The Perimenopause Diet: Foods to Eat and to Limit

Perimenopause is a natural part of the aging process. It’s when our reproductive hormones start to decrease, and our bodies begin to transition into menopause. It’s a time of physical and emotional changes, and one of the best ways to manage them is through a healthy diet. Eating the right foods and limiting others can help reduce symptoms and boost overall health. Learning which foods belong in a perimenopause diet and which ones don’t can help you make healthier choices and better manage the transition. In this article, we’ll explore the foods to eat and the foods to limit for optimal health during perimenopause.

The Importance of Diet During Perimenopause

What we eat during perimenopause is important because food affects all of the systems and processes of our body. This is especially true with how our hormones are produced and how they function1. During this time, the level of estrogen – which is the main female hormone – fluctuates unevenly, and the level of progesterone – the hormone that is key for menstruation and pregnancy – decreases.

While all of this is going on, our bodies can get to be a hot mess – literally – if we don’t provide it with the right information through the food that we eat. It helps our hormones work themselves out in a healthy way and supports the other changes that are going on. That’s where a perimenopause diet comes in by helping to make this transition go more smoothly and a little easier.

What to Eat as Part of a Perimenopause Diet

When thinking about food or diet, it’s always better to think in terms of what we can eat as much as possible. The good news is that there are a number of foods that actively support our bodies during perimenopause.


Whether you eat a plant-based diet or eat animal products, one thing that proponents of both ways of eating generally agree on is that eating soy helps to reduce the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. That’s why I’m diving a little deeper into this must-have in a perimenopause diet.

A study by the North American Menopause Society published in the journal Menopause found that women who ate a low-fat plant-based diet rich in soy reduced moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84 percent – from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day. The study’s results were based on participants eating ½ cup of cooked soybeans every day for 12 weeks2.

Other research echoes the effectiveness of soy during perimenopause or menopause. According to the Mount Sinai Health System, in clinical studies, “Women who eat high amounts of dietary soy protein (20 to 60 g per day) generally have fewer and less intense hot flashes and night sweats than those who eat less soy.”  

Good sources of soy that can be incorporated into your diet regularly are edamame (the whole soybean), tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milk, and soy yogurt.

Lean protein

Eating lean protein is another healthy way to support all of the changes that are taking place during perimenopause. According to Dr. Jeffrey Bland in his book The Disease Delusion, studies conducted at the Functional Medicine Clinical Research Center show that lean protein from chicken and fish help to improve the metabolism of estrogen during this transition4.

In addition to all of the hormone changes that are taking place, studies also show that perimenopause and menopause can contribute to women starting to lose muscle mass3. Making sure that we’re eating plenty of protein throughout the day can help to offset that so our muscles stay strong and can support our bodies in doing the things we want to do.

Besides chicken and fish, other good sources of lean protein are eggs, tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, and beans.  

Other foods to support perimenopause

Dr. Bland says that other foods that have been shown to help lessen night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings associated with perimenopause and menopause are fiber-rich vegetables and beans and cruciferous vegetables. These kinds of vegetables include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and arugula just to name a few. Just like with lean protein, these foods have been shown to improve the metabolism of estrogen4.  

It’s important to note that if you’re taking a blood thinner, you’ll want to talk with your doctor before increasing the amount of cruciferous vegetables that you eat.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you eat a plant-based diet and are over 40, you should be supplementing with vitamin B12. You should really be doing that anyway if you eat a plant-based diet, but it’s critical during perimenopause and menopause because our bodies need more of it during this time5.

Foods to Limit on a Perimenopause Diet

While it’s better to think about what we can eat than what we can’t, when it comes to a perimenopause diet, the following foods should be minimized because they may actually contribute to the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, night sweats, memory and concentration symptoms, and moodiness.

  1. Sugar-rich foods and drinks4
  2. Caffeine6
  3. High-fat foods7
  4. Ultra-processed food8

As if experiencing perimenopause and menopause symptoms in the moment isn’t bad enough, research shows that women who experience intense levels of these symptoms are at higher risk for developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes9,10,11.

Bottom Line on a Perimenopause Diet

The bottom line on a perimenopause diet is that at a time in our life when our bodies are transitioning to a new phase, we can use food to gain at least a little to even a lot of control over how we feel now and in the future. Add that to regular exercise and mental health habits, and you have a powerful framework to support you.

If you want to learn more about what you can be doing to help yourself feel good now and in the future, be sure and take advantage of the special price that I’m offering to readers of this blog post for my Healthy Over 40 on-demand workshop. Or, if you have any questions about how to individualize a perimenopause diet to fit your needs, feel free to reach out to [email protected].

  1. Marks V. How Our Food Affects Our Hormones. Clin Biochem. 1985 Jun;18(3):149-53. doi: 10.1016/s0009-9120(85)80099-0. PMID: 3888442.
  2. Barnard, Neal D. MD, FACC; Kahleova, Hana MD, PhD; Holtz, Danielle N. BS; del Aguila, Fabiola PhD; Neola, Maggie BS, RD; Crosby, Lelia M. BA, RD; Holubkov, Richard PhD. The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS): a randomized, controlled trial of a plant-based diet and whole soybeans for postmenopausal women. Menopause 28(10):p 1150-1156, October 2021. DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001812.
  3. Ko J, Park YM. Menopause and the Loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women. Iran J Public Health. 2021 Feb;50(2):413-414. doi: 10.18502/ijph.v50i2.5362. PMID: 33748008; PMCID: PMC7956097.
  4. Bland, Jeffrey, PhD, FACN, CNS. The Disease Delusion. 2014. Page 305.
  5. Milart P, Wo?niakowska E, Wrona W. Selected vitamins and quality of life in menopausal women. Prz Menopauzalny. 2018 Dec;17(4):175-179. doi: 10.5114/pm.2018.81742. Epub 2018 Dec 31. PMID: 30766465; PMCID: PMC6372850.
  6. Plumbo, Ginger. Study Suggests Caffeine Intake May Worsen Menopausal Hot Flashes, Night Sweats. 2014.
  7. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A Natural Approach to Menopause.  
  8. Noll PRES, Noll M, Zangirolami-Raimundo J, Baracat EC, Louzada MLDC, Soares Júnior JM, Sorpreso ICE. Life habits of postmenopausal women: Association of menopause symptom intensity and food consumption by degree of food processing. Maturitas. 2022 Feb;156:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2021.10.015. Epub 2021 Oct 29. PMID: 35033227.
  9. Cagnacci A, Cannoletta M, Palma F, Zanin R, Xholli A, Volpe A. Menopausal symptoms and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopause. Climacteric. 2012 Apr;15(2):157-62. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2011.617852. Epub 2011 Dec 5. PMID: 22141325.
  10. Thurston RC, El Khoudary SR, Sutton-Tyrrell K, Crandall CJ, Sternfeld B, Joffe H, Gold EB, Selzer F, Matthews KA. Vasomotor symptoms and insulin resistance in the study of women’s health across the nation. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;97(10):3487-94. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-1410. Epub 2012 Jul 31. PMID: 22851488; PMCID: PMC3462945.
  11. Lee SW, Jo HH, Kim MR, Kwon DJ, You YO, Kim JH. Association between menopausal symptoms and metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2012 Feb;285(2):541-8. doi: 10.1007/s00404-011-2016-5. Epub 2011 Aug 19. PMID: 21853251.

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