The Menopause Diet
The Menopause is a completely natural part of ageing. For many of us, it comes with life-changing symptoms that feel completely out of our control.
Even for the lucky few who breeze through this stage of their life (I actually don’t know anyone who has – do you?!) the biological process our bodies go through leads to a decline in oestrogen levels. Reduced levels of oestrogen, along with other changes related to ageing, can increase your risk of long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis.
(And you thought it was just about hot flushes, getting fat and moody!)
Though the symptoms of menopause can be challenging (to say the least!), the menopause is a great opportunity to re-think your overall health. Try new things and introduce some new healthy habits. Establishing a new approach to your current diet and exercise programme could actually give you a health boost!.
Who knows, the next stage of your life maybe your happiest and healthiest!.
Eating well during the menopause can not only help you to manage symptoms, but it can also help you to avoid the weight gain too. If you establish healthy eating habits during this time, you really can set yourself in good stead for strong bones, healthy heart, great skin and plenty of energy, well into later life.
So, here’s some tips to try for eating well during the menopause and beyond!
Sugar can trigger a sharp rise in blood glucose levels, followed by an inevitable crash. As well as affecting your mood and energy levels, these highs and lows can make the body convert excess calories into fat that’s stored around the tummy area.
Try to curb any sugar cravings by eating at regular intervals throughout the day and swap refined carbs such as white bread and pasta for wholegrain alternatives.
As oestrogen levels decline, the body starts to store more fat and at the same time loses bone density and muscle mass. Increasing your protein intake will not only help your body hold on to muscle, but it will fill you up for longer, helping combat weight gain.
Protein sources include fish, poultry, eggs, red meat well as vegetable proteins such as chickpeas, lentils and tofu.
FILL UP ON FIBRE
Fibre can also help suppress cravings and prevent weight gain. There is also strong evidence to suggest eating a fibre-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and bowel cancer.
Find it in green vegetables, wholegrains, lentils and beans.
BOOST YOUR BONE STRENGTH
As your bone mass begins to decline, Calcium and vitamin D are the 2 main nutrients to include in your diet to help protect your bone strength.
Dairy, egg yolks, kale, spinach and cabbage are all great sources of calcium, but you need to include Vitamin D to be able to absorb it properly. You can get vitamin D from oily fish, red meat, eggs, mushrooms and fortified breakfast cereals. The bodies primary source of Vitamin D comes from the sun’s UV rays, so it may help to take a supplement during the winter months.
Healthy fats help the body produce hormones, which is essential once you’ve reached the Menopause. It’s a good idea to avoid a low-fat diet at this time in life. Along with hormone production, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits and prevent cognitive decline. Research also suggests may help reduce hot flushes and night sweats (Amen!)
Healthy fats are found in avocado, oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
B-complex vitamins have also been shown to boost brain health and regulate mood. They are essential for the production of serotonin – the happy hormone! (And we all need some of that following sleepless night!)
Sources of B-complex vitamins can be found in meat, fish, dairy products, yeast and fortified cereals.
Gut health is very important when it comes to our mood as up to 90% of serotonin (that happy hormone again!) is produced in the gut. Eating a diet rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods helps keep the friendly bacteria that lives in your gut happy too!
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods – yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, sourdough bread and some cheeses.
Prebiotic food sources include fibre-rich foods like whole-grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Phytoestrogens and Isoflavones (yes, I know they sound complicated, but they’re definitely worth knowing about so keep reading!) have been found to improve menopausal symptoms in some cases as they mimic oestrogen.
Soy, tofu, linseed, dried fruit, and cruciferous vegetables all contain the plan compound which may help increase oestrogen levels.
Magnesium helps the body deal with stress, strengthens bones and improves sleep. People who a eat a lot of meat, dairy and processed foods or those who consume lots of coffee or alcohol may have very low levels.
Good food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and whole-grains. However, if your sleep is affected badly, it may be worth taking a supplement to help menopausal symptoms.
Many Health issues can be helped massively by the foods you eat, so it really is worth trying to change your diet accordingly to see if it helps you too (before you turn to the gin!)
Un-processing your Diet
Recent studies have found that people who eat more processed food, consume about 500 more calories per day than those that eat wholefoods. Why? Because processed foods provide limited nutrients and are not as filling, so you tend to eat more to feel full and an extra 500 calories per day, can lead to quite a significant weight gain!
It’s quite a big challenge to switch to an entirely whole-foods diet overnight. But you can start to make healthier choices most of the time by making some small, sustainable changes to “unprocess” your diet.
What are Processed foods?
Most packaged foods such as crisps, sweets, chocolate bars and biscuits are considered ultra-processed along with fast food, most take-out food and packaged bakery items, refined grains such as white rice, sugary cereals and white bread also are processed. However, foods such as canned or frozen vegetables, whole-grain bread and rice, are considered less processed because they are closer to their original forms (and have more nutritional value).
Here are six practical tips to help you make nutritional improvements that will improve your energy, health and fitness, by switching from a processed to wholefood diet, increasing your fibre and protein intake and making you feel fuller without going over your calorie requirements.
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to foods high in nutrients, fruits and vegetables can’t be beat. They contain fibre (which will make you feel full) and they also aid digestion.
- Batch chop and prep salad and veg so it’s ready to go.
- Add a side salad to your meal.
- Snack on raw vegetables.
2. Avoid sugary drinks.
Fizzy drinks, alcohol, smoothies and canned coffee drinks often contain a surprising amount of sugar and calories. For example, a Costa caramel latte contains a whopping 34g sugar and 331 calories!
- opt for tea or black coffee in coffee shops.
- Choose spirits rather than beer or wine.
- Read labels on smoothies/canned drinks.
3. Read labels.
In most cases food packaging does not give an accurate representation of a food’s nutritional value no matter what the claim on the front of the pack says! so it’s best to look at the nutritional label on the back of the item and check:
- Serving size.
- Amount of added sugar.
- Ingredient list (keeping in mind that ingredients are listed by quantity, with highest listed first).
4. Skip convenience foods when possible.
There are a lot of foods that although marketed as healthy (such as bars or snacks) are often full of sugar and lack fibre and protein. Carry your own snacks to avoid temptation!
- Nuts or seeds (portioned) and an apple.
- Chopped veg with hummus.
- Greek yogurt with fruit.
5. Eat mindfully at restaurants.
Eating out can feel like an occasion to indulge, but if you’re eating out regularly, learning to make healthy choices is essential.
- If eating out is an infrequent occurrence, order what you love, but stop eating when your full.
- You don’t have to go for all 3 courses!
- If eating out is a common occurrence choose a protein and vegetable meal with whole grains as often as possible. Such as:
- Sandwich on whole-grain bread with salad.
- Fish, Chicken or Steak served with veg.
- Salad (dressing on the side).
Small and sustainable changes are much easier and more beneficial in the long run when it comes to improving nutrition, rather than trying to make too many big changes all at once but to see a change you’ve got to make a change!