Julie, our registered associate nutritionist, helps you to understand the importance of a healthy balanced diet during peri menopause and menopause.
Why is good nutrition important for menopause?
Having a balanced diet is obviously important at every stage in our lives, but during perimenopause a woman's body changes in lots of different ways, I can vouch for that! Hormones levels, oestrogen, declines and many women notice changes in cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure. This could potentially lead to a risk of heart disease. In addition, there is an increased risk of osteoporosis as calcium is lost from bones. Unfortunately, there is more…. Weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, poor concentration as well as joint pain, to name a few. All of these symptoms are mainly due to the decline in oestrogen levels. So how can we help ourselves?
What can you do to help yourself?
Well unfortunately there isn’t a magic wand, but there are many things that you an consider from a lifestyle point of view, and indeed a change in your lifestyle to include dietary changes as well as exercise can have a very positive impact on your symptoms.
Getting a good balance.
We can all get a little hungry in-between meals, but be wary about reaching for high fat, high sugar snacks as these can exasperate your symptoms! Instead base your snack on carbohydrate and protein or fruit and protein. Some good examples would include a small matchbox piece of cheese with 2 oatcakes, sliced apple with peanut butter, dried fruit with nuts (unsalted) or a small bread roll with a banana.
A good variety of protein is not only important, but tends to keep you fuller for longer, so ensure you incorporate protein into every meal and snack if you can. When choosing protein foods think about trying to include at least one portion of oily fish into your diet per week (salmon, trout, fresh tuna, mackerel). Choose cuts of meat that are lean and don’t use excessive amounts of fats during cooking. Eggs
are an amazing and versatile food as are pulses (beans, peas, lentils). Nuts can be added to a variety of dishes to include salads or stir-fries as can tofu or Quorn.
Carbs can often be confusing for many people and are seen as an enemy, and yes some of them are, such as sugary cakes and biscuits which should be limited in the diet for anyone. However, there are some ‘good’ carbs. We need these to give us energy as well as fibre, these include potatoes, pasta, cereals and grains. Talking of fibre try to leave the skin on potatoes and use whole grain varieties of pasta and cereals where possible.
Dairy and alternatives:
Women can often lose some of their strength around menopause, so it is vital to ensure you are getting the vital nutrients for bone health as well as being able to maintain bone density. The main nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D. It is advisable for women to take a vitamin D supplement daily to ensure they maintain good levels (400IU or 10 micrograms recommended).
There are many ways we can keep up our calcium levels by simply incorporating three portions of dairy per day. This could be a yoghurt, 200ml milk, 25g cheese or even a milky pudding such as rice pudding. For those choosing a dairy alternative, there are lots of products available, such as soya, nut, oat, rice milk and yoghurt. Just ensure that they are fortified with calcium.
Fruit & vegetables:
Variety is key here, try to eat a rainbow of different colours if you can as this indicates different vitamins and minerals. We are all aware of the 5 a day, but there is nothing wrong with having a few more! It isn’t just fresh fruit and vegetables that count either, it can be tinned or frozen too. These are often less expensive!!
We don’t just have to drink water to keep hydrated but bear in mind that alcohol, fruit juice and smoothies do not count towards fluid intake. However, tea, coffee, and herbal varieties do, but if you are suffering from hot flushes or difficulties sleeping try to limit your intake to 1-2 cups per day or choose decaffeinated varieties.
Other foods or supplements
Daily vitamin D supplement is recommended as stated above, and if you struggle to eat oily fish then you may want to consider taking omega 3 fish oil supplements. Just remember to ensure you buy good quality products.
Some women have found plant oestrogens, known as phytoestrogens to be useful for the frequency and severity of hot flushes. The best results have been observed in women in their 40s. To achieve the best results 2-3 portions of plant oestrogen rich food like soya would need to be consumed per day, over a 2-3-month period.
Take home message…..
To help you feel satisfied throughout the day, it is advisable to eat three meals per day along with two snacks, and yes breakfast is important! If we skip meals it often means we tend to eat more at our next meal or reach for the biscuit tin. Also, think about portion sizes too… think about your plate as having four quarters, fill one quarter with protein, another quarter with carbohydrates and the last two quarters with fruit, vegetables or salad items. Enjoy your new lifestyle, you will soon feel fabulous!
Julie is an Associate Registered Nutritionist and believes in providing a personalised approach to her clients to help them reach their health and lifestyle goals. Julie has experience working with clients on a one to one basis to support digestive disorders, weight management and women’s health, in addition, Julie is a qualified chef and lecturer, and is able to support clients with their culinary skills, education and training.
Contact us to book Julie for your nutritional needs.