Where Did I Leave My Keys? Nutrition for Brain Health During Perimenopause.

I am now 44, and yes, feeling extremely lucky to have had the chance to get to this age. I am older, wiser and more confident. Having said that, I am getting a few signals from my body letting me know that times are slowly changing… If you know what I mean. And it’s not just the noisy joints or sudden insomnia that kicks in every now and then. Lately, my memory hasn’t been as sharp as it used to be. So why not share with you a few tips to support brain function, if you, like me, are going through the many joys of perimenopause? 

Navigating the transition through perimenopause can be a rollercoaster ride for many women, marked by hormonal fluctuations that can impact various aspects of health, including cognitive function. As our bodies adjust to changing hormone levels, we have the chance to optimize our nutrition to support brain health and stay sharp and focused during this time. 

The Impact of Perimenopause on Cognition 

Perimenopause is the transition period leading up to menopause, characterized by hormonal changes, particularly fluctuations in estrogen levels. These hormonal shifts can affect neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in our body) in the brain, resulting in symptoms such as brain fog, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. Sound familiar? 

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4 Key Nutrients to Optimise Brain Health 

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 cannot be made by our body; therefore, we need to get them from our diet. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are excellent sources of omega-3s. You can also choose plant-based options like walnuts or mixed seeds. 
  • Antioxidants: Foods rich in antioxidants can help protect brain cells from oxidative stress (various stressors that can damage our cells) and inflammation. Focusing on colourful fruits and vegetables such as berries, leafy greens and bell peppers, can provide you with antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids, supporting cognitive health. 
  • B Vitamins: B vitamins play a crucial role in brain function and mood regulation, making them particularly important during perimenopause. Add some vitamin B-rich foods to your shopping baskets, such as leafy greens, legumes and whole grains like quinoa or buckwheat. 
  • Plant-Based Phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogens are foods with estrogen-like effects in the body that may help alleviate symptoms of hormonal imbalance, including cognitive issues. To add phytoestrogens to your diet, think about incorporating foods like soybeans, flaxseeds, and chickpeas into your meals.  

 Practical Tips for Supporting Brain Health During Perimenopause 

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  • Add Omega-3 to your meals:  Start by adding walnuts and seeds to your breakfast. For example, add it to your yoghurt or porridge if you are choosing a sweet start to your morning, or maybe sprinkle it on your avocado toast with poached eggs if you are more of a savoury person. For a brain-loving meal, consider adding salmon, sardines or trout to salads, stir-fries, or wraps for lunch or dinner. 
  • Eat the Rainbow: Variety needs to become your keyword. Increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables you eat, can provide a wide range of antioxidants to support brain health. Think berries, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Buckwheat pasta with broccoli, garlic and chilli? Yes, please. 
  • Whole Foods: Choose whole, minimally processed foods over highly processed options to maximize your intake of nutrients essential for brain health. Basically, choose real food (nutritious) such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, fish, meat, eggs, healthy fats like olives and avocado, organic tofu. There are lots of choices out there. A varied diet will allow your body to pick and choose the nutrients it needs to support brain function or any other chemical process in your body that may not be functioning efficiently. 
  • Hydration: Drinking an adequate amount of water is essential for overall health and cognitive function. Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water, herbal teas, or infused water with fresh fruits and herbs. Hydrating fruits and veggies also count! Have some cucumber, celery, and watermelon and make sure you choose foods you enjoy eating. 
  • Mindful Eating: Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues and focus on savouring the flavours and textures of your food. This may help you avoid distractions while eating. This type of practice is called mindfulness and can help you make healthier food choices and prevent you from feeling overly full. 

Nutrient-rich foods and healthy eating habits can be your allies in supporting cognitive function during perimenopause. Having said that remember that it’s never about one thing. Adding movement and optimizing sleep could work synergistically with your diet to fully support cognition. 

Start where you can, maybe a daily 20-minute walk in daylight and a relaxing bedtime routine to help your mind wind down. Even a small change could make a big difference.  

One step at a time, you got this. 


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Written by

  • Valentina Cartago

    Valentina is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, trained at The Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. She is a member of both BANT and CNHC. She is based in London where she runs her own practice The Italian Nutritionist, supporting her 1-1 clients and delivering corporate and community talks on various health topics both in person and online. Her background includes Head Nutritionist at LMS Wellness,where she worked alongside functional doctors and Clinical Nutritionist at the Hevolution Global Healthspan in Riyadh. She is fluent in both English and Italian.

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