Many of you have asked about the role of soya in managing menopausal symptoms. We asked our registered dietitian to explain the evidence behind this.
The Top Line:
Soya products can help some women manage one of the main symptoms of the menopause, hot flushes.
Menopause occurs when oestrogen levels drop permanently ceasing ovulation and menstruation. Other symptoms caused by this drop of oestrogen include hot flushes & night sweats. Lower oestrogen levels can also decrease the strength of our bones, increase cholesterol levels and can lead to weight gain. These symptoms can start years before menopause occurs, which is called peri-menopause. For more information please see the NHS website.
Certain foods, such as soya and flaxseed, contain plant oestrogens. These compounds have a similar chemical structure to the human hormone oestrogen. Plant oestrogens have mild oestrogen-like activity in the body, which may help reduce some menopausal symptoms.
Many scientific studies have looked into the benefits of soya. A large review of the evidence for these health benefits found that soy isoflavones reduced the number and severity of hot flushes by over 20%. It is important to note that some studies have not found this effect and there is need for more evidence in this area.
The British Dietetic Association recommend if you want to try increasing the plant oestrogen content of your diet to start by including soya products and linseed 2-3 times per day for 2-3 months.
You could include soya milk or yogurt, edamame, linseeds, soya and linseed bread and also pasta or other products made from soya. The entire Liberto pasta range is made from 100% soya bean, and will contain more of these beneficial compounds than diluted soy products such as milk.
Other Nutritional Considerations
- If you choose to switch to soya milk, make sure it is calcium fortified. Menopause leads to decreased bone density so it is very important to have enough calcium in your diet! Also consider taking a 10mcg daily vitamin D supplement.
- Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake also as these can worsen hot flushes.
- Remember, while menopause can be a difficult time it presents an opportunity to review your diet and lifestyle for future health.
- Soya also has a role in lowering cholesterol as part of the portfolio diet.
For individualised advice on your diet, seek the support of a registered dietitian.
- To get the best results spread your intake of soya through the day, for example soya milk with breakfast, linseed and soya seeded bread at lunch and soy bean pasta for your evening meal.
- Choose food sources over supplements.
- Be consistent, remember results may take 2-3 months to have effect.
- Have a variety of soy products to try to keep things interesting – make sure dairy alternatives are fortified.
- For recipe inspiration why not try our Edamame Plant Based Buddha Bowl or Black Bean Buddha Bowl.
Do seek medical advice as dietary changes should not replace treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) where needed as it can reduce symptoms to a greater effect.