Why low-fat diets can do more harm than good during menopause

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Menopause Advisor
@EileenDurward
Ask Eileen


04 December 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 low-fat diets are very bad for you in the menopause.

Weight issues

Now, the problem is that very often as we start to go through the menopause, we can have issues with our weight. It can either creep on or, for some women, that they can get weight gain quite quickly. And what do we do? We tend to still think, "Right, I'm going to go on a low calorie and I'm going to go on to a low-fat diet." 

Now, unfortunately, and this can be really bad for you and it can contribute to some of your menopause problems.

Not all fats are the same

Just to make something very clear though, and this is really important, not all fats are the same. There are bad fats, and you certainly don't want to be eating a lot of those on a daily basis, but there are also some very good healthy fats that should be part of your daily diet. 

What do we need fats for?

Now, what do we need fats for? Now, going through the menopause, one of the most important things is we need fats in order to manufacture our hormones.

Hormone production

So here we are at a point in our lives where our hormone production is decreasing, and if we then cut our fat intake down, our body is going to produce even less of them. So it's really important from that point of view that we make sure that we've got enough of our healthy fats.

Cell health

Secondly, every single cell in our body has a little layer of fat, if you like, and it's very important for every cell's general health, and especially for our skin and our brains. So if you find that you're getting very dry skin, and you're getting that foggy brain feeling or your memory seems to be disappearing that could be an indication that you're just a little bit too low in the good fats. 

Joint health

The other thing that we need fats for is for our joint health, and unfortunately joint pain and joint inflammation in the menopause, in our situation here, is number two on the list of complaints that we get from women. So joint pain is very, very common in the menopause and our joints move and our joints need proper lubrication.

And that means we need a healthy little bit of fat on a daily basis to help to keep our joints nice and loose. And some fats are anti-inflammatory as well, and I'll go into that in a little bit more detail. 

Fat-soluble vitamins

And the other really important area where fats are needed is that they help us to absorb what's called fat-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin A

Now, those vitamins are Vitamin A, and Vitamin A is really important for our skin. It keeps our skin healthy, is needed for immune function and it's also needed to keep our lungs healthy as well.

Vitamin D

We've got Vitamin D. This is vital for our bone health. If we are low in Vitamin D, we're possibly going to have joint problems. We will be more prone to things like osteoporosis, which is a big possibility in the menopause because of falling oestrogen

Low Vitamin D affects our mood. We can get depression, we can get anxiety, we can get low mood if we don't have enough Vitamin D. So it's a really important mineral to have in the menopause.

Vitamin E

And we also need fats to help us absorb Vitamin E, and Vitamin E is another one that's really important for our skin. But it's also very important for our heart health, and it is known that falling oestrogen in the menopause can make us more prone to heart issues and heart attacks.

So these three vitamins alone are absolutely vital for our general health, even more so during the menopause. But we need fats in order for our bodies to be able to utilize them properly. So, as you can see already just with these few pointers, how important fats are in our diet. 

Which fats should you eat and which foods will you find them in?

Now, which fats should you be looking at and what foods can you get them in?

Meat & Dairy products

It's really important here to know that your meats and your dairy products contain what's called saturated fats, and saturated fats are the ones that we only need in very small amounts. So these should not be taken in large quantities. So we're looking at having healthy low-fat meats and dairy products in moderation just for that particular reason. 

Extra-virgin olive oil

The other fats you're looking at are things like your extra-virgin olive oil. These are lovely oils that you can put in salads that you can dribble over your cooked veg or your baked potatoes. So olive oil...it's a great one to have on a regular basis but it's better taken raw. 

Nuts & Seeds

If you're needing oils for cooking, then things like coconut oil can be very effective. Now, people will be saying, "Oh, this is a saturated fat." It is, but it's a beneficial one and it's a really good one to add in to your daily diet. Foods that contain really good oils, your nuts and your seeds, this is a fabulous source.

And nut and seeds are great for everything, just about, because it's got the good fats in them, they have things like magnesium, they have a lot of calcium in them as well. So they are a really good all-around menopausal food.

You can have them just as they are as a little handful, you can grind them up and sprinkle them on your breakfast cereal or other foods or soups. The only thing I would say here is nuts and seeds go rancid very quickly, and it's better not to buy big quantities of them and put them in your cupboard for a while. If you're going to have nuts, it's better to have them in their shells. 

And it's really interesting in that, if you have to crack nuts and you know sometimes it can take quite a bit of effort, especially things like almonds, you don't eat so many of them. I mean, I know I'm guilty of this. You open a packet of nuts and suddenly you've eaten three-quarters of the packet before you've even thought. So consciously having to crack open the nuts, you're getting the oils fresh, because they've been encapsulated in the shell, and you will take your time with eating them.

If you're going for those ground-up mixes of nuts and seeds, it's better to do it yourself because, again, you're going to get things fresh rather than them being sitting or having been grounded up for a long, long time. So moderation with these, but a useful addition to your daily diet.

Nut butters

You can also look at nut butters. Now, one important thing here, peanuts are not nuts, they're legumes. So these are not to be added in with your nut mixes and things. Only use peanuts and peanut butter. If you're going to have it, make sure it's without sugar in it. Just have those for a treat, not as an everyday addition to your nuts and seeds.

Fish

If you're not vegetarian, then you can look at your fish. You've got really good fish oils, which is great for you joints, great for your skin, great for your brain. You can look at sardines, you know. I mean, sardines on toast, very simple meal, but sardines as far as I'm aware, contain the highest amount of essential fats that you need out of all the fishes. So it's a really good thing to have regularly. 

Vegetarians and Vegans

If you're vegetarian or vegan, you can go with flaxseed oil. It's the next best thing to the fish oils.

Essential fatty acids

The other things that we're looking at is what's called essential fatty acids. Now, these are essential, as the word implies. So these are usually known as 3, 6 and 9: omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9.

We also have omega-7, which is the sea buckthorn oil and that's a really important one if you're getting a lot of skin dryness, vaginal dryness, dry mouth, if you're getting a little bit of lung problems as well, if you're getting bladder problems too. So the omega-7 can be really, really lovely.

Omega-6 is your evening primrose oil, and in the menopause, it's better just to use that in moderation, if at all. The reason being is that if we have too much omega-6, it can turn a little bit inflammatory and it could, maybe, irritate your joints, if you already have problems.

Your omega-3 is obviously your fish oils, and omega-9 is a good one. So for those of you, again, who, maybe, are not too keen on having a lot of oils as such in your cooking, then an essential fatty acid supplement can be a really good addition to your daily diet as well.

Liver Health

The other important thing here to bear in mind is, when we're thinking about fats, is to make sure that your liver is working well. Your liver helps to produce agents that will help to emulsify fats, and that can help to keep your cholesterol under control too. So, if you feel that your liver is there little bit sluggish, and I've done a video blog on it... So, if you're not quite sure about all the wonderful things that your liver does, have a jump over to that one.

So, maybe going on a Milk Thistle Complex for a month, once every six months, can be a nice way to help support your liver in dealing with all those fats. 

Fat can be good!

So, as you can see, fat and the right kind of fat and the right amount can be really good for helping us through the menopause. I hope you find this a little bit of an interesting one. So I will see 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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