Hello Amy, I am a 54 year old woman going through menopause. I heard somewhere that fruit juice helps with menopausal symptoms. Is this true? If it is, what type of juice should I be drinking. I really appreciate your response. Thank you

Your question comes at a great time. A dear friend of mine was just telling me how she is very scared about the dreaded “menopausal weight gain” and she asked me if there are any foods or diets that can help prevent negative symptoms associated with menopause. My answer is…Absolutely! I will begin by discussing what changes typically occur during menopause and then discuss how changing your diet and lifestyle can certainly help reduce any unwanted side effects associated with menopause. (and yes…this can include juice!)

Menopause typically occurs one year after a woman’s last period. The average age is around 51 years. And one of the most “annoying” (as my friends say) side effects is unwanted weight gain. Women tend to gain ~1 pound a year during this time. Additionally, there are many changes occurring that shift the body composition. Lean body mass/muscle is lost while fat stores increase (especially around the midsection). Several factors are suspected to play a role in this weight gain. According to Today’s Dietitian, “fewer calorie needs usually result from a decrease in physical activity, loss of lean body mass, and a subsequent reduction in resting energy requirements.” So bottom line? Women in menopause burn fewer calories at rest, lose lean body mass, and gain fat mass which is primarily around the abdominal area.

Now that we have that doom and gloom out of the way (and I promise we will talk juice!), how can women take action to help reduce some of these undesired side effects? They can start by increasing the amount of physical activity they get each day and also make diet changes to improve their overall health. Research shows that increasing activity can certainly help reduce weight gain and improve lean body mass composition. Studies suggest that getting 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity (hiking, biking, walking) every day can greatly reduce weight gain. I tell my patients to “start where they are” and increase from there. Many of my patients don’t get any physical activity so I suggest that they make small changes that will add up like taking the stairs, parking farther away and walking briskly to their destination, and getting up during commercials or while at their desk and moving whenever possible. Increasing physical activity is so important to not only combat side effects of menopause but also reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer incidence. Diet changes can also be implemented to help reduce weight gain. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2009) found that increasing protein intake can improve a woman’s muscle-protein syntheses and help maintain lean body mass. I recommend getting adequate protein at each meal. Start your day with an egg white omelet, enjoy a grilled chicken/quinoa salad at lunch (dressing on the side!), or have a delicious serving of fish for dinner. Also during this time, women definitely need to consume foods high in calcium and vitamin D. These foods include: cottage cheese, milk, Greek yogurt, salmon/tuna, fortified foods like breakfast cereals and juice! One hundred percent juice can be a healthy addition to many people’s diets. In a study published in Nutrition Journal, participants who consumed ~4/5ths of a cup of (unsalted) tomato juice twice a day showed an increase in resting energy expenditure and a reduction in hot flashes, irritability, and anxiety. Tomato juice is high in lycopene, which can reduce oxidative cell damage, and filled with other vitamins like B6 and C, which is great for your immune system! In regards to other types of juices/menopause, I would recommend that you choose your liquids wisely. Many people exceed their calorie needs for the day and do so by drinking liquid calories. I would recommend menopausal women that are watching their weight and trying to improve diet to choose water as their beverage of choice. If you are not a water drinker, then choose a low calorie drink option. I like Old Orchard’s Healthy Balance Juice. The juice is very low in sugar and calories but is filled with delicious flavor. Enjoy!

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