Generally speaking, nutrition is important – no matter how old you are. But women going through the menopause need to be particularly careful about what they eat and drink. As discussed previously in our other articles on the topic of ‘menopause’, women experience enormous hormonal changes during this time, which can also affect their metabolism and therefore their weight. So what should women look out for when it comes to their menopause diet? pjur med takes a closer look.
The problem of weight gain during the menopause
Even younger women notice over time that their metabolism doesn’t work in the same way as when they were in their twenties. You put on the odd kilo here and there, and that hearty meal from the day before stares back at you when you step on the scales. It becomes even more pronounced during the menopause. In this phase of their lives, women often feel like they are constantly putting on weight even though they aren’t eating more. And they’re not imagining it either. During the menopause, the composition of the female body changes. Women lose calorie-burning muscle mass. Their metabolism slows and they suddenly find they can’t eat as much as they used to without putting on weight. A woman’s body shape also changes during the female menopause – weight is gained around the waist and stomach, and the bottom loses its shape and becomes flatter. The female body shape then more closely resembles the male body shape, which is due to a reduction in levels of the hormone oestrogen and the male sex hormones then becoming dominant.
Women who pay attention to their menopause diet and are active regularly should be able to stay at the same weight they were before. Even so, they will still have to accept the changes to their body. It also becomes even more difficult to lose weight at this time, as the older you get the more likely your body is to hold on to its current weight. Nevertheless, there are a few tips women can follow to get through the menopause and feel comfortable with their own body.
Points for women to watch out for in their menopause diet
A woman’s menopause diet should be built around foods which have both a high nutrient density and low calorie content. These include pulses, salad, vegetables, fruit and wholemeal products. It can also be a good idea to eat only low-fat dairy products and lean meat. As a rule of thumb, women should avoid eating heavily processed foods during the menopause. A ready meal, for example, is very heavily processed – and as a result usually low in nutrients and high in calories, both of which are qualities best avoided in food.
Since oestrogen plays a role in bone development too, it is also important to eat the right foods during the female menopause not just for weight control but to strengthen your bones. Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D should therefore be a core part of any menopause diet. The following foods are particularly good sources:
- Dairy products
There is also a link between cholesterol and oestrogen. During the female menopause, this can have a negative impact on a woman’s cardiovascular system. The lack of oestrogen means there is more bad cholesterol in the body than good cholesterol. Menopausal women should therefore be particularly conscious of dietary fats when they are cooking. Whatever happens, they should ensure they only use high-quality vegetable oils since they contain lots of essential fatty acids, which makes them ideal. Rapeseed oil is a good example, as are olive oil and linseed oil. Fish should also feature on the menu twice a week. Salmon contains lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, for example.
It is often recommended that women eat soya during the menopause. Soya contains plant-based oestrogens which, absorbed from food, are said to act a little like the human hormone. According to one study, two portions of soya each day is even said to be able to alleviate hot flushes. Soya preparations should not be used for this purpose, however.
In addition to soya, garlic is also recommended for women during the menopause as the bulb is said to be able to help combat insomnia, hot flushes, dry skin and depressive moods, making it another food that should be an important part in any nutrition plan.
Plenty of exercise
A healthy menopause diet does little to help if it isn’t accompanied by exercise. Physical activity not only helps you maintain your figure but it also helps combat stress. Exercise helps clear the mind – which is important since many women suffer not just from the stresses of everyday life but also from hot flushes, mood swings and a myriad of other symptoms of the menopause. If you decide to take up some form of endurance sport, this can also help boost the cardiovascular system and therefore protect against heart disease. What’s more, physical activity is also important for the brain as staying active can keep the brain fit, too. The fact that the drop in oestrogen levels has a negative impact on a woman’s bones is something we’ve already mentioned, along with information about products containing high levels of calcium and vitamin D. Physical activity is also beneficial for a woman’s bones and can strengthen the bone structure.
There’s a lot to be said for getting regular exercise, then, and whether its swimming, cycling, Nordic walking or working out at the gym – women should do what they enjoy. Think about making a date to do it with a group of women. This will leave no room for excuses!
Healthy eating and exercise is something that should be important to women – and not just because of the possibility of gaining weight during the female menopause. The points discussed can also be helpful generally, enabling women to make it through the menopause in good shape and even to some extent alleviating the other symptoms of the menopause.