Menopause marks a major milestone in a woman’s life. It is also a time when one should focus on healthy eating habits to help promote good health in the new phase of life. At this stage, your body starts losing muscle mass and, if not careful, start building up body fats. For this reason (and more), health experts recommend going the extra step to maintain the ideal body weight and healthy fitness levels to prevent immediate symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, brittle bones, and the risk of heart conditions.
As mentioned before, your body starts to burn muscle mass while using as few calories as possible during the day, translating to weight gain as you age. This may start in your mid-30s but progress as you slide past 40 years. At this point, you will start noticing an increase in your waistline.
Taking on light exercises, such as squats, resistance training, and calf raises, alongside circuit weights at the gym, can help control the accumulation of fats around your waist area. Menopause doctors also recommend watching your diet and exercising twice weekly to stay in shape.
One way to manage weight gain is to take smaller portions of starchy foods or replace them with more fresh veggies, lean meats, and salads. Cakes, ice creams, and puddings aren’t your friend now. Consider low-fat dairy desserts or fresh fruit juice for your treats. Here are a few tips for proper nutrition during menopause.
1. Take Regular Meals
Although you might be used to skipping some meals, especially lunch or breakfast, it would be advisable to create time to eat regular meals. Regular meals give your body a fighting chance and provide relief for common symptoms, including fatigue and mood swings. Plan ahead and at least make healthy snacks to take between main meals. Avoid the temptation of eating the first thing that comes to sight in the fridge.
Prepare interesting salads you’d want or yearn to have, such as a bowl of chopped fruit with yogurt toppings, small tubs of cottage cheese, or some veg sticks. Have this close-by to eat whenever your energy levels seem low. Don’t however graze on everything in the fridge, but rather have portions of the salads.
Remember to do some resistance training a few times a week to burn any extra fats and calories.
2. Go For Fiber-Rich Foods For Improved Digestive Health
The fluctuating hormones can significantly affect your digestive health, sometimes causing bloating, sluggish digestion, and constipation. Your stomach might also become sensitive to foods you were once OK with as well. Adding fiber-rich foods to your diet plan, however, helps manage and improve digestive health quite well. Drinking lots of water after and between meals would also be advisable.
According to health experts, insoluble dietary fiber promotes the movement of food materials in the digestive system, thus reducing the risk of constipation and bloating.
Always look for food with high-fiber content, such as whole foods, vegetables, fresh fruits, beans, oatmeal, pulses, and French beans, for improved digestive health. Check the nutrition label for high fiber when shopping for packaged foods. Stick to foods with at least 3g/100g fiber content.
3. Boost Your Intake Of Calcium And Vitamin D
Your body loses more calcium during menopause than at any other stage in life. Calcium is one of the crucial minerals required for strong bones, among other body functions. With the increased rate of calcium dumping (due to lower estrogen levels), the risk of suffering calcium deficiency and conditions related to the same (e.g., osteoporosis) is quite high.
Make an effort to supplement your calcium intake. One of the best ways to do this would be to include foods rich in calcium in your diet plan. Low-fat dairy products, calcium-fortified plant alternatives, cereal, yogurt, cheese, and root tubers are some of the best sources of calcium. Basking in the morning and evening sun can also help naturally boost the manufacture of Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements (10mcg per day) would come in handy too.
4. Increase Your Omega-3s Intake
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in maintaining good cell health, reducing triglycerides, and improving heart health. While essential, the human body cannot manufacture these fatty acids but gets them from the foods we eat. However, the body’s ability to process these fatty acids declines as we age, a reason health experts recommend adding more foods rich in the same.
Aside from heart health, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve mood in women. Although fish oil supplements may help improve your omega-3 intake, adding oily fish (mackerel, tuna, sardines) to your diet plan can provide the body with the recommended daily intake.
5. Take Advantage Of Plant Estrogens
Phytoestrogen (or plant estrogens) are almost similar to estrogen produced by the human body and do come in handy in relieving most symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, etc. Most women in their menopause have very low estrogen levels, a reason they are easily irritated and moody.
While the body might be unable to produce enough estrogen in menopause, eating phytoestrogens can help relieve many of these symptoms.
You’d need to include these plants in your diet plan every day for your estrogen to build up. According to research, it would take at least 2 weeks before the plant-based estrogen can take effect. It is also worth noting that the impact of plant estrogen will differ from one person to the other. Calcium-enriched yogurt, linseed bread, soya, and edamame beans are some of the best sources of phytoestrogens.
6. Drink Lots Of Water
Dehydration is the very last thing you want to deal with in menopause. It is known to cause or even worsen, among other symptoms, fatigue, and headaches. Not drinking enough water will also contribute to a decline in estrogen levels, leading to thinner skin due to collagen loss. Skin dryness and visible aging signs will thus be imminent.
Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated can help overcome some of these signs and symptoms. Dark urine is usually the first indicator you are dehydrated and a cue to grab that glass of water.
7. Avoid Foods That Trigger Hot Flashes
Some foods, including alcohol, hot drinks, curries, and spicy foods, may trigger hot flashes in some women. Take note of foods that worsen your condition, and avoid them altogether. External sources of heat and strong emotions might also trigger flushes. Look for a way to fight these hot flashes and if possible, dress in layers.
8. Eat At Least 5 Fruits/Veggies Every Day
Health experts recommend having at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day. These are an excellent source of essential vitamins, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, crucial for good health and managing menopause. Create portions of fruits to have during the day. A portion of the fruits should contain a whole apple, banana, mango slice, pineapple, cooked vegetables, a bowl of vegetable soup, and plums.
9. Manage Your Cholesterol Levels
The drop in blood estrogen levels can cause a rise in bad cholesterol levels. This puts you at a greater risk of heart conditions, including high blood pressure. It would therefore be advisable to get a cholesterol test and cut back on foods known to contain saturated fats. Some of the foods you want to avoid include fatty meats, pastry, biscuits, cakes, and saturated fats.
For the best results, switch to healthier fats (sunflower, peanut, or olive oils). Low-fat dairy and fish are recommended too. Be sure to fill your plate with foods rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins.