Have you ever wondered how much our needs change during the menopause? I did. And I keep updating myself to try to understand how to nurture my body in the best way.
Menopause represents a very delicate moment in a woman’s life, and we need to be sure to tackle every symptom/discomfort in the best possible way. To do this, we need to be informed (which is an ongoing journey with so much new data and information flooding internet every single day). While menopause is linked to many uncomfortable symptoms and increases your risk of certain diseases, it is known your diet may help to reduce symptoms and ease the transition.
(greens) … menopause
Eat your menopause! Yes you read right. In fact, one of the most important things generally speaking is nutrition, as we are what we eat. Since the lack of oestrogen and hormonal unbalance affects the food metabolism as well, especially during menopause when our body goes through such dramatic changes, it is necessary to replenish it with the best nutrients and the right balance between all of them. This way you can eat away your menopause symptoms by controlling to some extent their progression, or full their development.
Now, what is again the impact menopause has on your metabolism? Well, during oestrogen decline, the normal cyclical patterns of oestrogen and progesterone are also disrupted. And I’ve already covered in extent the negative impacts declining oestrogen has on metabolism, potentially leading to weight gain. Weight gain in this time of our lives is therefore different than any previous times we may have fought with this. The. typical image we start seeing in our mirror are: unequally distributed fat, while getting “thick in the middle”… something that we all hate.
These changes caused by the hormonal imbalance, may also affect our cholesterol levels and how our body digests carbs. For this reason, it is necessary to pay even more attention to the food we eat, and the way we balance protein, carbs and fats. On top of that, many women experience symptoms like hot flushes and difficulty sleeping during this transition period, thus not helping to be careful with the diet; lack of sleep in fact, is the enemy number one of willpower. Even the strongest women can teeter after one night of night sweats and insomnia in front of some very appealing and mood uplifting chocolate bar.
Additionally, hormone changes lead to declined bone density, which can increase your risk of fractures. In order to prevent this, we need to be sure our calcium intake is enough, and our vitamin D levels are within the norm. All things we can control with the diet but it’s easier to say it than to get it done. So, what are the food to eat, and what about the proteins amount?
The decline in oestrogen levels during menopause can increase women’s risk of fractures as osteoporosis risk increases as well. Dairy products, for example milk, yogurt and cheese, are a very good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and vitamins D and K, all of which are essential for bone health. In a study where nearly 750 postmenopausal women took part, those who ate more dairy and animal protein had significantly higher bone density compared to those who ate less.
Dairy may also help to improve sleep. A recent review study found that foods high in the amino acid glycine — found in milk and cheese, for example — are able to promote deeper sleep in menopausal women.
Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may benefit women going through menopause. A review study with 483 menopausal women, concluded that omega-3 supplements decreased the frequency of hot flashes and the severity of night sweats. However, in another review of 8 studies on omega-3 and menopausal symptoms, only a few studies supported the beneficial effect of the fatty acid on hot flashes. Therefore, results were still inconclusive. But, is it really something that can be detrimental? We don’t think so, therefore it is probably easier to take Omega 3 or increase its intake by eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, salmon and anchovies, and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds.
Whole grains are high in nutrients, including fibre and B vitamins, such as thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. A diet high in whole grains has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death. A study in over 11,000 postmenopausal women noted that eating 4.7 grams of whole-grain fibre per 2,000 calories average per day reduced the risk of early death by 17%, compared to eating only 1.3 grams of whole-grain fibreper 2,000 calories. Whole-grain foods include brown rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, quinoa, Khorasan wheat and rye. Check carefully the label!
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, fibre and antioxidants. For this reason, it is recommended to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Phytoestrogen can be found in vegetables. There is a lot of different opinion on phytoestrogens. They are compounds in foods that act as weak oestrogen in your body. While there has been some controversy on including these in the diet, the most recent research suggests they may benefit health — especially for women going through menopause. Foods that naturally contain phytoestrogens include soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, flax seeds, barley, grapes, berries, plums, green and black tea and many more.
The decline in oestrogen from menopause is linked to decreased muscle mass and bone strength. For this reason, women going through menopause should eat the right amount protein. Those proteins can come from animal source or not depending if you are vegan or vegetarian or if you eat also animal products. Guidelines recommend that women over 50 eat 0.45–0.55 grams of protein per pound (1–1.2 grams per kg) of body weight daily, or 20–25 grams of high-quality protein per meal. Foods high in protein include eggs, meat, fish, legumes and dairy products.
Additionally, you can add protein powders to smoothies which helps keeping you hydrated and in the same time you are getting proteins. So, after this review, I think we can conclude that we really are what we eat, and in our plate, we can find another way to deal with menopausal symptoms.
You can find specific menopause supplements that combine the important vitamins and minerals to guide menopausal bodies, like the Meno Blend, a daily vanilla flavoured supplement.