Foods For Perimenopause & Menopause Mood Swings

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Mood swings are common in menopause, caused by hormonal changes during this stage of life. They can can have a significant impact on daily life.

Why do mood swings happen in menopause?
The levels of estrogen and progesterone in women decrease during menopause, which can lead to various physical and emotional symptoms. These hormonal changes can affect the levels of the neurotransmitter in the brain (e.g., dopamine and serotonin), which play a role in regulating mood.

As a result, women may experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, and other emotional symptoms during menopause. Other factors contributing to mood swings during menopause include stress, sleep disturbances, and changes in lifestyle or social roles.

While many factors can contribute to mood swings, including stress, lack of sleep, and hormonal changes, diet also plays a crucial role. Certain foods can help regulate mood and improve overall emotional well-being.

What are some of the foods that can help with mood swings?

– Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that the body cannot produce alone. These fats are crucial for brain function and have been linked to improved mood and decreased symptoms of depression. Foods high in omega-3s include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

– Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a delicious treat that can also have mood-boosting benefits. Chocolate contains compounds that can increase serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is the best option for mood-boosting benefits.

– Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut are rich in probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health. The gut and brain are connected, and research suggests that the microbiome can influence mood and behavior. You can help support a healthy gut microbiome by consuming probiotic-rich foods and potentially improving mood.

– Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in vitamins and minerals that are important for overall health, including mental health. These vegetables are high in folate, which has been linked to improved mood and decreased symptoms of depression. They are rich in antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and potentially improve mood.

– Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent protein and healthy fats sources. They also contain magnesium, which has been linked to improved mood and decreased symptoms of depression. Additionally, nuts and seeds are easy to incorporate into the diet as a snack or added to meals like salads or smoothies.

– Whole Grains
Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oatmeal are complex carbohydrates that provide sustained energy and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar levels can help prevent mood swings and promote a more stable mood throughout the day.

– Berries
Berries like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and potentially improve mood. They are also low in sugar, making them a great option for a sweet snack without the blood sugar spike that can contribute to mood swings.

– Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are great sources of plant-based protein and fiber. They are also rich in folate, iron, and magnesium, all of which have been linked to improved mood and decreased symptoms of depression. Additionally, the fiber in beans and lentils can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent mood swings.

– Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice often used in Indian cuisine. It contains curcumin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and potentially improve mood. Turmeric can be added to stews, soups, and curries or consumed in supplement form.

– Water
While not technically a food, staying hydrated is crucial for life and maintaining good health. Even mild dehydration can lead to mood swings, fatigue, and irritability. Drinking water throughout the day can help maintain a stable mood and energy levels.

A healthy diet that includes many whole foods can help regulate mood and improve the quality of life in menopause. Here we discuss with Barbie Boules, a registered dietitian focusing on metabolic and brain health.

How Can We Use Foods During Menopause Mood Swings?

NourishDoc: All of us have been on a roller coaster ride, right? For the last two years, today’s topic has been specifically focused on women over forty; when we get through this phase of perimenopause, menopause, and beyond, mood swings come with it. How do you use food as medicine or other tricks? That’s what Barbie, a registered dietitian focusing on metabolic and brain health, will discuss. Welcome. 

Dietician Barbie: Thank you so much. Well, welcome everyone who is here. I’m excited to be talking to you today. This topic is important because navigating life over 40 in a female body can be challenging. We, you know, I am among you; if you suddenly don’t recognize the body you’re living in or your mind, it can be changed so dramatically, relatively quickly. So, these are just some nutrition strategies that might help you kind of even some of that out, balance some of that out.

As always, I want to remind everyone about the four pillars of optimal health because it’s not just about nutrition. It’s also about moving your body daily. It’s about managing your stress, and it’s about getting excellent sleep. It’s hard to improve your mental and emotional well-being if you only focus on nutrition; those other factors also matter, but today, we are just focusing on nutrition. So, there are a couple of tenants for nutrition, targeting mood, and one is keeping your blood sugar nice and stable. We’ll talk about how to do that.

See: Natural remedies for menopause

Then the other is taking in nutrients that reduce inflammation and get the happy hormones flowing because inflammation is important to target inflammation for many reasons, particularly over but because inflammation can disrupt your mood in several ways. First and foremost, it can be depressive to the happy hormones. We want to keep those nice and flowing.

Secondly, when you don’t feel great, you’re not in a good mood, and inflammation in our bodies can make us not feel so great; keeping blood sugar stable is also really important, not just for mood and energy but also because when we are over, once we get to forty, forty-five when we enter perimenopause when those hormones start shifting, we are at an increased risk of insulin resistance. So, making sure we are doing what we can to stabilize our blood sugar is important.

How to keep your blood sugar stable?

Okay, so here are some strategies for keeping your blood sugar stable. I am a big fan of breakfast. I know many people are into intermittent fasting, and that’s fine. If that’s working for you, keep doing it by all means, I don’t think it’s for everyone, but if it’s working for you, go for it. However, I love to shift that window to include breakfast and have a lighter, earlier dinner. I believe just my personal experience, my client’s experience, and research indicates that including breakfast sets you up better for the day regarding blood sugar balance, mood stability, and getting in nutrients that you might miss out on later in the day.

So, eating breakfast is the first thing to keep blood sugar balanced.

Secondly, eat carbs. I know that one of our first go-to’s for that kind of menopausal belly that many of us start getting is to eliminate carbs because that’s what we hear, but that’s not a good long-term strategy. It may work in the very short term for reducing belly fat. However, keeping it off and reducing our insulin resistance is not a good long-term strategy. We want to eat carbs for energy, for brain nutrients. Our brain runs almost exclusively on carbohydrates.

See: Herbs for menopause

So, for cognition, it’s really important. It’s important for gut health; you know, the gut is intricately and intricately linked to the brain. So, mental, emotional, and cognitive health needs to get enough carbohydrates. However, we are sure we are getting the carbohydrates that fuel us. Potato chips are delicious, but they’re not nutrient dense. We’re talking about fiber-filled whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, veggies, particularly leafy greens, colorful vegetables, and fruits; that kind of carbohydrate is what we want to be getting a lot of we can only get fiber and phytonutrients, which are compounds in plants that are beneficial health and reducing inflammation.

A plant-based diet for fiber and phytonutrients

We can only get fiber and phytonutrients from plants. We can’t get them from animal foods, and we can’t get them from oils and animal fats. They can only come from plants. So, we don’t want to reduce our plant foods. So, getting enough fiber. Again, this is still on keeping blood sugar nice and stable. Having a balance at every meal and snack of carbs, protein, and fat. If we’re eating naked carbs, as I call it, We might experience a blood sugar spike and then a dip, that’s not good for our mood, and that’s not good for our energy.

So, combining your carbohydrate with some protein and fat will keep you fuller longer and help keep your blood sugar balanced and your mood more stable. If you eat naked carbs, and we all do on occasion, love an ice cream cone or some chips, take a walk afterward, maybe fifteen or 20 minutes; it helps bring your blood sugar back down where it should be. Eating every three to four hours helps keep your blood sugar stable. There is also a method called food sequencing, which is unnecessary.

See: Does menopause cause hair loss

However, it may be helpful, particularly if you struggle with the peaks and valleys of blood sugar and what food sequencing is; let’s say you have a plate with chicken and broccoli and quinoa making that up. But protein, veggies, and then a starch. Eat your veggies, then your protein, then your starch. The veggies and protein will buffer the glucose spike in insulin response. So it will help keep your overall blood sugar more stable after the meal.

Get nutrients to reduce inflammation

So, that’s just a little trick, and then in terms of that blood sugar and getting nutrients that help reduce inflammation and promote happy hormones. I don’t like to be reductive and focus specifically on, you know, specific nutrients that are kind of what the seventy-billion-dollar supplement industry wants us to do so that we’ll buy all those supplements. Instead, focusing on whole foods because the truth is, well, we have identified some, you know, really important nutrients that we believe we know what they do in terms of human health.

A symphony happens in whole foods that we don’t completely understand yet. This is why, you know, eating oranges is more beneficial than taking a vitamin C supplement or eating foods high in vitamin D, like salmon, is more beneficial than taking a vitamin D supplement. So, we don’t want to get to we don’t want to micromanage our nutrients. We want to eat nice whole foods containing these nutrients that we are aware of, and then, probably, stuff that we don’t know about is beneficial. So, particularly, again, plant foods, berries, especially wild blueberries, are excellent for brain health.

Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor From Blueberries

They help promote a chemical called BDNF, Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, which is like Miracle Grow for your brain. So, wild blueberries and blueberries, but wild blueberries in particular. Also, all berries, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, which are the only event vegetables that include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, the kind of stinkier vegetables, it’s that sulfuric quality that is beneficial for your health, avocados, olive oil, just really, in fact, I just did a reel today on Instagram about olive oil, check it out if you are interested and beans, fatty fish, so, salmon, tuna, halibut, really excellent for improving your mood because of the omega3.

Nuts & Seeds For A Better Mood

Omega3 has been very well researched in terms of depression, and it helps lower your risk of depression, and then also the alleviate help alleviates the symptoms of depression. Nuts, just a quarter of almonds, contain half the vitamin E you need for an entire day; that’s good for your brain health and will be good for your mental health. Dark chocolate contains several compounds that are good for mental and emotional well-being, you want to go with 70% or greater cacao, and you know, just those big bars that you go to the grocery store just be looking for something that is 70% or higher in cacao and some people, finally, when it comes to nutrition, some people are not going to love this, some people are going to stop listening right now but alcohol.

Say No To Alcohol

Honestly, when it comes to, if you are someone who struggles with mood swings and hot flashes after, you know, once you enter menopause or perimenopause and then, finally, menopause, drinking alcohol is not a great idea. It is not beneficial in any way. We will now know that it has no heart health benefits and can be enjoyable. However, it is a depressant and a neurotoxin. So, eliminating alcohol if you are struggling might be a good idea, even if only temporarily, and if you decide not to eliminate it, keeping it to under two alcoholic beverages a week is what’s is what the current guidelines are, and then in terms of so that’s blood sugar stability specific foods and then in terms of overall pattern for mental and emotional well being, mood swings.

Mediterranean diet benefits

The Mediterranean eating pattern has been well-researched regarding its positive effect on physical health and mental and emotional well-being. I have a couple of books to recommend at the end that, if you are interested in this topic, are fantastic, but check out the Mediterranean approach to eating, which I love because it’s not about counting calories or macronutrients. It is about including what we know to be the world’s healthiest foods. Then, besides taking a Mediterranean approach, I like the five-part plate.

So, rather than thinking, okay, so many grams of carbohydrates, so many grams of protein, so many grams of fat. I like to; encourage my clients to think of their plates every time they put a plate together in five parts, leafy greens, color so that the color can come from fruit, the color can come from veggies, protein, high-quality protein, like a fatty fish or lean chicken, or beans, or tofu, lentils, more fiber. So, that’s four.

So, that could be quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta, more veggies, and finally, number 5, anti-inflammatory fats. So, olive oil and avocado oil are at the top of the list in terms of being well-researched for reducing inflammation. So, with a five-part plate, leafy greens, color, protein, more fiber, and anti-inflammatory fats, and if you got a plate that contains all that, you will be doing something good for your body and mind. I do want to recommend three books. Do you have any questions for me as I go through this? 

Foods That Can Be Taken For Breakfast

NourishDoc: I was going to say you talked about the breakfast. Putting much emphasis on breakfast, right? And can you recommend some ideas, like protein? You said it is very important. Oh, what can we do? Like simple avocados or tofu scramble, or what do you suggest? 

Dietician Barbie: So, thank you for bringing me back to that because I want to make another point about it. In terms of blood sugar stability and getting in a lot of really good nutrients, starting your day with a savory breakfast is a really good idea it doesn’t have to be all the time; I mean, pancakes can be on the menu, too, the waffles, whatever. But starting the day savory, most of the time, will be good for your blood sugar stability.

So, as you say, a tofu scramble, maybe with some avocado and salsa for that, the colorful veggies in a whole grain wrap that would be an excellent breakfast, or you could the, you know, eggs or egg whites instead of the tofu if you if you’re not a fan of tofu. Beans and hummus could also take place for protein. So, anything where, again, you’re getting the fiber-filled carbohydrate, protein, and anti-inflammatory fat, but that is one of my, an omelet with lots of colorful veggies and a piece of whole-grain toast or, you know, a whole grain wrap is one of my, one of my very favorite breakfasts.

So, if you riff off that, I also have a recipe I just put on Instagram a couple of days ago for a banana oat protein cake. So, all it is is bananas, oat flowers, and flaxseed. So, it doesn’t have any added sugar. There is a banana, but we don’t worry about fruit. Anybody who tells you that that, you know, banana in a cookie is the same thing. They shouldn’t be talking to you about nutrition.

So, it has bananas, oat flour, and flax. That is high in protein, really high in fiber, and has no added sugar. That is another choice. You could put nut butter or avocado on that or sprinkle more nuts or seeds. That means, and if you check out my Instagram, I am constantly doing what I call good mood food. I do reels of that and give you recipes, for I’ve made much breakfast lately, and I have some more to do in the coming weeks. 

Recommended Reading

NourishDoc: Okay, well, yes, thank you so much. Here are some examples. Well, please continue or wrap up whatever you think. This is just a quick ten, 15-minute session we bring daily. 

Dietician Barbie: I recommend three books if you want to dive deeper. These are my three favorite nutrition, mood, or mental health books. Two of them are written by nutritional psychiatrists, which is a really interesting field in terms of Nutrition psychiatry. So, eat to beat depression and anxiety by Dr. Drew Ramsey, your brain on food by Dr. Uma Naidu, N A I D O O, and then Brain Food by Lisa Muskoka.

All three are excellent and give different pieces of information that come to the same conclusions about which foods are beneficial and how to get them in. Get those leafy greens every day and get a rainbow throughout the week and listen, there’s a, you know, when it comes to breakfast, don’t just think about breakfast foods. I eat a salad with a source of protein, like chicken, beans, or tofu, a lot of the time for breakfast, and that’s an excellent breakfast; we don’t need to stick just to what we think are breakfast foods. 

Taking Care Of Our Digestive Tract

NourishDoc: All right. Well, thank you so much. Amazing, amazing information, concise, but to the point and actionable things that we can start doing starting today, like, starting with our lunch and dinner that you talked about, putting leafy greens, most of us forget about it, you know, in in a sense, like, we don’t have it in the refrigerator.

We say, oh, we forget about it, but if you make a conscious effort to include what you talked about, the colors. Interestingly, Ayurveda also talks about different rainbow colors in your daily diet, which includes different tastes because that helps our digestive tract. And if our digestive tract is good, as you talked about, the gut is like a roller coaster ride here. 

Dietician Barbie: Absolutely, and you know, just thinking about it and you made me triggered me to remember one more thing. In addition to anti-inflammatory fats, some anti-inflammatory spices are great to add whenever possible. I don’t personally recommend taking them as a supplement; many people do, and I don’t recommend that. I recommend including them in your meals as often as you can, including turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and saffron; all of those have been well-researched for reducing inflammation and having particular benefits to both metabolic health and brain health. 

NourishDoc: Absolutely. I agree with you. I believe in Whole Foods not taking supplements; getting whole foods from plant-based is real food. We should focus on that, and this morning I was looking at some NBC is that there’s a plant burger that made, so that is something that we don’t say anything bad about a company or anything like that. However, you want to eat real food and not say anything bad about anyone. 

Dietician Barbie: I mean, I was a vegan for 18 years, but I didn’t eat meat. I mean nothing wrong with not saying one way is better or another. However, there is a way to do a completely plant-based diet without eating the foods manufactured to be like animal foods. You know what I mean because you know the truth is, and we’re not naming names.

However, like those plant burgers, for example, they are not healthier, like better for your body; they are just meat-free if that makes sense. So if you’re vegan and it’s not a choice about what is better for me, that makes sense. But suppose you’re looking for something more beneficial to your body and mind, the plant burger. In that case, you have a chicken burger, a turkey burger, fish, whatever. Do you know what I’m saying? We’re not; we’re not being mean to the plant burgers. 

NourishDoc: With that thought, have a great week, everyone. Happy Monday, and keep supporting us as we develop these programs. 

Dietician Barbie: Yes, and I wanted to say quickly if anybody is on Instagram, I am the cognition dietitian on Instagram, and I say that because every day, I post something along these lines and recipes. So, if you’re interested, there I am. 

NourishDoc: Absolutely, they’re very beautiful. I must say that. Thank you. 

Dietician Barbie: Thank you. Thank you so much. 


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