Most women do not get the proper nutrients during the menopause transition and beyond. This life transition demands attention because our risk of disease increases due to aging and hormone changes.
· Osteoporosis affects 1 in 3 women over the age of 50.
· Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. Heart disease is the number one killer of women.
Toss in menopausal symptoms and the change of life can become a nightmare.
Many suffer from hot flashes, weight gain, night sweats, sleep disturbances, forgetfulness, itchy skin, and mood changes. Blame it on changing hormones and the natural aging process.
It is important to manage your health during this time since high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance can be an outcome of weight gain and poor lifestyle habits.
Nutrition and menopause:
· A plant-based diet is associated with fewer hot flashes.
· We need protein at each meal to stimulate muscle-protein synthesis as we lose muscle mass. New research has revealed that changes at the cellular level cause menopausal women to store more fat with a diminished ability to burn fat. Excellent plant-based protein food sources are: Quinoa, lentils, tempeh, black beans, hemp seeds, edamame, tofu, and peanut butter. Eggs, chicken, turkey breast, salmon, are non-plant protein choices.
· Risk of osteoporosis increases: One out of two women do not consume enough calcium. Calcium absorption is generally 50% below the adolescent peak rate, usually due to less time in the sun, less consumed in diet, and less uptake in the gut. The recommended daily intake of calcium after menopause varies between 700 and 1,200 mg, depending on the endorsing society. It is always best to get your calcium from foods. Women should take no more than 500-600 mg of calcium per meal since more than that the body doesn’t utilize. Enjoy calcium-rich foods like yogurt, cottage cheese, almond milk, sunflower seeds, green beans, baby carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, almonds, sesame seeds, and edamame.
· You need vitamin D to absorb calcium. Deficiency in Vitamin D can also increase your risk of type 2 Diabetes, cancer, as well as autoimmune conditions, and depression. Vitamin D supplements are one option to ensure you are getting your daily dose, but salmon, canned tuna, shrimp, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified foods like milks, as well as cereal and oatmeal are excellent food sources.
· Heart health needs attention: managing your cholesterol, triglyceride levels and blood pressure are paramount during menopause. Omega-3s that can reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Atlantic mackerel, salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, tuna, white fish, hemp seeds are all excellent sources of Omega-3s. Good food sources of potassium are: avocado, spinach, sweet potato, salmon, coconut water, and bananas.
· Declining strength and muscle function. Emerging evidence suggests that vitamin B12 ( cottage cheese, eggs, salmon, sardines) and folic acid (beans, citrus fruits, leafy greens, breads and rice) play a role in improving muscle function and strength that declines during the menopause transition.
· Metabolism slows down: Deficiencies in folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 are required to metabolize efficiently. Eating a small high-protein snack or meal every 3 to 4 hours can help boost your metabolism
· Emotional changes during menopause demand vitamin C, B vitamins and omega-3s for the nervous system. Chia seeds are loaded with healthy omega-3s.
· Probiotics can help with hormone fluctuations, and your gut microbiota changes with age with a decline in the number and variety of protective microbes. Yogurt is an outstanding source of probiotics. Enjoy a bowl in the morning topped with berries and nuts.
· As hormones fluctuate, so does brain chemistry, including serotonin levels – your feel good hormone. Healthy carbs and protein can help restore balance. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, and you can find it in foods like: eggs, cheese, tofu, salmon, turkey, nuts and seeds.
· Mood swings: B vitamins from foods like chickpeas, chicken breast, salmon, Swiss cheese can provide energy and regulate mood swings while protein helps stabilize blood sugar.
· Eyes and skin: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that is associated with reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin E may help prevent dry skin. Almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes and wheat germ are high in vitamin E.
· Bones and mood: Magnesium is involved in bone development and regulating mood and muscle relaxation. Spinach, Swiss chard and dark chocolate are loaded with magnesium.
· Zinc is important for strengthening the immune system, building strong bones and healing wounds. Pumpkin seeds have 6.6 mg of zinc in one cup.
· Iron: You don’t need as much iron because you are not menstruating anymore or less.
· Vitamin A and C are essential nutrients that often get depleted during menopause. Guava is high in vitamin C, as well as kiwi, green peppers, oranges, strawberries and kale. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and romaine lettuce.
Women have very different life stages than men and each has unique nutritional needs. Modifying your nutrition during the menopause transition can help ease your journey and manage weight.
Eat like a woman for every life stage!