What is the menopause diet?
Women lose energy with age and their metabolism slows down. Fluid retention, increased body fat, osteoporosis and hypothyroidism are also common. A woman's metabolism tends to slow down from the age of 35-40. The body saves more energy or calories and uses less energy to carry out metabolic functions.
When metabolism slows down, fat tends to accumulate around the waist and hips. Age and lack of physical exercise aggravate the problem. So too does the decrease in sex hormones, as the lack of oestrogen makes the body less efficient at burning fat. An increase in body fat is associated with higher blood cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
A menopause diet helps to reduce symptoms of the menopause.
What does it consist of?
The menopause diet should follow certain guidelines to help control symptoms:
Bone density decreases with the menopause, so calcium to keep the bones strong is important in the diet, along with vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium so it can be used by the body.
- Calcium can be found in dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and soya, some nuts and seeds like sesame seeds and almonds, fish such as oysters and sardines and some leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale.
- Vitamin D which helps the absorption of Calcium can be absorbed from the sun, oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, liver, egg yolks, red meat and products with added vitamin D, like some breakfast cereals.
- Phosphorus and magnesium play a role in maintaining bone density. Sources of phosphorus include protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and dairy. Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
Some women tend to suffer anaemia during the menopause, so it’s important to replenish iron levels. There are a number of foods that have a high iron content: shellfish, sardines, red meat, liver, legumes, and whole grains.
- Spicy foods should be avoided as they can worsen mood swings and hot flushes. Your nutritional specialist might recommend supplements such as evening primrose oil and vitamin E to help reduce hot flushes and night sweats.
- Vitamin B6 rich foods such as potatoes, bananas, meat and walnuts can help tackle water retention.
Other healthy eating habits that should be followed by everyone and to avoid weight gain during the menopause include:
- A high protein, low carb breakfast in the mornings. High sugar juice drinks are not recommended because they can cause energy drops and hunger soon after breakfast. This can cause bad snacking habits and increase the risk of further weight gain.
- When eating starchy foods, opt for whole grain, instead of white and refined, as they will have more fibre to aid digestion and provide a slow release of energy, to keep you fuller for longer. Your plate should not have too many starchy foods as this can increase the glycaemic load on the plate and promote the release of large amounts of insulin. This can cause more fat to accumulate in the body.
- Reduce salt intake, as too much salt, can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Reduce your consumption of saturated fat and increase the consumption of healthy fats, like that from avocado, olive oil and use unsaturated spreads. Olive oil also contains vitamin E which promotes the production of oestrogen.
- Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Apricots are a good source of Calcium for bone health and potassium that can reduce fluid retention and lower blood pressure.
- Eating fibre rich foods aids digestion and controls cholesterol. These include; whole grains, vegetables and legumes.
- Avoiding stimulants such as coffee, tea, yerba mate and Coca-Cola is a good idea as these promote insulin production and the storage of body fat. It is recommended to combine these with fibre-rich foods and take them in decaffeinated form the rest of the day.
Preparing for the menopause diet
When preparing for a menopause diet you should always follow the guidelines of a nutrition and diet specialist as well as an endocrinology specialist. Depending on the individual, they will recommend specific healthy habits (diet and exercise) that need to be followed before, during and after the diet.
You will need to correctly maintain the diet, following the instructions of the nutritional specialist. Adhering to the guidelines will help you avoid future illness or disease due to the slowing down of the body, as well as improve menopausal symptoms.