As an online fitness coach, I often emphasise the importance of good nutrition, especially during menopause. This life stage brings about significant physical and hormonal changes in a woman’s body. One of the most notable shifts is the decline in oestrogen levels, which can lead to a variety of symptoms and health concerns.
Why is good nutrition important for menopause?
Firstly, the decrease in oestrogen can affect heart health. Women might experience changes in their cholesterol levels and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease. This makes it essential to focus on a heart-healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Moreover, menopause is often accompanied by a loss of bone density due to reduced calcium absorption, heightening the risk of osteoporosis. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D becomes crucial to maintain bone strength and health.
Weight management is another key concern during this time. Many women experience weight gain due to a combination of hormonal changes, ageing, and lifestyle factors. As an online fitness coach, I advise a balanced diet combined with regular physical activity to help manage weight effectively.
Additionally, menopause can bring about symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and joint pain. While these symptoms are largely due to hormonal changes, a well-balanced diet can help mitigate them. Foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as soy products, can offer some relief from hot flashes. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, might help with mood stabilisation and joint health.
Achieving Nutritional Harmony with Snacks
Feeling peckish between meals is natural, but it’s important to be mindful of what you snack on. Opt for snacks that avoid exacerbating menopausal symptoms. High fat and sugary options can do more harm than good. A better choice is to combine carbohydrates with protein, or fruit with protein.
Consider trying snacks like a modest portion of cheese paired with a couple of oatcakes, an apple slice spread with peanut butter, a mix of dried fruit and unsalted nuts, or a small bread roll accompanied by a banana. These choices not only satisfy hunger but also support a balanced diet during menopause.
Protein and Its Importance
Including a diverse range of proteins in your diet is crucial, especially during menopause, as they can help keep you satiated for extended periods. Aim to integrate protein into each meal and snack whenever possible. A weekly serving of oily fish, such as salmon, trout, fresh tuna, or mackerel, is highly beneficial. When it comes to meat, opt for lean cuts and minimise the use of fats in cooking.
Eggs are an excellent and adaptable source of protein. Similarly, pulses like beans, peas, and lentils are nutritious options. Nuts can be a great addition to various meals, including salads and stir-fries, and so can tofu or Quorn. These protein-rich foods not only provide essential nutrients but also contribute to a fuller and more balanced diet.
Carbohydrates are often misunderstood and sometimes labelled negatively. It’s true that certain carbs, like those found in sugary cakes and biscuits, should be consumed in moderation. However, not all carbs are detrimental. ‘Good’ carbohydrates are essential for providing energy and fibre.
These beneficial carbs can be found in foods like potatoes, pasta, cereals, and grains. When it comes to fibre intake, it’s advisable to retain the skin on potatoes and opt for whole grain versions of pasta and cereals whenever you can. These choices ensure you get the energy and nutrients needed while maintaining a balanced diet.
Dairy, Alternatives, and Bone Health
During menopause, women may experience a decrease in strength and bone density, making it crucial to focus on nutrients essential for bone health, primarily calcium and vitamin D. It’s recommended for women to take a daily vitamin D supplement to maintain adequate levels, with 400IU or 10 micrograms being the suggested amount.
Maintaining calcium levels is achievable by incorporating three servings of dairy into your daily diet. This could be in the form of a serving of yogurt, 200ml of milk, 25g of cheese, or a dairy-based dessert like rice pudding.
For those who prefer or require dairy alternatives, there is a wide range of options available, including soya, nut, oat, and rice milks, as well as alternative yogurts. It’s important to ensure these alternatives are fortified with calcium to effectively contribute to maintaining bone health during menopause.
Fruit and Vegetables: Embracing a Colourful Diet
The key to a nutritious diet, especially during menopause, lies in the variety of your fruit and vegetable intake. Strive to include a rainbow of colours in your meals, as different colours often represent a range of vitamins and minerals. While the common guideline is to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, it’s perfectly fine, and even beneficial, to exceed this number.
Remember, it’s not just fresh fruits and vegetables that are valuable; canned or frozen options are equally nutritious and often more budget-friendly. These alternatives can be a convenient and cost-effective way to ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients essential for health during menopause.
Beverages and Hydration
Staying hydrated is crucial, and it’s important to know that hydration isn’t limited to just water. However, it’s essential to be aware that beverages like alcohol, fruit juices, and smoothies do not contribute significantly to your daily fluid intake.
On the other hand, tea, coffee, and herbal teas can be part of your hydration strategy. If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes or sleep disturbances, it’s advisable to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks to 1-2 cups per day or opt for decaffeinated varieties. This approach helps maintain hydration while managing symptoms effectively.
- Dietary Adjustments: A balanced diet is crucial. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help manage weight and reduce menopausal symptoms. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. Also, incorporating phytoestrogens found in soy products may alleviate hot flashes.
- Regular Exercise: Physical activity is vital during menopause. Not only does it help with weight management, but it also improves cardiovascular health, strengthens bones, and boosts mood. Aim for a mix of aerobic exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
- Hydration: Staying well-hydrated can ease some menopausal symptoms like dry skin and hot flashes. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day.
- Stress Management: Menopause can be a stressful time. Practices like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help manage stress and improve mental well-being.
- Adequate Sleep: Sleep disturbances are common during menopause. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, maintaining a cool and comfortable sleeping environment, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine can help improve sleep quality.
Final Thoughts From Your Online Fitness Coach
As an online fitness coach, I cannot stress enough the importance of good nutrition during
menopause. It’s not just about managing symptoms but also about preventing long-term health risks. A balanced diet tailored to the changing needs of the body during menopause can play a vital role in maintaining overall health and well-being.
To maintain a sense of fullness and satisfaction throughout the day, it’s recommended to have three meals along with two snacks, and yes, breakfast really does matter. Skipping meals can lead to overeating later or reaching for less healthy options like biscuits. It’s also beneficial to be mindful of portion sizes.
Visualise your plate divided into four equal parts: one quarter should be filled with protein, another with carbohydrates, and the remaining half with a combination of fruits, vegetables, or salad. Embracing this balanced approach to eating is not just about managing menopause symptoms; it’s about enjoying a healthier lifestyle overall. You’ll likely notice positive changes in how you feel very soon.