and refined grains. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Great high-fiber options include: oats, quinoa, lentils, leafy greens, and berries.

Nourishing Bone Health

Menopause also brings an increased risk of osteoporosis as estrogen levels decline. To support bone health, be sure to get adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium through your diet. Specifically, vitamin D helps to increase absorption of calcium in the body, making it essential to pair these two together.

The foods below are good sources of all 3 of these vitamins and minerals to promote bone health.

Dairy Products: Opt for low-fat or non-fat varieties such as: milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese

Leafy Greens: kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, bok choy

Beans and Lentils: These foods are surprisingly calcium-dense and also provide fiber, protein, and other beneficial nutrients. Options include: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Nuts and Seeds: almonds, chia seeds, tahini, pistachios

Fortified Foods: Many plant-based milks, cereals, juices, and other foods are fortified with calcium, making them a convenient way to boost your intake.

Aim for 1,200-1,500 mg of calcium, 600-800 IU of vitamin D, and 320 mg of magnesium per day to optimally support your bone health during menopause.

If you're finding it challenging to meet your needs through food alone, a bone health specific supplement may be beneficial.

Our favorite Bone Health supplement is linked below:

Preserving Muscle Strength

Maintaining strong, lean muscle mass is crucial during the menopausal transition. Muscle tissue is a metabolic powerhouse - the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be, helping offset the natural slowdown that comes with age.

Muscle also serves as structural support for your bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. For a good general baseline, aim for 10-15g for each snack, and 25-30g per meal.

Focus on getting adequate protein from quality sources, like:

  • Lean Meats

  • Fish and Seafood

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

  • Beans

  • Tofu

To preserve and build muscle, focus on getting adequate protein, as well as key nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3s. Pairing a protein-rich diet with resistance training can be especially effective.

While menopause can be a challenging transition, a nutrient-dense diet focused on whole, minimally processed foods can make a big difference in managing your symptoms. By tuning in to your body's evolving needs, you can take control of your health and wellness during this important life stage.

Need extra support during this time? Our team of dietitians is here to provide personalized, 1-on-1 counseling for any of your nutritional needs. Schedule a free discovery call here!


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