Menopause and your increased nutritional needs

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

02 January 2023

Today's Topic

I often talk about your nutritional needs going sky-high during perimenopause and menopause. So, this week, I'm joined by my friend and A.Vogel's nutritional practitioner, Ali, and we are going to have a little chat about why your nutritional needs increase during menopause, the nutrients you need more at this time, and really simple ways to increase them through your diet and your supplements.

(Please note the following is a transcript of our chat from the above video):

What causes your nutritional needs to increase?

Ali: It's really noticeable that, as your body is starting to have to put more energy into balancing out your hormones, then the need for extra nutrients really shows up. And if you can take care of this need, then you're going to have a much easier time.

So, I think, probably because we can't see what's going on inside us, we underestimate the effort, the energy that's required to balance out our hormones when they're starting to jiggle around, especially during perimenopause. If we don't take care of those increased needs, then we're really going to notice it. But also, it's midlife! You know, midlife women are all very busy. It's noticeable.

Eileen: Absolutely. We get a lot of women who are maybe working during the week. They've maybe got teenage children. They're looking after elderly parents or other relatives. So, they're basically not having a minute to themselves, and that includes preparing meals and eating properly.

Ali: It's often the case that what is going to be sacrificed is looking after their own meal content, making sure they're properly nourished.

Important nutrients during menopause and how to increase them

Ali: So, there are things that you can focus on, that you will really benefit from getting enough of. And one interesting thing that we definitely find is impactful is making sure you get enough protein.

This is something that, if you've not been into lots of exercise or body building, you may not have really focused on previously; but, making sure you get a little, good quality protein with each meal is going to make a big difference. And you will find that you are less hungry and less likely to be craving for sugar and you will have more energy. And, there are really easy ways to do this.

Eileen: Yes, I find, for me, personally, if I have a plate of breakfast cereal, I'm starving by ten o'clock. So, for me, just doing a simple omelette for breakfast during the week makes all the difference. And I know for some people who may be vegetarian or vegan and don't want things like eggs or meat, then having a really good, plant-based protein powder can make all the difference.

Ali: But also, little tricks like making sure that you have a few nuts, things like cashew nuts or hazelnuts, or almonds are very good. You can just sprinkle a few into porridge or cereal, if you really like your cereal, or if you're having toast, then you can use nut butter and maybe a few seeds - pumpkin seeds and some sunflower seeds.

Eileen: I sprinkle some on my salads. And again, that's just giving you just a little bit of extra nutrition there too. And I think one of our favourites, a treat if you just fancy a little bit of a sweet treat, is the Medjool dates.

Ali: Medjool dates with a little nut butter... You take out the stone and you put a little nut butter into that little gap in the middle, then that gives you protein. It gives you all the good nutrients that are in dates, such as magnesium, which is a very important nutrient we'll come to in a second, and B vitamins as well.

So those nutrients are really helping to calm your nervous system, sustain your nervous system, and the snack tastes sweet and delicious but it's not sugary, so it's not going to push up your blood sugar levels and then crash them. It's very satisfying but also sustaining.

So, magnesium, we've talked about magnesium.

Eileen: Yes, we've talked about it a lot. Definitely.

Ali: It's something that you need physically to keep your muscles relaxed and to keep your nervous system nice and calm so you don't feel so anxious, which can be an issue during perimenopause and menopause.

You also need magnesium for all kinds of hormone-balancing functions and to support your digestion, helping especially with the metabolism of carbohydrates.

There are just so many things it's important for. Even some things like feeling pain - your pain sensitivity is connected to whether you have enough magnesium. So, we really recommend keeping your magnesium sources up now. Dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all good sources of magnesium. But really, magnesium is only found in healthy foods.

Eileen: Yes, unfortunately.

Ali: So, if your diet has been erring towards the junk food side, then that's something to look at. You might need to take a magnesium supplement just to get your levels back up. And the very important thing that people don't know is that you need magnesium in order to absorb your calcium. So, we're kept very aware of the need for calcium, but what's not so obvious is that you need magnesium in order to absorb it. So, this is why having these nice, healthy sources is really important.

Eileen: And nature's wonderful because a lot of these foods have both, so you're not having to take lots of different things to get all the extra nutrients you need. And sometimes, it's the simplest things like a sprinkling of nuts and seeds on your salad or ground up in your breakfast cereal. You're getting a whole range of extra nutrients with very little effort and also very few extra calories, which is really important for some people.

Ali: Yes. So, if we go back to looking at things like the seed, they also contain essential fatty acids (healthy fats) which are great for your skin, great for your hormones...

Eileen: Also, your brain.

Ali: Yes, great for your brain too, and keeping your membranes nice and supple. So, if you're having symptoms of dryness, such as dry eyes, then the seeds can really help with that.

One of my favourite ways of having them is just to toast them for a couple of minutes in the oven with a sprinkling of soy sauce. Put some sunflower and pumpkin seeds on a baking tray, a tiny sprinkling of soy sauce, put them in the oven for a couple of minutes, and they're toasted and absolutely delicious. If you're very keen on having crisps and savoury snacks, this is a great alternative. Very nutritious. So, you've got protein, healthy fats, and minerals like zinc, which is important for brain function and hormones, and lots of other nutrients in there as well.

Eileen: And avocados are good too.

Ali: Yes, avocados due to their healthy fats. Walnuts as well. These are really, really simple things to get into your diet on a regular basis.

Eileen: The lovely thing about walnuts is if you take them out the shell (which is the best way to have them rather than in packets that could have been sitting there for months if not years), the nut actually looks like a brain. So, walnuts are great for brain function, memory, and all sorts of things.

Ali: Yes, all the lovely, healthy oils they contain. Really simple things to keep in mind then: putting a little bit of extra protein into each meal if you can, looking at sources of magnesium (whole grains, whole foods, dried nuts and seeds, and also dried fruit which is delicious and sweet but not going to have a disastrous effect on your blood sugar levels), and healthy fats as well. Don't keep away from the healthy fats. They're really important, especially for your hormone level.

These are just little things that you can do, and they are going to make a lot of difference because it's very important to nourish yourself during this time.

Eileen: Absolutely. So, we hope you found this helpful. If any of you out there have any other tips, things that you've added to your diet that have made a big difference, and I know, for a lot of you, you often tell me that it's the little things that have made the biggest difference, so we love all your tips.

And until then, I'll see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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