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Sweet Potatoes Help Tame Menopausal Hot Flashes, Mood Swings & Vaginal Dryness

Ob/gyns and a nutritionist explain how this spud can work like HRT to relieve discomfort

What if one simple — and delicious — diet tweak could dramatically reduce some of the most bothersome symptoms of menopause? The humble sweet potato may just be that hero. The brightly colored spuds brim with beneficial compounds that have been shown to ease everything from vaginal dryness to hot flashes to bladder leaks. And sweet potatoes may even help ward off the dreaded “meno-pot”, or extra weight gain around your midsection. Here, top MDs and a nutritionist reveal why the sweet potato is one of nature’s best remedies for menopause, plus how to tap into its benefits.

What sets sweet potatoes apart

Most of us are familiar with Russet or Yukon gold potatoes, two of the most popular types of potatoes in the US. But the sweet potato is a unique spud with a slightly sweet flavor and a deep orange hue (though you can also find purple varieties). What’s more, the rich stores of antioxidants and nutrients in sweet potatoes make them a smart pick over the more common white or red spuds.

“Sweet potatoes’ antioxidant content really makes them stand out,” says certified nutritionist and celebrity chef Serena Poon. “Orange sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, a carotenoid and potent antioxidant that your body transforms into vitamin A.”

Just one sweet potato delivers 102% of the vitamin A your body needs daily, adds Shilpa P. Saxena, MD, chief medical officer for Forum Health. “They’re also dense in gut-friendly soluble and insoluble fiber, especially if you eat the skin,” Dr. Saxena notes. (Click through to discover how much fiber you need to eat each day to lose weight.)

Another area sweet potatoes shines: They’re lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes when boiled or steamed. “Because resistant starches like sweet potatoes are not quickly digested into glucose like other starches, they don’t raise your blood sugar or insulin levels,” explains Steven Gundry, MD, founder of Gundry MD and author of the upcoming book Gut Check.

Whole and diced sweet potato on a wood cutting board, a veggie that can help with menopause
Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

How a sweet potato eases menopause symptoms

Thanks to its high nutrient content, the sweet potato is one of nature’s best remedies for menopause bothers. Here’s what the all-star spud can do:

1. Sweet potato reduces vaginal dryness

Notice an uptick in soreness, itching or discomfort “down there” lately? Blame hormone changes during menopause that trigger vaginal dryness. As estrogen levels dip, vaginal tissue becomes thinner and drier. That makes the delicate skin there more prone to irritation, explains Barbara DePree, MD, a certified menopause practitioner and founder of

But sweet potatoes can help. They contain phytoestrogens, natural plant compounds that act as estrogen in the body. “Phytoestrogens, like those found in sweet potatoes, have been shown to reduce menopause symptoms such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes,” Poon notes. “And they may be a safer protocol than hormone replacement therapy (HRT), since they do not carry the same risk for breast cancer and blood clots.” (Click through for more natural remedies for vaginal dryness.)

2. Sweet potato blocks bladder leaks

Another side effect of a decline in estrogen levels: An increase in embarrassing bladder leaks. Fortunately, you can laugh or sneeze without fear simply by increasing your intake of sweet potatoes, which mimic leak-blocking estrogen in the body. A University of Arizona review of studies suggests that a diet high in phytoestrogens reduced urinary urgency by 25%, nocturia (or overnight bathroom breaks) by 69% and women’s use of daily panty liners to thwart leaks by 66% in 8 weeks.  

Related: MDs Reveal the Best Natural Ways to Ease the Most Bothersome Menopause Symptoms

Sweet potato fries on a wood board

3. Sweet potato tames hot flashes

While it’s true that hormone changes are a major culprit behind the menopausal hot flashes, they’re not solely to blame. Impaired gut health can also play a role in spurring the intense flushes of heat. “The significant amount of fiber sweet potatoes contain helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome,” explains  Felice Gersh, MD, Medical Director at the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine. The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria and microbes. “When the gut microbe is healthy, it maintains the integrity of the gut barrier.”

This keeps compounds known as endotoxins, a toxin found in bacterial cells, from entering the body. “Endotoxins create generalized inflammation that exacerbates hot flashes,” Dr. Gersh explains. One medium-size sweet potato contains 4 grams of fiber, which nourishes the gut to curb inflammation that can spark hot flashes. In fact, a study in Nutrients found folks who increase their soluble fiber intake increased the strength of their intestinal lining by 90% in six months. Gut bacteria feed on fiber to create butyrate, a fatty acid that nourishes intestinal cells. (Click through for 9 more foods that fight hot flashes.)

4. Sweet potato blocks a ‘meno-pot’

During menopause, women’s body composition changes, Poon says. That means there’s a shift toward less calorie-torching muscle mass and more fat, which slows your metabolism. This can lead to what’s known as a “meno-pot” or weight gain around your midsection. You might assume you need to scale back on starchy foods to shed those unwanted pounds, but that’s not the case with sweet potatoes.

“Many would think that the carbs of sweet potatoes would promote weight gain,” Dr. Gersh says. “But they have complex carbohydrates, which are entirely different from the simple ones of sweets and processed foods. These types of carbs are great for sustained release of glucose, providing energy for cells without creating high levels of blood glucose and insulin. They actually help regulate your appetite and maintain a healthy weight.”

Related: Despite Their Reputation, Potatoes *Can* Speed Weight Loss

A study published in the journal Nutrients came to the same conclusion. Researchers found that folks who swapped less healthy meals for a sweet potato-based meal daily lost 5% of their body weight (that’s nearly 9 lbs. for a 170 lb. woman) in 8 weeks. Plus, study participants experienced a noticeable reduction in their waist circumference, body fat and BMI. “Sweet potatoes are a great comfort food without the guilt,” adds Dr. Saxena.

Woman in red shirt buttoning her jeans

5. Sweet potato lifts your mood

If you’re like us, you’ve sometimes caught yourself getting irrationally anxious or irritable over small bothers. That’s because as women age, our levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin naturally decline. But “sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin B6, an essential nutrient that helps your body produce serotonin,” Poon explains. The spud contains about 15% of the recommended daily amount of the nutrient.

B6 also plays a role in the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical that calms the nervous system to ease feelings of anxiety, stress and worry. And a University of Reading study in Human Psychopharmacology suggests that vitamin B6 supplementation reduced anxiety.

“Vitamin B6 is great for mood and energy,” Dr. Gersh agrees, noting that sweet potatoes also contain polyphenols that reduce mood swings. (Click through to learn more ways to outsmart menopause irritability.)

6. Sweet potato smooths skin

Sweet potatoes do more than just improve your health — they reduce menopausal beauty bothers, too. “As estrogen levels decline, collagen production also decreases, which reduces skin elasticity,” Poon explains. “Not only do sweet potatoes contain vitamin C that helps your body produce collagen to support skin elasticity, they also contain beta-carotene that your body transforms into vitamin A to protect against UVA and UVB damage. This means that the nutrients in the foods we eat can protect against signs of aging caused by sun damage,” such as age spots and wrinkles.

And in a happy bonus, research in the journal Behavioral Ecology suggests that folks who consumed more beta-carotene had skin that appeared healthier and more attractive.

Blonde woman in a white shirt who uses sweet potato to ease menopause symptoms

Tip: “It’s best to consume beta-carotene from food sources as opposed to vitamin A supplements,” Poon advises. “And carotenoids like beta-carotene are best absorbed by the body when consumed with fat — I love topping baked sweet potatoes with tahini, for example.”

(Click through for more health benefits of sweet potatoes.)

To tap into the benefits of sweet potato for menopause

To ease menopause bothers naturally with a tasty sweet potato, the first step is choosing the best spud. Dr. Gersh recommends looking for a darker variety of sweet potato, which signifies a higher amount of carotenoids. Skip potatoes that are soft, wrinkled or have a green hue — they’re likely past their prime.

For best benefits, stash your sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place and enjoy them within 10 days, suggests Dr. Gersh, who prefers her sweet potatoes baked until soft and sweet. You can also get creative with your sweet potato dishes.

A bowl of mashed sweet potato with a pat of butter, which can help ease menopause symptoms

“I love adding roasted sweet potatoes to my bowls and salads, especially during fall and winter,” Poon notes. “Sometimes I’ll also add sweet potatoes into my breakfast in a sweet potato kale and hash, or into delectable sweet potato brownies for dessert.” Poon notes that roasting sweet potatoes slightly increases their glycemic index as compared to boiling them, whereas boiling or steaming sweet potatoes makes their beta-carotene more absorbable.

However you choose to enjoy your sweet potatoes, moderation is key. Aim for about 2 to 3 sweet potatoes a week. “Like any starch, you can overdo the amount you eat,” says Dr. Gundry, who eats the spuds as a weekend treat.

For more ways to reduce menopause bothers:

Your Vagina *Does* Get Smaller After Menopause + Lubricants Women 50+ Should Never Use

“Perimenopause Made Me Foggy and Tired — Until I Found This Natural Cure!”

Menopause Body Odor Is a Real Thing — MDs Reveal the 10 Best Ways To Get Rid of It

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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