indian diet for menopause
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It’s annoying when you get a period every month. It’s even more annoying when you start seeing an irregularity in your menstrual cycle or it just stops all of a sudden. The hot flash, mood swing, irritability, chills, night sweat, poor sleep, weight gain starts piling up. It’s difficult to cope with menopause. Only a menopausal woman can feel what you are going through. Your daily eating pattern and adopting a few lifestyle changes can influence these symptoms to a large extent.  A well-planned diet, mindful eating can manage the situation better. In this blog, we will try to cover every aspect of the Indian diet for menopause. Read the blog till the end.

Indian Diet for menopause –

Oestrogen and progesterone are the two major female hormones that dominate your menstrual cycle.  The production of these hormones reduces with age. Menopause can come in your 40s or 50s. It has 3 phases. If you are above 40, you are probably going through any of these phases. Check table 1 for details.

Table 1: Phases of Menopause

Phases of menopauseWhat you go through
  Perimenopause (before menopause)    It has two sub-phases – Early transition where cycles are mostly regular with few menstrual interruptions   Late transition where interruptions are prolonged and may last for  months (1)    
  Menopause  You have missed a period for 12 months in a row. It may come between 45-50 yrs.   You may experience – hot flashes, night sweat, chills, disturbed sleep, depression, weight gain/weight loss, changed appetite, mood swings, vaginal dryness, hair loss, dry skin, etc  
  Post Menopause  No periods for the rest of your life. You experience less intensity of above menopausal symptoms.

Remember, reduction of estrogen, progesterone not only stops your period but also leaves a serious impact on your body. After menopause, you are more prone to –

  • Gain weight
  • Develop cardiac disease, diabetes and depression
  • Reduce bone density leading to osteoporosis (2)
Indian diet for menopause -  hot flash is common

What to do?

Since estrogen and progesterone production is limited in the body, consuming foods that are high in phytoestrogen (estrogen-like substance) may help to handle the health better. (4)

 Menopause is natural which every woman has to go through. Therefore you are not alone. Relax and try to adopt the good changes in terms of diet and lifestyle for a fitter, disease-free second phase of your life.

Now, the questions are –

  • what to eat?
  • how to eat?
  • how much to eat?

The ground rule of the Indian diet for menopause

  • Eat variety of foods which includes grain, legumes, pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, animal food, milk and milk products, healthy fat and sugar
  • Eat in moderation, eat mindfully
  • Eat local as much as possible to reduce the pesticide and preservative loads
  • Follow intermittent fasting (fast for 14-16 hrs and eat for 10-8 hrs) or small frequent meal (eat in every 2-3 hrs total 6-7 times a day) whatever suits your body and work routine.

Indian diet for menopause Tip 1: Pick the right grain

Indian diet for menopause -  bread is high in phytoestrogen

Rice, wheat, corn, millets- ragi, jowar, bajra, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, barley – all these and their products come under the grain category.

It means atta, maida, rice, puffed rice, chirwa, popcorn, biscuits, noodles, pasta, suji, dalia, wheat puff, cake, cookies all comes under this category

Grains are the primary source of energy and carbohydrate in your diet. Besides these, it is also a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin B complex, magnesium, zinc, etc.

Unprocessed or under-processed versions of grains are called whole grains. Whole grains contain more fiber and micronutrients compared to their refined version. Thus it takes time to get digested, gives a steady blood glucose response, keeps you full for a longer time.

Not only this, whole grains contain lignin, isoflavones which are a kind of phytoestrogens. So, regular consumption of these products may help to boost the estrogen level. (3)

However, there is also a downside of having too much whole grain on a daily basis. I think you must know this too.

Please note, the high fiber in whole grain also prevent the absorption of calcium and iron in your body. If you are suffering from chronic digestion issues, acidity, bloating, etc, high fiber grain may make the situation worst. Therefore, replacing your white rice with brown rice may not always be a great choice.

So what to do?

Bring a balance.  Neither too high nor too less fiber – is the mantra. Try semi-polished rice, rolled oats, millet flour instead of picking brown rice, white rice, instant oats, or steel-cut oats.

Increase the variety of grain and grain products in the diet. No matter how healthy is the product, always eat in moderation.

Consult a nutritionist if you have a combination of a couple of diseases.

Indian diet for menopause Tip 2: Consume legumes/ dal regularly

Indian diet for menopause- moong dal is high in phytoestrogen

We often miss dal in our daily diet. There are days when you may have only roti or rice with vegetables skipping the dal.

If you are a vegetarian, make a conscious effort to consume 1-2 bowls of dal/ legumes every day.

It doesn’t only include dal but also all pulse/ legume products as well. Sattu, besan, chana, chole, sprouts, rajma, lobia, dhokla, gate ki sabzi, or any sabzi where any form of dal is used, comes under this category.

Please note, the protein quality of legumes/ pulses improves once consumed with any variety of grains. That means when you have dal – roti, or dal- rice the limiting amino acids in each item complement each other and become first-class proteins like fish/ egg, etc.

Consumption of legumes/ pulses every day helps to boost estrogenic activity. Soybean, moong sprouts, chickpeas, alfalfa (rijko/rijka) sprouts are high in phytoestrogen. Thus you should take this even more seriously to boost the estrogen level. (5)

Indian diet for menopause Tip 3: Consume vegetables and fruits to add more colors in your plate

Indian diet for menopause- add cruciferous vegetables in diet

Your body needs antioxidants, phytonutrients, micronutrients, and good fiber to prevent inflammation and autoimmune diseases – diabetes, thyroid issues, cardiac diseases, fatty liver, etc.  The easiest way to ensure this is by adding a variety of colored vegetables and fruits to a daily diet. (6) (7) (8) (9)

Make sure you are consuming some portion of the following items regularly as per the season–

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Roots and tubers (potato, carrot, raddish beetroot etc)
  • Other vegetables (gourd, cauliflower, pumpkin, ladies finger etc)
  • Fruits (banana, apple, watermelon, papaya, guava, chiko etc)
  • Citrus fruits (mosambi, grapefruit, orange, amla etc)

Consider adding vegetable juice, salad along with cooked vegetables for improving the overall health.

Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, radish, turnips(shalgam), mustard green, etc need a special mention for menopausal women. Study shows, the consumption of cruciferous vegetables regularly helps to control menopausal symptoms. (16)

Indian diet for menopause Tip 4: Don’t compromise having milk and milk products

Indian diet for menopause - add milk in diet

Postmenopausal women are more likely to develop primary osteoporosis as estrogen deficiency is linked to bone loss and reduced bone density. (10)

You must take extra care of your bone health during this phase. You need calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D, and K to improve bone health. Milk and milk products like curd, paneer, buttermilk, etc. (11) (13)

Dairy products also help to improve your sleep quality and may prevent the chance of getting breast cancer. (12) (14)

Therefore if you are a milk fan or can digest milk well, keep no doubt to incorporate milk and milk products into your daily diet. Try to consume 300-500 ml of low-fat milk products for overall improvement of health. (15)

If you are suffering from IBS or have lactose intolerance or milk allergy etc, consider consulting a nutritionist as early as possible.

Indian diet for menopause Tip 5: Enjoy having egg/ fish/ chicken/ meat

Indian diet for menopause- consume fish for better heart health

A decrease in estrogen production means loss of muscle mass along with weak bone. Therefore you need a good quality of protein in your daily diet.

14-15% of your daily calorie should come from protein-rich foods. As per ICMR, you need 0.8 g of protein per kg of your body weight.

Consider having a whole egg every day. Do not be scared of having egg yolk. Add fish to diet. Have the fish along with its oil for good fat. The study suggests having fish regularly helps to reduce menstrual symptoms. Have a chicken in moderation. Another study shows, having fish daily helps to reduce the risk of heart disease in menopausal women with atherosclerosis. You may have red meat once in a while. (17) (18) (19)

Consume chicken in moderation and limit your red meat intake.

Regular consumption of good protein will help to retain your muscle mass, strengthen the bone to some extent.

Indian diet for menopause Tip 6: Keep your trust in nuts and seeds

Indian diet for menopause - 1 tablespoon of flaxseed is must

Nuts and seeds are great sources of phytonutrients. They are rich in good fat, protein, and other micronutrients. Sesame seed, flaxseed are specifically can play a crucial role in diet during menopause. These are high in lignin which is a kind of phytoestrogen. These seeds also help to reduce the intensity of menopausal symptoms.  (20) (21) (22)

Flaxseed is also a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids which help to keep your heart healthy. Sesame seeds are rich in calcium so great for your bone health.

Consider having 1 tablespoon of flaxseed powder in smoothies or yogurt. Feel free to add soaked sesame seeds in the dough to make roti or sprinkle on the salad.

Dry fruits like apricot, peanuts are also high in phytoestrogen which helps to boost your estrogen levels. Thus you may consider having 2-3 dry apricot soaked in milk/ water or a handful of roasted peanuts as an evening snack. (23)

Indian diet for menopause Tip 7: You need good fat

Indian diet for menopause - choose your cooking oil carefully

First thing first, avoids using any source of refined oil. You need antioxidants and can’t afford to have foods that are pro-inflammatory in nature. Refined oil is one such example of inflammation-causing food.

Consider using kachhi ghani mustard oil or double-filtered groundnut oil/ sesame oil or cold-pressed coconut oil etc. The thumb rule is that the cooking oil should have its color and flavor.

Feel free to use 2 tsp of ghee while having lunch and dinner.

Try to limit eating deep-fried, oily food.

Indian diet for menopause Tip 8: Sugar and salt intake

avoid sugar loaded products

Sugar and salt have become the villain of the modern diet. Both when taken in excess trigger multiple health hazards including, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver, inflammation, poor gut health, etc.

However, 1 -2 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp of salt is recommended in a day for almost every woman unless you are suffering with renal disorder or uncontrollable blood sugar issues.

You must watch for the following items and stop or at least limit this consumption –

Products loaded with sugar/ hidden sugarProducts loaded with salt/ sodium
  Biscuits, cookies, baked items, instant fruits juice, instant vegetable juice,  peanut chikki, breakfast cereal, soft drinks, ice cream, candy, chocolate, spread, salad dressing, sauce    Instant noodles/ pasta/ popcorn/ oats, salted packed nuts and seeds mixture, salty biscuits, mixture, bhujia, namkeen, spread, salad dressing, pickle, sauce  

Indian diet for menopause Tip 9: Adopt lifestyle changes for better nutrient absorption

exercise regularly

Adopting good lifestyle changes is not an option for you rather it’s a necessity. Exercise, good sleep, stress management helps in better absorption and utilization of nutrients. A wholesome, balanced diet will help you to boost estrogen levels, will reduce inflammation, and provide antioxidants and other nutrients. Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

However, you must start being active throughout the day and also invest 30-45 minutes for exercise.  Try working out with weights for improving your bone mineral density.

Sleep deep for 7-8 hrs. This will allow your body to relax and heal. Manage your stress. Develop some hobby which gives you happiness.

Bottom line

Menopause is normal. It’s a part of every woman’s life. So relax. Reduce the symptoms by adopting positive behavioral changes in diet, exercise, sleep, and stress. Follow this Indian diet guide for menopause and bring positive change. Remember you are not alone. You will be fine.

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 15 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goals for wellness. She believes in a practical diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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