Fighting those pesky hot flashes and night sweats? You may want to look at what you're putting on your plate. That's because a new study has come out that is among the first to link general dietary patterns to these bothersome menopausal symptoms.
The researchers looked at data from 6,040 middle-aged women who were born between 1946 and 1951 who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. These women went through menopause naturally (as opposed to surgically). At the start of the study in 2001, researchers assessed the participant's dietary intake as well as whether they smoked, drank or exercised. Additionally, the women were asked whether they experienced hot flashes and/or night sweats. It was determined that 58 percent of the participants were experiencing these types of symptoms when the study started.
Over the nine-years of the study, the researchers looked at the women's diet, identifying six dietary patterns that they followed: cooked vegetables; fruit; Mediterranean style; meat and processed meat; dairy; and high fat and sugar. They found that women who consumed the most fruit (strawberries, pineapple and melon) or a Mediterranean-style diet (fruit, salad greens, pasta, pasta and red wine) were 20-percent less likely to suffer hot flashes and night sweats. On the flip side, women whose diets included more high-fat and high-sugar foods had a 23-percent higher risk of hot flashes and night sweats. And the researchers found that eating vegetables in general, meat and dairy were not found to be associated with changes (either for better or worse) in having hot flashes and/or night sweats.
Researchers aren't sure why these particular diet choices may have a difference. They have two hypotheses. The first is that low-fat, high-fiber diets may actually stabilize estrogen levels, thus tamping down hot flashes and night sweats. The second is that a Mediterranean-style diet may control blood sugar so it remains in the optimum range, thus lowering the possibility of hot flashes and night sweats.
This study echoes another that I've written about that highlight the importance of a healthy diet as you go through menopause. That study found that menopausal women who lost weight through eating a low-fat diet with lots of produce reduced or eliminated their hot flashes and night sweats.
Also, I thought it was interesting that this latest study focused specifically on salad greens. So what do these bring to the table? The Colorado State University Extension pointed out that lettuce, spinach and other salad greens are year-round sources of vitamin A, vitamin C and other nutrients. Additionally, red and dark green leafy vegetables tend to be more nutrient-rich, especially in antioxidants and vitamin B6, than lighter colored greens. Livestrong.com also points out that Romaine lettuce is high in vitamin K while spinach contains iron and Swiss chard offers potassium. Leafy greens have been found to be beneficial in preventing a number of disease, including heart disease and cancer.
And what about strawberries, pineapple and melons?
The George Matlejan Foundation points out that strawberries ranked 27th among the top 50 antioxidant sources of commonly eaten foods. When fruits were the only ones considered, strawberries moved to 4th, only behind blackberries, cranberries and raspberries. Pineapples offer great amounts of vitamin C, manganese, fiber, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin B1 and folate. And cantaloupes are excellent sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene as well as a good source of potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B3, fiber, vitamin K, magnesium and vitamin B1. In fact, these melons have30-times higher amounts of beta-carotene content than fresh oranges.
Cantaloupe also has been found to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome.
So load your plate up with salad and these fruit, as well as pasta (and a little bit of wine). It's a healthy and easy way to potentially give the boot to hot flashes
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Bunning, M. & Kendall, P. (2012). Health benefits and safe handling of salad greens. Colorado State University Extension.
George Mateljan Foundation. (nd.). Cantaloupe.
George Mateljan Foundation. (nd.). Pineapple.
George Mateljan Foundation. (nd.). Strawberries.
Herber-Gast, G.C.M, and Mishra, G. D. (2013). Fruits, Mediterranean-style, and high-fat and -sugar diets are associated with the risk of night sweats and hot flushes in midlife: results from a prospective cohort study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Pittman, G. (2013). Fruit, Mediterranean diet tied to fewer hot flashes. MedlinePlus.
Ray, L. (2010). What are the benefits of green salads? Livestrong.com.