The key dietary recommendation to relieve menopausal symptoms is to increase the amount of plant foods, especially those high in phytoestrogens, while reducing the amount of animal foods in the diet. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that are capable of binding to estrogen receptors and can replace some of the effect of estrogen that is no longer being made.
Foods high in phytoestrogens include soybeans and soy foods, flaxseeds, nuts, whole grains, apples, fennel, celery, parsley, and alfalfa.
A high intake of phytoestrogens is thought to explain why hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms rarely occur in cultures in which people consume a predominantly plant-based diet. Increasing the intake of dietary phytoestrogens helps decrease hot flashes, increase maturation of vaginal cells, and inhibit osteoporosis. In addition, a diet rich in phytoestrogens results in a decreased frequency of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Furthermore, it is important to increase the consumption of soy foods. Clinical studies have shown eating soy foods (the equivalent of 2/3 cup of soybeans daily) to be effective in relieving hot flashes and vaginal atrophy.
Cabbage-family foods, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, collards, kale, and mustard and turnip greens, are good food choices for women going through menopause, not only for their ability to protect against breast cancer and heart disease but also because of their high content of nutrients that are supportive of bone health, such as calcium, magnesium, and folic acid.