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Nutrition during your Menopause

A balanced and healthy diet has been shown to help reduce menopausal symptoms. Have a read about different changes to make to your diet during this time.

The steps you take during your menopause help you to manage your future risks - Emma Bardwell

What does 'healthy eating' mean for women around the menopause?

A balanced and healthy diet has been shown to help reduce menopausal symptoms. Prioritise nutrient rich foods and eliminate empty carbs and processed sugars. This will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin. Bouncing hormone levels can drive new cravings - causing you to eat unhealthy, usually sugary, foods that can be addictive. Try to avoid this - and take time to adjust your diet so you can thrive.

Some dietary tips to help you change your diet:

  1. One of the quickest changes that you should consider is your protein intake. Protein is very filling, keeping you fuller for longer. It helps regulate your blood sugar levels and can boost your mood and energy. Try making protein the star of your meals.
  2. Alcohol intake. Alcohol can become a crutch when you are feeling low and anxious. It has the ability to relax you. But it can also lead to poor sleep and change your mood. Some women also find it triggers flushes. We're not saying cut out alcohol, but be conscious of the amount you are consuming.
  3. Calcium. Be aware of the daily recommended intake and what is required for you. There are many different sources of calcium available to us, in particular dairy. Plant sources also contain lots of calcium. You may have to consume them in greater amounts, however, in order to meet your daily needs.
  4. Aim to have 3 filling meals through out the day. This way you won't be as tempted to snack every time you step foot in the kitchen! Build your meals around your vegetables and your protein. You should be trying to eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Think about your rainbow foods - the more colourful the better.

Protein

Women approaching menopause, and certainly after the menopause, need a protein rich diet. This is because women lose muscle during midlife. Additionally, it is a lot harder for women to build muscle than it is for men. Muscle is important for more than just strength - it protects your bones; is a more metabolically active tissue; and can protect against a number of long term diseases.

How much Protein do you need:

You should be eating 1 g of protein per kg body weight per day (Reference Nutrient Intake). So, if you are 60 kg, then this would be 60 grams of protein. Ideally, you should spread this out across the day.

The average UK protein intake for women is 64g, but it is worth thinking about what you eat regularly. Type of protein as important as the amount of protein, and variety is important too. Most women will need to eat at least two protein portions a day to achieve this.

One portion might be:

  • 2 medium eggs
  • 3 tablespoons seeds or nuts
  • 100g lean meat or poultry or fish
  • Small pot of greek yoghurt

Protein foods include fish, lean meat, eggs, dairy products, beans, soy products and plant based proteins. Soya beans, lentils, legumes and chickpeas contain phytoestrogens; natural chemicals which closely mimic oestrogen in your body. Some women find these foods help relieve some of the symptoms of the menopause. Larger studies in this area are needed.

Calcium

Monitoring your calcium intake is very important during your menopause. It is key for ensuring that your bones and teeth stay healthy, as well as maintaining balance within your body. Your bone health especially is at considerable risk during you menopause.

You can easily meet required amounts of calcium from your food, IF you make it a priority. It is heavily present in dairy products and green leafy vegetables. If, however, you are concerned that you may not be consuming enough, talk to a nutritionist or your doctor about beginning supplementation. Calcium supplements can be a great fall back, but only if you are fully informed and use them safely.

How much Calcium do you need?

As a menopausal women, you want to be consuming 1200 mg of calcium a day.

What does this look like?

  • 150mL of milk equates to about 150g of Calcium
  • One whole head of broccoli is 250g of Calcium

Good sources of calcium include - fortified plant milks, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, cabbage), broccoli, tofu, sesame seeds, figs, spring greens. You need to wilt your green leafy vegetables to get the optimal levels of calcium. This is because when these vegetables are raw, the calcium is bound by oxalates. Your body is then unable to absorb much of that calcium. Cooking will release the calcium and make it available for your body. Try throwing them into stews or soups rather than blending them up in smoothies!

Omega 3's and Whole grains

Omega 3 fats are essential - as they're an anti-inflammatory for your body. Similar to protein, they are very filling and help to stabilise your blood sugar. Additionally, fats provide you with an abundance of energy, lifting your mood. Oily fish is an excellent source of your omega 3s. Try and eat salmon or mackerel up to 2x a week. As a veggie/vegan, nuts and seeds are great little snacks that are packed with healthy fats.

Whole grains are high in nutrients, including fibre, plant protein and B vitamins. These are also known as your 'good carbs'. They are packed with energy and can help regulate your metabolism - both of which are often reduced during your menopausal years. Research further shows that eating whole grains at least 3 times a week can lower your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Foods to avoid during your menopause

  1. Processed foods are usually loaded with added sugars, extra sodium and unhealthy fats. They may at the root of your cravings when looking for a late night snack, but don't give in! These foods can kick start menopausal symptoms and lead to unwanted weight gain.
  2. Excessive alcohol consumption could cause problems.
  3. Spicy Foods are a trigger for your hot flashes and night sweats. When looking for an added kick to your meal, try other spices such as cumin or turmeric.
  4. Caffeine triggers symptoms for some women. It can trigger feelings of anxiety and irritability - not the best way for you to start your day! If you are carving a warm drink, try a ginger tea or lemon tea.

Trying to stay healthy but you're super busy?

Try meal prepping. Take the time once a week to prep meals for at least a few days. If you have kids, get them to join in! Having home cooked meals ready to go for work is a great way to monitor what you are putting in your body.

Find new recipes. Change up what you are cooking and jazz it up with herbs and spices. By following some healthy recipe's you wont have to stress about what you are cooking. Here are some great recipe blogs to follow:

Canned foods can be cheap, delicious and healthy. Whether it's canned beans or canned fish, you can throw them into chile's, stews or soups for an added protein kick.

Freezing your food is a great way to save money and reduce your waste. Buying bulk produce can be hard to get through before they go bad. Veggies and fruits are super easy to freeze and allows you to use them in a variety of ways.

References

Davidson, L., 2013. Homepage - Lexi's Clean Kitchen. [online] Lexi's Clean Kitchen.
Available at: https://lexiscleankitchen.com/ [Accessed 12 June 2020].

Aujla, R., n.d. Home | The Doctor's Kitchen. [online] The Doctor's Kitchen.
Available at: https://thedoctorskitchen.com/ [Accessed 11 June 2020].

Bardwell, E., n.d. Emma Bardwell. [online] Emma Bardwell.
Available at: https://www.emmabardwell.com/ [Accessed 11 June 2020].