How does diet affect menopause?

Research shows that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens (mainly isoflavones and lignans) such as tempeh, soybeans, miso, flaxseeds, legumes and whole grains may aid with the relief of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.

Although diet does not affect menopause directly, women should try to prevent excessive weight gain. As the metabolic rate decreases with age, menopausal women often find that they put on weight despite consuming the same amount of energy as before. By maintaining healthy weight, it helps to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers (e.g. breast cancer) and hot flushes.

How to manage your weight

Menopausal women should continue to eat a healthy and balanced diet, consisting a variety of foods using the Health Promotion Board’s ‘My Healthy Plate’ as a guide (see below). Overweight women should limit portions from different food groups especially foods that are higher in fat and calories. More importantly, you should also watch the amount and type of fats consumed.

Reduce your saturated fat and trans fat intake to help prevent the unwanted weight gain that occurs due to slower metabolism during menopause. Instead, select healthier oils that contain monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil as they can also reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Increasing your water intake can also help you to lose any water being retained in the body, as well as help to increase your metabolism.

Using 'My Healthy Plate' as a general guide for your diet

To have the appropriate amounts for each meal, it is recommended to:

  • Fill ½ of your plate with fruits and leafy greens / non-starchy vegetables
  • Fill ¼ of your plate with whole grains carbohydrate or starchy vegetables
  • Fill ¼ of your plate with meat and other alternatives (i.e. tofu, egg, beans)

To promote healthier eating habits, you should:

  • Use healthier fats and oils, limit fried foods to twice a week or less.
  • Replace saturated fats (coconut oil, palm oil, animal fats) and trans fats (e.g. those found in frozen foods, commercial baked goods and fast foods)  with healthier fats like canola and olive oil, nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts) and cold water fatty fish (e.g. salmon, tuna).
  • Substitute animal sources of protein (e.g. meat, chicken) with plant sources of protein (e.g. tofu, lentils, beans) twice a week.
  • Make water your drink of choice, limit sugar-sweetened beverages

For more information about 'My Healthy Plate', please visit

How to meet your calcium requirement

Apart from weight gain, with menopause, the risk of osteoporosis increases. To reduce the risk, menopausal women should ensure an adequate intake of calcium (1,000 mg/day) and vitamin D (100 IU/day, above 50 years of age), as well as engage in regular weight bearing exercises.

Good dietary sources of calcium include low-fat and non-fat dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt), fish with edible bones (e.g. ikan bilis and sardines), and calcium-fortified products (e.g. soymilk and bread). Other calcium rich foods include prunes, figs, and leafy green vegetables.

As for vitamin D, it is essential for optimal calcium absorption. Dietary sources include salmon, eggs and fortified foods such as low-fat and non-fat milk. Our bodies can get adequate vitamin D mostly by exposure to the sun, therefore it is important to spend 15 minutes outdoors every day.

Calcium content of foods

Food/Drink Item Calcium Content (mg)​
​Low fat milk, 1 cup 300​
​High calcium milk, 3 heaped tablespoons 500​
​Cheese, 1 slice 140​
​High calcium soy milk, 1 cup 500​
​Anchovies, 3 heaped tablespoons 150​
​Spinach, half cup 80​
​Sardine, 1 medium 150​
​Dried beans (dhal/green beans), half cup cooked 80​
​Almonds, 15 pieces 50​

Dr Ang Seng Bin, Head and Consultant Family Physician, Family Medicine Service and Menopause Unit, KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) and Ms Joey Ho, Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, KKH.

KKH is a member of the SingHealth group.

Ref: O18