Nutrition and the Menopause…oh yes it makes a difference!

Nutrition, oh my what a topic… everyone has their own views on what to eat, how much to eat, some swear by dieting, others have rigid ideas, not open to changing their diets, stuck in a rut…read on with helpful advice on how to get yourself healthier, which will not only help your menopausal symptoms but give you a better quality of life now and long term

When you start to go through the perimenopause your body is changing on all fronts. Hormones fluctuating all over the place, your metabolic rate will be changing — many women I see complain they are still eating exactly the same foods they always have done, do even more exercise, yet still manage to put weight on…

My advice — nudge your diet and your exercise gently everyday in different directions. Don’t go on drastic diets and don’t dramatically change what you eat. Whatever you do has to be sustainable and for the long haul!

Bottom line is that a good nutritious, balanced diet can help alleviate and prevent certain symptoms either during perimenopause or in post menopause years. There isn’t a menopause diet as such just simply eat a healthy balanced diet accompanied with a healthy lifestyle. Below are a few simple hints on how to help you to achieve this.

  • Focus on nutrients rather than calorie counting
  • Don’t skip meals, it makes it harder to achieve your nutritional requirements or to maintain a healthy weight
  • Little and often is ideal — keep that metabolic rate ticking over
  • Have healthy snacks to hand like almonds, dried fruit such as apricots, apples, carrot sticks & peppers are always good to munch on
  • Really notice what you are putting into your body, the more variety the better
  • Eat fresh rather than processed
  • Nuts, seeds ( e.g. flaxseed), green vegetables e.g. spinach, kale, green beans are essential
  • Vary your fruit and veg don’t stick to the same one or two varieties — try and introduce something new you haven’t tried before every week 
  • Reduce caffeine intake and if possible go for decaffeinated 
  • Reduce alcohol intake — really look at how much you drink every week and seriously don’t binge drink! I’m not telling anyone to stop having the odd G&T just be more aware of what your intake is. Excessive alcohol and obesity are connected to a lot of long term illnesses and cancers why not try to prevent those by simply moderating your intake…its a no brainer really
  • Hydrate — most folk don’t drink enough water, aim for 8 glasses a day …ok 2 litres so if like me you have bigger glasses then 5 glasses!
  • Try to massively reduce sugar intake and refined carbohydrate intake, but don’t be completely grim, give yourself a tiny treat every day — have something like a bite sized piece of dark chocolate ( 70-75% cocoa) instead of a morning pastry or fruit scone in the afternoon. Oh yes been there done that and know the pitfalls !
  • Healthy fats are essential as are complex carbs like whole grain foods, oatmeal, beans, peas. You need all these for energy. 
  • Fats — you want to eat the unsaturated fats (oils, nuts, oily fish), not saturated (butter, cream, lard, fatty cuts of meat) and avoid trans fats at all costs – they have no nutritional value and are harmful to health, you can find them in some processed foods – manufacturers have been told to phase them out so hopefully not too many foods about with them in now but do check labels.
  • Have a look at your cooking methods..steaming is better than frying, (helps retain vitamins and minerals.) try poaching instead of frying eggs, grill rather than fry, do stir fry rather than using sauces all the time.

So you’re probably thinking, how on earth do you expect me to achieve all of the above when I work full time, come home to  kids running around wanting there tea in 5 secs flat and I never have enough time or energy!

Ok… first of all get organised, plan your meals in advance and write a shopping list — definitely worth the effort of staying up late one night to do a bit of planning so when you go shopping you don’t get tempted to revert back to that rut or sneak off towards the pastries! I guarantee if you eat a healthy diet, your body will love you for it, you will start to feel more alert, less sluggish and will definitely have more energy.

Ok what do you really need in your diet to help your menopause symptoms…

It’s very important to think about the potential long term symptoms so think about your cardiovascular system — healthy heart — and think about your bone health. Oestrogen plays a big part in cardiovascular and bone health so when those hormones start to fluctuate all sorts of things are going on.

For bone health and to help prevent osteoporosis make sure you are getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D

Foods you should include in your diet 

  • Oily fish ( salmon and sardines)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products like milk (please don’t drink that rubbish red topped stuff!) and yogurts — natural ones are the best without additives and sugar, add fresh fruit if you need a flavour! Cheese.
  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach
  • Nuts, seeds, dried fruit are all good sources

To help maintain a healthy heart

  • Cut down on the saturated fats, replacing with unsaturated fats so for example swop the butter for the olive oil and have natural yoghurt instead of cream.
  • Try and incorporate oily fish into your diet at least twice a week – sardines, salmon and mackerel are all good sources.
  • Make sure you are getting lots of fibre – think wholegrain, pulses like lentils and beans, plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Calm down on the salt intake – ideal is less than 6g per day.
  • Try and stick to lean cuts of meat

A few different ingredients to think about including in your diet …

For your immune system : tumeric and garlic, turmeric also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

For digestion : ginger

To help reduce inflammation and to aid muscle recovery : beetroot ( it is also said to help with dementia, but more research needed )

Remember if you’re mixing a smoothie always pop in some spinach : great for iron, protein, fibre, calcium and vitamin A

 

Supplements

Always use with caution, read labels and a good guide is to use the ones which have the THR logo ( Traditional herbal registration)

Remember diet first then supplements…the only one out of that argument being Vitamin D as on average we don’t really get enough from sunlight these days .. read previous blog post

Magnesium : 300mg ( if on CV medication check before taking). Magnesium is the fourth most common mineral essential for healthy cardiovascular, skeletal & nervous systems. Helps with moods. Essential for healthy hair & nails and aids a good nights sleep.

Found in : nuts, seeds, dried fruit, leafy vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, 70-75% cocoa/chocolate, avocados

Vitamin B group : helps release energy from food, good for the nervous system, healthy skin, the cardiovascular system (particularly red blood cells)

Iron :  especially important if you are experiencing heavy bleeding, make sure you aren’t anaemic for a start, but also incorporate foods which are rich in iron as part of your weekly diet such as spinach, lean red meat and eggs


Summary

Eat a healthy, varied, balanced diet

Exercise regularly

Keep hydrated

It’s a no brainer just takes a bit of effort!