Whether you’re approaching menopause or well past it, shifts in hormones and aging can trigger a cascade of unwanted changes—think: hot flashes, sleepless nights, runaway weight gain, and more.

You might think the first step for dealing with these frustrations would be taking medication or stocking up on supplements. However, Tara Scott, M.D., an ob/gyn and functional medicine specialist in Akron, Ohio, says she and her midlife patients typically begin by looking at what they eat.

“Nutrition specifically has the potential to help or hurt during this change in life,” she says. For example, certain carb-heavy foods and drinks like sugary cereals, bread, processed snacks, and alcohol can become harder to process as you get older, she says. These foods quickly raise your blood sugar and boost inflammation, which could increase your risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Research suggests they may also lead to more frequent or severe hot flashes.