Let’s face it, all women go through menopause and here are some nutrition tips for when menopause hits. Menopause is when your MENstrual cycle PAUSEs—for good. It’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12-months after your last period. That happens, on average, around the age of 51.
This change doesn’t happen overnight, though. There are usually a few years of the menopausal transition, sometimes called “perimenopause.” Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when you may start feeling symptoms like:
- Weight gain—especially around the midsection
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
Once perimenopause finishes and menopause officially begins, your risks for heart disease and osteoporosis rise.
You may be thinking, “why does this even happen?” Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle.
Because your body goes through all these changes, its nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you get through the onset of menopause.
Nutrition tips for the Onset of Menopause
- Drink enough fluids
As you age, you may slowly lose your sense of thirst. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. Plus, some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses per day to help hydrate you. Ideally, that drink is water or herbal tea. Read more here about hydration.
To get a free tool to help you get more fluid each day, click here.
2. Avoid alcohol
You know that alcohol isn’t the best drink for your health—especially too much. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass, balance problems, falls, and accidents. Plus, it has nutrient-free calories that can contribute to weight gain. Check out this recipe for an awesome mocktail.
3. Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar
If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine. Here is a link to one of my favorite caffeine-free herbal teas that I get from Kroger.
When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. If the thought of cutting out all desserts doesn’t sound fair, try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts. You don’t have to completely cut them out. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables. Hot flashes, night sweats, muscle, and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers.
4. Eat smaller quantities of food
Did you know that at 50 years old you need about 200 fewer calories per day than you did during your 30s and 40s? That’s assuming you were a healthy weight and you want to maintain a healthy weight as you get older.
This means that by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s, you’ll start gaining weight. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to lose weight, try to eat about 500 calories less than what you need to maintain your weight. If you need help in figuring out how many calories you should be eating, contact me for help.
Eating less food can be really hard! Try having smaller portions and using mindful eating techniques to help you get used to it. A program that I absolutely love is the 2B Mindset from Beachbody. This program was created by a dietitian and has sound nutrition advice. If you would like to learn more about this program, click here.
Tip: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, especially if you have trouble sleeping.
5. Eat higher quality foods
Eating less food doesn’t mean you need less nutrition, though. That’s why it’s really important to eat quality foods with a lot of nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When it comes to protein for your muscles and bones, eat legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry.
A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.
Tip: Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels).
Here’s a great recipe using white beans to make a “refried bean” dip. You can serve it with vegetables like carrot chips, celery sticks, bell pepper, or endive!
What about soy and phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen—this is the hormone that your body slows down making during menopause. Soy is the best-known food containing these phytoestrogens and is often recommended for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. In addition to food sources, you can also find dietary supplements with high amounts of phytoestrogens. Some women choose to take these supplements instead of hormones.
Research shows inconsistent results when it comes to phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms. That means some studies show a small reduction in hot flashes, while others don’t.
If you’re interested in taking these phytoestrogens, speak with your healthcare professional first.
When it comes to nutrition for menopause a few simple changes can help you navigate through the onset of menopause.
Be sure to drink enough fluids, but stay away from alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat smaller quantities of higher-quality food, and have soy if you enjoy it, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any annoying menopausal symptoms.
If menopausal symptoms are bothering you, book an appointment with me to see if my program can help you.
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