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What to munch during the menopause

Skin is the body’s largest organ, so it's not surprising that what we eat is just as important for our skin health as it is for any other part of our body. Nutritionist Fiona Hunter explains how diet becomes even more important during and after the menopause.

Caring for your body

The menopause is a time of change. While you may feel liberated by some of the changes, like the cessation of periods, others are less welcome. The loss of oestrogen and other hormonal changes which occur at menopause can affect the body externally as well as internally and one thing that many women notice as they go through the menopause is a change in the condition of their skin, hair and nails.

Simple changes you can make

The good news is that there are steps you can take to offset these changes. Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can help alleviate many of these cosmetic changes and at the same time help with problems like hot flushes, sleep problems, bloating and mood changes.

Problem: Dry brittle nails

Nutrients that can help

Vitamin E, essential omega 3 fats and B vitamins (especially biotin).

Foods to eat

Almonds, avocado, oily fish, spinach, kale and dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrain cereals and eggs.

What else you can do

Wear rubber gloves for washing up, use hand cream every night and avoid nail varnish removers which contain alcohol.

Problem: Dry, dull skin

Nutrients that can help

Vitamin E, omega 3 and essential fatty acids.

Foods to eat

Avocados, tomatoes, nuts and seeds and oil-rich fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.

What else you can do

Drink plenty of water, use a good moisturiser on your body and face everyday and use a gentle exfoliator at least once a week.

Problem: Thinning hair or flaky scalp

Nutrients that can help

Zinc, protein, omega 3 fats, biotin and selenium.

Foods to eat

Lean meat, fish, seeds, eggs, wholegrain cereals and brazil nuts.

What else you can do

Drink plenty of water and use a moisturising shampoo and conditioner.

Problem: Wrinkling and fine lines

Nutrients that can help

Vitamin C and other antioxidants to help neutralise the free radicals which accelerate wrinkling.

Foods to eat

All fruit and vegetables but particularly red pepper, kiwi and citrus fruits.

What else you can do

Protect your skin from sun damage by wearing a sunscreen, even in the winter.

Long-term health

Weight gain and change in body shape is a common problem for many women after the menopause. Tempting as crash and fad diets may seem, they are not the answer because they don't work long-term and can lead to nutritional deficiencies which make other symptoms of the menopause, particularly problems with skin, hair and nails, worse. The best and healthiest way to lose weight is to reduce portion sizes and increase activity.

Fiona Hunter BSc RNutr is a highly respected, experienced and qualified nutritionist, food writer and broadcaster. Fiona trained as a dietitian and worked on Good Housekeeping for over ten years. She is known for her honest and practical, evidence-based approach to nutrition. She believes in the principle that 'there’s no such thing as a bad food, only a bad diet.'

Find out more about Fiona Hunter, or read more about Healthspan's health experts.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.