Why eat it? The benefit comes from phytoestrogens - natural plant compounds, which can help balance our bodies' oestrogen levels. Diana Green, head nutritionist at Revival explains: 'Their hormone-like action can boost oestrogen levels when they are low, during and after the menopause. Soya contains phytoestrogens in the form of isoflavones, which are particularly beneficial and may help reduce symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Only a moderate amount is needed: 60g tofu or 700ml soya milk will provide the recommended daily intake of around 45g.'
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Why eat it? Whole grains - such as wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice, are essential for their high fibre content, which has numerous health benefits. 'Fibre can be your best friend during the menopause,' insists nutritional therapist Jackie Lynch (www.well-well-well.co.uk). 'Not only does it help maintain blood sugar levels, but it also ensures a healthy hormone balance by binding to old oestrogens in the gut, ensuring they're eliminated and not reabsorbed into the bloodstream.'
Why eat it? Dairy foods are among the best sources of calcium, which - as you've doubtless known since you were a child - is essential for healthy bones. 'Bone loss increases during the menopause - and while it's doubtful that calcium can offset this loss, it can help minimise the damage,' says dietitian Gaynor Bussell. 'You need 700mg calcium each day - more if you're at increased risk of osteoporosis. The best way to achieve this is to have three portions of milk or its fortified equivalents - such as a glass of milk, matchbox-sized piece of cheese and small pot of yoghurt.'
Why eat it? Brazils, almonds and cashews all boast a high magnesium content, which has numerous benefits during the menopause. 'Magnesium can stave off insomnia, anxiety, depression and mood swings - as well as boost bone health,' says nutritionist Sharon Kaye from Promensil. What's more, a handful of nuts could be the perfect healthy snack to help avoid hormonal headaches. Dietitian Evelyn Toner from London Bridge Hospital says: 'Going too long without food can trigger headaches. Eat small, frequent snacks to keep blood sugar levels stable.'
Why eat it? Oily fish - such as salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines - is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for all-round health. Nutrition consultant Alice Mackintosh from The Food Doctor explains: 'These oils are vital for brain function, having been shown to improve mental agility as we age. They're also anti-inflammatory - and can help in the fight against chronic diseases, such as heart problems, cancer and Alzheimer's'. Aim to eat three portions of oily fish each week.
Why eat it? Also known as linseed, flaxseed is a great vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids. 'It's also considered to be one of the best sources of lignans - another class of phytoestrogen - and can provide the same benefits as isoflavones,' says Diana Green. You can buy it loose in large supermarkets and health food stores: add 1tbsp to your morning muesli. It can also be used in baking, or look out for flaxseed bars in shops such as Holland & Barrett. Alternatively, it can be taken in supplement form.
Why eat it? Sunflower seeds are rich in essential minerals, such as zinc, magnesium, potassium and iron. 'They're also a good source of vitamin E, which may help alleviate hot flushes,' says nutritional therapist Marian Bourne (thebournepractice.co.uk). 'Around 1oz sunflower seeds will provide roughly 30% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E.' Eat them as a snack, add to your breakfast or use them in baking. Also look out for mixed bags of seeds, including sunflower and flax at health food stores.
Why eat it? 'As oestrogen levels decrease during the peri-menopause, levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol may start to rise,' explains Gaynor Bussell. 'So this is just one more reason to steer clear of LDL-raising saturated fats - including butter and lard - and opt for polyunsaturated or monounsaturated ones, such as olive oil and olive oil spreads, instead.' Sunflower, walnut and rapeseed oils are also good alternatives.
Why eat it? You probably don't need us to tell you how important it is to get your five-a-day. But just in case you need a little more persuading, it's worth noting that broccoli, carrots and kale are all good sources of those all-important phytoestrogens. Jackie Lynch suggests making sure that at least four of your five-a-day portions are vegetables. The reason? 'They're packed full of protective antioxidants and mood-boosting B vitamins, as well as being rich in fibre, which promotes hormone balance and sustained energy levels.'
Why drink it? OK, it doesn't have to be green tea - although it's definitely worth trying for its high antioxidant content. What is important is that you cut down on caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, black tea and cola. 'Caffeine can make a number of menopause symptoms worse,' warns Alice Mackintosh. 'As a stimulant, it activates your adrenal glands, leading to a sharp rise in blood sugar - which causes energy slumps, mood swings, headaches and poor concentration. It may also worsen hot flushes because it dilates the blood vessels, making you sweat more. Opt instead for green or herbal teas, juice or just plain old water.'