The Best Foods to Ease Menopause Symptoms

From hot flashes to bone health, get expert tips on the best and worst foods for menopause.

woman at restaurant eating breakfast

Medically reviewed in May 2022

Updated on May 11, 2022

Hot flashes aren’t the only unwelcome part of menopause—the change also brings plenty of unsolicited advice. Friends and relatives who have already gone through menopause tend to weigh in with their best home remedies for unpleasant symptoms.

Most of the remedies women reach for are focused on short-term symptom relief and aren't evidence-based, says Elizabeth Graul, MD a gynecologist at St. Mark's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Add these key nutrients to your diet instead; they may be able to both improve your symptoms and help lower your risk of chronic illnesses.

Calcium for bone health

“Menopause causes you to lose estrogen, which leads to symptoms like hot flashes and puts you at risk for other medical conditions like osteoporosis,” explains Dr. Graul.

Osteoporosis is a bone disorder that leads to more than 2 million fractures in the United States each year. There are usually no outward signs, although loss of height or stooped posture can happen in some cases. That means many women don’t know they have osteoporosis until they experience a fracture.

Keep bone loss and injuries at bay by monitoring your daily calcium and vitamin D intake, Dr. Graul recommends.

Women who have gone through menopause should get 1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. You can get your full calcium requirement from foods like:

  • Raw tofu: 868 mg per cup
  • Milk: 300 mg per cup
  • Green vegetables: 53 mg per cup of kale
  • Fortified juices and cereals: 100 mg per cup of Cheerios

Getting enough calcium may also help control your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and prevent tooth loss for older adults.

A warning about calcium supplements

Women who don't get enough calcium from food alone might need a supplement. But, often, the body can’t absorb the supplement preparations found in drug stores. “I think a lot of women are making very expensive urine," says Dr. Graul. "Their body isn’t actually getting the benefit that they think it is."

For example, your body may have a hard time processing calcium doses larger than 500 mg and most adults shouldn’t get more than 2,500 mg per day from all sources. Your other medications and medical history can both interfere with absorption, as well. Before trying any new supplement, always ask your doctor to recommend the best dose and brand for you.

Vitamin D to boost calcium absorption

Make sure your diet includes enough vitamin D, which your body needs in order to absorb calcium. Menopausal women should consume about 600 to 800 international units (IU) daily. It can be a challenge to get the right amount of vitamin D from food alone (so some women might need supplements), but these foods can help up your intake:

  • Salmon: About 500 IU per serving
  • Swordfish: Over 500 IU per serving
  • Canned tuna: 150 IU per 3 oz. can
  • Milk: 100 IU per cup
  • Egg: 40 IU per yolk

Another word of advice: Get your vitamin D levels checked during your annual physical. “Ask your doctor to check your blood level because we find most women have surprisingly low numbers,” says Dr. Graul.

Five plant sources of estrogen

Experts agree that the safest and most effective way to replace estrogen is with hormone replacement therapy. That said, some research suggests that plant-based estrogens may offer relief for menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

Consuming soy is probably the best way to get some type of estrogen effect, says Dr. Graul. Food sources include:

  • Flaxseed
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Grains

Just note that it’s difficult to eat enough plant-based estrogen foods to get anywhere near the same effect as hormone replacement therapy, warns Dr. Graul. Also, women with breast cancer should ask a healthcare provider before taking plant-based estrogen supplements, as there’s no solid evidence at this time showing that these products are safe or unsafe.

Estrogen isn’t always to blame

When it comes to hot flashes, estrogen isn’t always the sole cause. Hot flashes can be induced by other problems like increased adrenaline levels, anxiety, or higher-than-normal thyroid hormones. Certain foods can prompt symptoms too, says Dr. Graul.

Avoid or limit these potential hot flash triggers: 

  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugars like table sugar and white bread

As your body adjusts to menopause, consider keeping a journal to document your food choices, sleep habits and activities. Looking back at what you ate or did before a symptom started can help you identify your personal triggers. Once you start noticing patterns, you’ll be able to put together your own list of menopause-approved foods.

Article sources open article sources

NIH Osteoporosis and Bone Related Diseases National Resource Center. Osteoporosis Overview. October 2019. Accessed May 10, 2022.
Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation. What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It? 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. April 28, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium Fact Sheet for Consumers. November 17, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2022.
Oregon State University. Calcium. 2017. Accessed May 10, 2022.
Franco OH, Chowdhury R, Troup J, et al. Use of Plant-Based Therapies and Menopausal Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2016;315(23):2554–2563.
Chen MN, Lin CC, et al. “Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review.” Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society. Vol. 18,2 (2015): 260-9.
Messina M. Impact of Soy Foods on the Development of Breast Cancer and the Prognosis of Breast Cancer Patients. Forsch Komplementmed. 2016;23(2):75-80.
Tanwar AK, Dhiman N, et al. Engagement of phytoestrogens in breast cancer suppression: Structural classification and mechanistic approach. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 2021.Volume 213, 113037.
NIH National Institute on Aging. Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? September 30, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2022.
Cleveland Clinic. Hot Flashes. March 21, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022.
Oregon State University. Lignans. March 2021. Accessed May 10, 2022.
Cagnacci A, Cannoletta M, et al. Menopausal symptoms and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopause. Climacteric. 2012 Apr;15(2):157-62.
Thurston RC, El Khoudary SR, et al. Vasomotor symptoms and insulin resistance in the study of women's health across the nation. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2012 Oct;97(10):3487-94.
Lee SW, Jo HH, et al. Association between menopausal symptoms and metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 2012 Feb;285(2):541-8.

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