As if you don’t already have enough ways to help alleviate your common menopausal symptoms, like hormone replacement therapy, vitamins, phytoestrogens, self-care, and others, I’ve got another one to add to your list: minerals! As part of the supplement family, minerals do just that—supplement what you’re already getting from your diet. (Think of what you eat as your Monday-Friday 9-5 job, and minerals as those six extra hours you spend on Sundays doing paid consultant work.) Specifically, minerals help to strengthen things that tend to weaken during menopause. That sagging skin, for instance? Yes, you can blame that on decreasing estrogen. Unlike vitamins, though, minerals are inorganic elements that originally come from soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. Large amounts of some minerals—like calcium—are particularly necessary for people experiencing the menopause transition to offset the cascade of declines and depletions caused by your sex hormones saying their prolonged goodbyes. I mean, who isn’t concerned about things like bone loss from osteoporosis? Well, I suppose jellyfish and butterflies aren’t concerned about getting their daily dose of calcium, but I sure am! So let’s talk about the best ways to enhance your diet with the best supplements for menopause—the minerals that will make the biggest difference—so your physical limitations don’t limit you.
What Minerals Do I Need During Menopause and Why?
“Okay,” you say. “I get that I need more minerals. I don’t drink 5 gallons of milk a day, because duh, no human in their right mind would ever do that, so I guess I need to supplement with calcium. But, why and what’s the best way to do that?” The short answer is because estrogen has been helping to sustain several of your bodily systems, like your skeleton. As it leaves, those systems need more help from other sources.
What Are the Best Supplements for Menopause?
Which minerals should you start with to give each of your bodily systems a little love during midlife? The list below shares details about our top recommendations.
Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, says the average menopausal person needs between 500 and 1,200 mg of calcium a day, depending on how much calcium content you already have in your diet. Do you want to know a quick and easy way to figure out how much calcium and other nutrients your diet already has? Use an app like MyFitnessPal. The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 2,500 mg a day for adults 19 to 50, and no more than 2,000 mg a day for those 51 and older.
Your body doesn’t produce calcium on its own, and—even if you’re consuming plenty of milk, kale, fish, beans, or yogurt—it still might not be enough. Consider adding calcium’s bone-strengthening benefits to your toolkit of body-supporting tools. Now that’s calci-yum!
Important tip: If you take calcium, be sure to add vitamin D because your body needs it to absorb calcium. Taking extra calcium without extra Vitamin D is like riding a bicycle with no tires, or playing a trombone with no slide.
Because magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and mood, it’s critical to get enough of this mineral to ward off depression. Although more research is needed to confirm, some experts believe that low magnesium levels, along with excess calcium and stress, can be a factor in major depression and other mental illnesses.
In a randomized controlled trial in 2008 of depressed older adults, 450 mg of magnesium daily improved mood as effectively as an antidepressant drug. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends 310-320 mg for any woman over 19 years of age.
Postmenopausal women who eat foods higher in potassium are less likely to have strokes and die than women who eat less potassium-rich foods, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke. What kind of meal can one make with bananas, beans, and peanut butter? Why, a banana-peanut butter-bean milk shake, of course! (Hey, enough bananas and peanut butter should hide the taste of the beans.)
Iron and Zinc
A 2010 review of 10 studies found that “seven studies found improvements in aspects of mood and cognition after iron supplementation. Iron supplementation appeared to improve memory and intellectual ability in participants aged between 12 and 55 years in seven studies, regardless of whether the participant was initially iron insufficient or iron-deficient with anaemia. The review also found three controlled studies providing evidence to suggest a role for zinc supplementation as a treatment for depressive symptoms, as both an adjunct to traditional antidepressant therapy for individuals with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and as a therapy in its own right in pre-menopausal women with zinc deficiency.”
Some sources recommend 6 to 50 mg a day of zinc and 15-30 mg a day of iron. The National Institutes of Health, however, recommend 8 mg for women over 19 years of age.
Not to be confused with magnesium, manganese is actually a powerhouse of a mineral—much like the key grip on a movie set, it’s one of those behind-the-scenes types that does a ton! Your body does make some, but most adults don’t get enough of it without diet or supplementation. Load up with 1 to 15 mg a day of manganese, either through your food or supplements to get its sex-hormone-supporting and bone-loss-lessening benefits.
Boron is another trace mineral that supports strong bones. It’s like manganese’s assistant! All you need is 2 to 9 mg a day. Try a simple meal of potatoes and apples so that you boron, instead of bor-off!
This is where you might be thinking that all you need to do to get this is rub your pennies. That is, if you still have any of them lying around thanks to the national coin shortage. Not so, unfortunately. Take copper—through either diet or supplementation—for an overall health-booster; it’s involved in a lot of things, like connective tissue support and energy production. You only need 1-2 mg a day, or 900 mcg, a day.
According to MedicalNewsToday, chromium can help improve insulin sensitivity, which can be a problem for some people. As we age, our cells tend to lose their sensitivity to any excess insulin that might be in our system as a result of excess blood sugar. Recommended daily dose? Again, the National Institutes of Health say all you need is 20 mcg (microgram, which is smaller than a milligram (mg)).
What Are the Best Ways to Get Minerals?
As mentioned, the amount you need of any one mineral is determined in part by how much you’re getting in your diet. That’s where you should start getting the minerals you’re lacking. Before you groan and put your head in your hands at the prospect of only being able to eat spinach, kale, cottage cheese, and the occasional peach during the whole of your menopause years, remember that there are a plethora of ways to prepare those foods, and that your options extend far beyond them. And, that there are of course way more mineral-rich foods than the few I just mentioned.
Mineral supplements, although far less tasty, are the best way to “top-off” your mineral “tank,” at least in part because they’re quick and easy to take. Just think of all the hours you could save by taking a pill instead of eating 9 mg worth of apples everyday.
It’s a Wrap!
Though this isn’t a comprehensive list of every mineral you need to bomb the ski run of menopause, it will give you a good start. Consider this an opportunity to take a good look at the contents of your pantry and fridge and find new and better ways to thrive during the stages of menopause!
- Northrup, C. (2021). The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change. Bantam.
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