You’ve probably noticed that your body fat is getting more stubborn and harder to lose. As a woman in menopause, you may be wondering if changing the way you eat will help with some of the symptoms you’ve noticed.
The good news is, there are things you can do to make the transition easier! In this blog post you will learn the best foods to eat and the ones to avoid. You will also will also get some helpful tips on how to make the transition to a new diet as easy as possible!
So, whether you are looking to lose weight or just want to maintain your current weight, read on to learn how…
The hormonal fluctuations that occur during perimenopause can be a particularly difficult time for women. As reproductive function starts to decrease, estrogen and progesterone production also drops nearly eliminating what little hormone levels are present in your body at this stage of life.
While it is true that most people think of perimenopause as occurring in their 50s, for some women this occurs in her 40s or even 30s. The entire menopausal period can last anywhere from 12 months up to four years and consists mainly of two phases: an early start with more changes happening physically before symptoms set into full swing; then a late phase. This can only be gauged by blood tests in order to measure hormone levels.
During the early stages of perimenopause, the estrogen levels can rise or fall and this is genetically determined, however, progesterone falls. This phase is considered to be an estrogen dominant phase which is similar to the follicular phase of a menstrual cycle. In the late stages, progesterone and estrogen drop which leads to male-like physiology with testosterone having more of an influence with the almost cessation of these hormones and is similar to the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
When you have not had a period for 12 months after entering perimenopause, you will have now entered menopause. This phase completely ends the reproduction system and estrogen hormone levels will drop to up to 95% of your premenopausal levels, with your progesterone already low or non-existent due to not producing any corpus luteum (follicle body) for 12 months.
This shift in hormones leads to a development of more male-like physiology with fat storage that occurs in the abdomen rather than hips and thighs. This change causes a lowering in insulin sensitivity, loss of bone mineral density, an increase in heart disease risk, lowering in metabolic rate and energy expenditure by a fraction. However, this change in metabolic rate and energy expenditure is not enough to cause the fat storage that is common during these years – this is a result of other factors (stress, sleep, lifestyle habits and nutriitonal information) causing a increased consumption of food.
When menopause hits, it is even more important to be as healthy as possible. There are significant benefits to making slight changes to the food you’re eating which we can call a “menopause diet”. It is rich in nutrients and lower in calories. Some of the benefits of following such a diet include:
In order to stay healthy, it is important to eat a variety of foods and make sure our diet includes enough vitamins. There are many different types of nutrients in in food such as iron or calcium which can be found naturally by eating fruits and vegetables but some people may lack the intake of these specific micronutrients because they don’t consume them often enough or choose not to include things like meat at home when cooking. Another factor is that that you have a smaller energy consumption requirement and may often restrict foods that would ultimately alleviate micronutrient deficiencies.
To help make better choices a menopause diet should contain a lot of the following:
Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrate sources in your diet that contain a range of nutrients, water and fiber. In menopause especially, eating a range of these foods will increase your intake of nutrients like plant iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous and vitamin K. All of these are nutrients are necessary for optimal health during menopause. You should aim to consume 300g of fruit per day with the choice being based on seasonal availability.
Whole grains are an excellent source of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. The type of foods that are found with whole grains is oatmeal, quinoa, popcorn, brown rice and whole-wheat bread. They can help by reducing the risk of heart disease and aid in stabilising blood glucose levels. It is recommended that you consume at least 48g of whole grains per day when in menopause.
Protein is an important macronutrient that helps with the growth, maintenance and repair of your body tissues. Protein foods will have higher amounts of iron, b12 and calcium. For this reason, consistently eating red meat and dairy will ensure that you’re less at risk of becoming deficient in these nutrients. Good sources of protein when in menopause are tofu, legumes, fish, chicken, lean beef and eggs. The amount of protein each day is dependent on body size, exercise and activity with recommendations at 0.8g – 1g/lb (1.6-2.2g/kg) of target body weight. During menopause, your body will use protein less efficiently which means it is even more important to make a conscious effort to include it in your diet. This will enable you to maintain muscle tone.
Fats are an essential part of any diet however during menopause it is important to consume the specific type referred to as ‘healthy fats’, or mono and polyunsaturated fats. Good sources of healthy fats are avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Healthy fats can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. It is recommended to consume at least 20g per day during menopause to get the essential fats your body can’t create.
While a small amount of caffeine may not be detrimental, large amounts of caffeine can contribute to menopausal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability and insomnia. There is evidence of caffeine intake not reducing food consumption in women as much as in men. Limiting caffeine intake to below 600mg per day as a ceiling may aid in offsetting the symptoms experienced when going through menopause.
Spicy foods have been reported by women to trigger hot flashes and night sweats, however it should be noted that I haven’t been able to find direct evidence of what has been measured. The common reports are that consumption of hot foods causes subsequent flushing. If you’re prone to these menopausal symptoms, you may want to avoid spicy foods altogether.
Processed foods are often high in saturated fats and sugar, which can contribute to weight gain. They can also trigger menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. If you’re menopausal, you may find it beneficial to reduce your consumption of highly processed foods.
Hot flashes have been linked to drops in blood glucose levels. The current theory is that when blood sugar levels in the brain drop, hot flushes often follow. While this isn’t the only factor, it does minimise the experiences of the women in the research study. This means it might be something that is worth trialling for yourself in case it works for you: have consistently sized meals across the day with all the foods mentioned in section 3 above. Those foods create long slow releases of glucose into the blood and help keep the levels stable.
If you’re going through menopause, it’s important to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrients to support your body. Making the transition to a menopause diet can be difficult, but you’ll likely find it to be worth it for your health as well as feeling better mentally.
Here are some tips for making the transition:
Making the transition to a menopause diet can be difficult, but it’s worth it for your health. We hope that you found this blog post helpful!
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