12 How much protein do we really need during menopause? | A.Vogel Talks Menopause

How much protein do we really need during menopause?

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

13 November 2017

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be discussing why protein is so important in the menopause.

Now, unfortunately, over the years, protein has been given a little bit of a bad name. We've all been told that we're taking too much protein and we should decrease it in our diet. The problem is, with all the hormonal changes going on in the menopause and all the body changes that are going on in the menopause, our protein needs tend to increase.

Why is protein so important?

Now, why is protein so important? Why do we need it? Well, every single cell in our body needs protein. It's the building block of life in a way, so we need protein to help to make new cells, and we need protein to repair damaged cells in the body as well. And if you think about it, in the menopause there are so many physical changes going on. It is vital to make sure that we get enough. All our organs, our skin, our muscles, our hair, and our nails need plenty of protein.

Many hormones are made of protein, and it's not just the sex hormones. So, we need protein for our sex hormones, but we also need protein for other hormones that help to run our digestive system, that help to run the thyroid, that help to keep our bones healthy.

So, there's a whole range of hormones that are needed to keep us going well. We need protein for our bones. Part of the structure of bones is protein, so we need that as well as plenty of calcium. We need protein to help with our red blood cells, too, and our red blood cells contain iron and help to deliver oxygen throughout the body.

We also have something in the bloodstream called plasma. It's the kind of clear liquid in the body, and plasma contains something called lipoproteins, and these help to transport and eliminate cholesterol from our bodies, which is another very important thing, especially as we tend to get a bit older.

We need protein for something called enzymes, and enzymes are very specialist compounds in the body that do specific jobs. One of the most important ones is we need lots of different enzymes to help us to break down, digest, and absorb our food, so, again, very important.

We need cholesterol to help with our nerves, and our nerves use something called neurotransmitters, and the neurotransmitters help the nerves to send messages all around the body. They're needed to help our nervous system. They're needed to help regulate our body temperature. We need these neurotransmitters. They're so very important, and they are mainly made of protein, so another area where protein is very, very vital.

Which symptoms are affected by a lack of protein?

So, all of these aspects of our health depend on us getting plenty of protein. So, in the menopause, if we're not getting enough protein, which areas is it really going to hit us?

Well, here we are in the menopause, our hormones are starting to decrease, and if we don't get enough protein, our body is going to find it difficult to make sex hormones to try and help to keep us balanced, so really important one here.

We need protein to help with our digestion. And one of the things that happens in the menopause is that our digestion is very often affected by falling oestrogen levels, so we're not breaking down, we're not absorbing our food. So, we need plenty of protein to help with digestion and for our cholesterol control, because one of the things that can happen in the menopause is that our cholesterol levels can go up, too.

How the body uses protein

Now, our body can't store protein, unlike fat, which we all know is very easily put onto the body. We can't store protein, and if our protein needs go up in the menopause, what the body is going to use it for is the most important things to help to keep us to stay alive.

So, things like our nails, our hair, and our skin are going to be denied protein, and very often one of the first indications that you are a bit low in protein is when your nails, and your hair, and your skin start to suffer.

We also need plenty of protein to build muscle, and, unfortunately, in the menopause, again, because of falling oestrogen, that can affect our muscle tone. And a lot of women say to me they feel that their muscles just feel as if they're starting to shrink, they don't work as well, so they get muscle fatigue much quicker, too. 

Where to get protein and how much do you need?

So, how are you going to get enough protein, and how much do you need? Well, the consensus is that you really need a decent-sized serving of protein at every single meal, and this is very often where the menopause diet goes wrong, because we still tend to be focused a lot on carbohydrates.

So, you're looking at about a palm-sized portion of protein that's roughly the thickness of a deck of cards. So, if you eat meat and fish, then we're looking at lean meats, good-quality meats, plenty of fish, and eggs as well. Eggs are basically a complete protein, so they're a really good addition into the diet.

If you're vegetarian, or you're vegan, then you're looking at combinations of nuts and seeds, pulses, grains. Things like tofu can be very, very a good addition to the diet. If you're vegetarian, again, you can add in eggs. Dairy products, just watch them. A small amount of dairy products can be very, very helpful for your protein needs, but don't rely on them as your main source of protein, because they are quite high in saturated fats.

If you are one of those people that maybe can't face a big breakfast in the morning, or you just think, "You know what, I don't really like a lot of meats. I'm a vegetarian or vegan, and I eat plenty of nuts and seeds and things already," if you're looking to add anything else into your diet, then these days you can get really fabulous plant-based protein powders. And you could have yourself a little protein shake once a day. Add it into one of your meals or just have it as a little snack in between meals.

Protein is so important in the menopause - just a little extra can make a big difference

So, I hope you found this helpful. Protein is so important in the menopause and just upping it a little bit on a daily basis can make a great deal of difference to your energy levels, the way your body is coping with your hormones, and also for our self-esteem and making sure that our hair, and our skin, and nails are still healthy right the way through the menopause and beyond.

So, I will look forward to seeing you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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