Healthy eating becomes even more important during menopause, in fact diet is the first thing you should do to lose the perimenopause weight gain.
Here are some great tips to help you create a healthy diet, including foods that are must-haves — and foods to avoid!
We all want to be healthy, happy and live well as we age. Some people seem to be better able to accomplish this than others.
What is their secret?
Some of it may be in the genes. But, healthy eating plans always play a role in a person’s ability to remain active and enjoy their mature years.
Here are some foods that should be on your must-have list, to ensure you have the nutrients you need to manage your menopausal symptoms.
Healthy Foods that help with Menopause
- Tuna: It is one of the best sources of protein, and protein is good for maintaining muscle mass, particularly as we get older.
- Cold Water Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, halibut, or white tuna can help keep your joints strong. Each serving contains more than 1,000 milligrams of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.
- Nuts: Walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E. It’s an antioxidant that bolsters your immune system. They also contain B vitamins and amino acids. Keep a handful of nuts per day as part of your healthy eating plans.
- Milk: Two 8 oz. glasses of low fat (vitamin D fortified) milk provide 581 milligrams of calcium and 5 micrograms of vitamin D. Both of these nutrients help maintain strong bones. An added bonus food that will also help in the strong skeleton department is broccoli, so be sure to eat your greens!
- Kale, collard greens, spinach, and turnip greens:Yes, more greens! They all contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that act like chemical sunglasses–they help protect your eyes from the UV rays that can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration. Include a little bit of olive oil with your greens to help your body better absorb the antioxidants.
- Sweet Potatoes: Two of these tasty taters per week gives you plenty of beta-carotene, and that can help lower your risk of skin cancer. Other sources of this nutrient include carrots and cantaloupe.
- Beef: It’s the perfect muscle food because it’s packed with protein and creatine–both build muscle, which basically acts like bubble wrap around tendons and joints.
- Ground Flaxseed: This easy to eat mixture contains alpha-linolenic acid, which is said to improve the operation of the cerebral cortex. What can that do for you? It processes sensory information, including pleasure signals, so it can help you feel good about yourself and less prone to depression. Sprinkle flaxseed on cereal, salad and vegetables as part of your healthy eating plans. Added bonus: it is a great source of fiber, too.
- Beans and Legumes: These nifty little foods are rich in antioxidants and help your body deal with the free radicals, skin-damaging molecules caused by sun exposure and pollution. It can help preserve your skin from wrinkles and sun-related damage. (No, it doesn’t mean you can live in the sun, eat some beans, and not fear any damage or health problems!)
- Cheese: This low sugar, high protein snack will help keep you feeling satisfied and less likely to binge. A slice of swiss, provolone or cheddar cheese once a day provides up to 11 grams of protein per serving and almost no sugar. Other good choices are a handful of almonds, low fat plain Greek yogurt or a stick of beef jerky.
Foods to Avoid
- Avoid sugars as much as possible while your body goes through menopausal changes. Excess sugar found in table sugar as well as simple carbohydrates like bread and pasta, are the reason many women become obese during menopause.
- Salt can be a good thing or a bad thing. Quality salts like celtic salt or Himalayan salt can be good for the body. Yet excess salt, especially the kind found in the table salt most women buy, is very high in sodium. Studies have found reducing sodium corresponds with healthier women during this time.
- Alcohol and Caffeine can contribute to the “hot flashes” you may experience as symptoms of the changes your body is making. Try cutting out alcohol and caffeine completely for a time to see if the hot flashes continue, many women report that they completely disappear when alcohol and caffeine are taken out of the diet.
Menopause Diet Plan: Natural Foods
Most importantly what we have found works best for dealing with the symptoms present at this time in your life, is following a diet plan full of natural healthy foods.
Organic food is a plus, yet of course we understand that buying everything organic can be expensive. So start by focusing on eating natural foods and choose organic options, or buy at farmers’ markets as often as possible.
Overall however, it’s about eating foods full of fiber like apples, banana’s and most fruits and vegetables. Drinking lots of water. While maintaining a good level of physical activity.
And remember: It’s not a matter of a diet that starts at one point and ends at another. It is a way of life.
Here are some of the basics about menopause and why your body is doing what it’s doing at this point in your life:
- Since your body no longer requires the energy to support the reproductive system and all that it entails, the total number of calories taken in each day needs to be reduced in order to avoid weight gain.
- Estrogen is depleted at this time in your life, yet it is a primary component for the absorption of calcium. So, an increased quantity of dietary calcium is needed to compensate for the decreased absorption rate and to prevent bone loss.
- It has been shown that there is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis.
Simply put, women in the “Menopause Club” need to re-think how they eat, what they eat, and give serious consideration to vitamin supplements to help replenish what their bodies have lost.
Is it even possible to lose weight during menopause? Sure, it’s possible. How about that expanding middle? (this one drives me nuts!) Can a postmenopausal women lose belly fat? It can be done and the rules to follow are essentially the same as with any healthy adult.
Here are some good eating tips for Menopause
This is how should we plan our meals and supplement our diets…
- Watch our calorie intake, including portions and food selection (more about that below).
- Choose foods with a high fiber content. Fiber helps regulate your insulin, and generally keeps your intestinal system in working order. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes to boost your fiber intake. The goal is to have 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables in your daily diet.
- Reduce high-fat foods. Fat should provide 30% or less of your total calorie intake for the day. Saturated fat should be limited to less than 10% of the total daily calories because it raises blood cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream and cheese.
- Drink plenty of water. I almost always have a bottle, glass or container of water in my hand. Eight, 8 oz. classes of water per day are recommended. No, soda pop doesn’t count.
- Moderate use of sugar and salt. READ the labels of the food you are purchasing. Sodium content has been a real eye-opener for me. And, high fructose corn syrup counts as part of your daily sugar intake.
- Be wise with your alcohol consumption, and be mindful of the calories, sugar and other ingredients you are consuming with each drink.
- Calcium is critically important to our bodies and needs to be a daily part of our menopause diet plan. Calcium helps your body maintain weight, and is essential for strong bones. Get about 1200 mg. a day if you are a women over the age of 50. Calcium is found in dairy products, clams, sardines, broccoli and legumes.
- Don’t forget the Vitamin D, recommended at 10mg/day for women aged 51-69 and 15mg/day for women aged 70+. Vitamin D is present in fortified milk and cereals, salmon, cod liver oil, and other foods.
- Magnesium, Vitamin C, Phosphorous and Zinc are all needed in our daily diets as well, so consider a health supplement to make sure you are getting what you need every day.
Of course this is part of the overall lifestyle plan. The other critical component is following a good exercise plan designed for women.
Dedicate yourself to these two things every day — diet & exercise — and you will be on the road to a healthy lifestyle that will make your body happy and bring a smile to your face.
How about the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet has been a way of life for people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea for hundreds of years. It’s a very healthy eating plan and something you can definitely try while on Menopause.
It’s not a diet, but a way of life.
Find out more about this healthy eating plan and how it can benefit your overall health.
If you enjoy eating fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, flavoring your food with herbs and olive oil instead of salt and perhaps a glass of wine with a meal…keep reading!
Research has shown that the Mediterranean food plan can make a difference in your risk of heart disease, and may also reduce the incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
The health benefits plus the flavorful, fresh food selections are attracting many people to this lifestyle eating plan.
What specifically does the Mediterranean eating plan consist of?
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, always
- Fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Using olive oil and canola oil instead of butter and margarine
- Limited intake of red meat – a couple of times per month
- Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Use of fresh herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Optionally, wine in moderation
Other important aspects of the Mediterranean plan include:
- Plenty of exercise
- Moderately sized portions of food. If it tastes really, really flavorful and satisfying, you don’t need to overeat. And healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, which are staples of the Mediterranean diet, keep you feeling fuller longer than diets that restrict fat or forbid it altogether.
- Avoiding processed/packaged food and seeking out locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Minimal amounts of eggs and dairy. You might want to talk to your family doctor about a calcium supplement.
- Limited sugar and desserts.
If you determine that the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating plan that will fit your lifestyle, you might also be benefiting your overall health in the process. Not a bad idea, is it!
Keeping Your Heart Healthy During Menopause
As heart.org says “Heart disease risk rises for everyone as they age, but for women symptoms can become more evident after the onset of menopause.”
Many women choose a diet that can keep their heart healthy as can be so that they do not have problems like cardiovascular diseases as they age.
If that sounds like you, then try this diet!
A healthy heart diet can literally add years to your life, help you to feel better and look better.
As we get older and face the changes that our bodies go through, maintaining a nutritious diet and eating plan will have a variety of benefits.
Before we talk about a healthy heart diet, please remember that what you eat goes hand in hand with the physical activity you participate in as well as the volume of food that you consume.
It’s one thing to read a list of foods and decide that if you include them here and there you’ll be fine…it is another to put the time and effort into a healthy lifestyle.
Taking care of your body, inside and out, is an ongoing process, and eating well is one critical part of that process.
All that said, what types of foods will benefit you and help keep your heart strong and healthy?
- Lean cuts of meat with skin and all visible fat removed
- Fish, at least twice a week., including tuna, salmon, sardines…cold water fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids..Recent research shows that eating oily fish c) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.
- Moderation in the use of fats, and when you do consume them, choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Translation: olive and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, flax seed, soy and fatty fish
- Selecting foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fat. Translation: avoid fatty meats and cheeses, desserts, butter, lard, fried foods, tropical oils and partially hydrogenated fats.
- Dairy products that are nonfat or 1% fat, including milk, yogurt, cheese
- Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. You’ll get vitamins, minerals and add fiber to your heart healthy diet, without all of the calories.
- Grains…at least half of your grains should be whole grains, such as whole wheat, whole oats, oatmeal, whole-grain corn, brown rice, wild rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, and sorghum. Whole grain foods will also help you feel full and hopefully avoid overeating.
If you make a concerted effort to eat the foods on the healthy heart diet list, you’ll naturally minimize the foods listed below, which is an important part of the plan:
- Saturated fat – found in fatty cuts of meat, whole milk, butter, regular mayonnaise, ice cream and more
- Trans fat – foods such as processed cookies, crackers, potato chips, etc.
- Cholesterol – can be found in whole milk, ice cream, liver, pork and more
- Sodium – otherwise known as salt
- Added sugars – they go by a number of different names…corn syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, honey, molasses, raw sugar, invert sugar, malt syrup, syrup, caramel, and fruit juice concentrates
There are many diet plans to follow while going through Menopause yet the right one for you is dependent on many personal factors. While most women simply choose foods that are healthy for the body, such as found in the healthy foods list at the top of this page, many more opt for the Mediterranean diet or the Heart Healthy diet, instead.
The Mediterranean diet works for Menopause “We found that the Mediterranean diet could be a useful non-medical strategy for the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures in post-menopausal women” a recent study found.
And the Heart Healthy diet is a good one for women who are concerned about their cardiovascular and heart health as they age.
Choose the right diet for you and always consult your doctor before making these lifestyle choices.