Why do I need to look at my diet in the menopause?
The hormonal changes in the approach to the menopause and the menopause itself stress the body tremendously and your nutritional needs go sky high. So having a good varied diet will help to provide your body with what it needs and boost its ability to withstand symptoms during this stressful time.
What is interesting is that it is not till they get to the menopause and start to suffer symptoms that many women finally look at their diet and start to make changes. And, very often, it is not that a particular diet per se makes them feel better but that they have just started to eat well.
So, I think the important thing here is that we need to look at our diet in two stages. Firstly, create a good nutritional foundation; then secondly, specialise as to what foods we, as individuals, would prefer.
What should I eat?
I am not in favour of extreme diets – I adore food and a lovely meal with the special people in my life is one of my greatest pleasures; and if anyone told me that I could never have chocolate cake or coffee or wine ever again I would very politely tell them where to go!
But what you eat or don’t eat on a daily basis is really important; so let’s have a look at what you should be aiming for and what you should avoid.
At least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day – these are jam packed with vitamins and minerals that your body will crave just now. Why not try growing some bioSnacky®? These are great in the winter when salads tend not to be very appealing!
Lean protein of some kind – your protein needs tend go up so make sure that you are getting plenty: meat and fish (if you are not vegetarian or vegan), nuts and seeds, eggs, low fat cheeses (in moderation), and fermented soya foods such as tempeh. If your diet is restricted, it may be a good idea to add in a protein powder shake every day to top up your protein, but do make sure that it doesn’t contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Your health food shop should have good ones.
Wholegrains such as quinoa, millet, brown rice, and oats – enough fibre is important to help with digestion and elimination. Constipation or sluggish bowels can make symptoms worse! However, a diet full of carbs can be counterproductive. A high carb diet may contribute to weight gain, so if this is an issue then decrease your carb intake for a couple of months to see if it helps. Read the Low GL Diet for more info on this.
Good fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and oily fish – the right fats are very important as they are needed for joint health, brain function (especially memory) and beautiful skin.
And finally lots of plain water. Head on over to a blog post I have recently written titled ‘10 reasons to drink more water during menopause‘.
Foods to avoid
Refined sugar and other sweeteners such as sucrose and any foods containing refined sugar – this contributes to weight problems, which are more common in the menopause as your metabolism can slow down anyway, and over stimulates the nervous system, triggering hot flushes. Sugar is devoid of any nutritional benefit at all and can cause all sorts of other health issues!
Coffee – like sugar this triggers the nervous system causing flushes, palpitations, dizziness, and sleep problems. Apparently, 6 hours after a cup of coffee 50% of the caffeine is still in your system, so if you have a late afternoon cup this can hinder you getting off to sleep! Decaf is not recommended either as other chemicals in the coffee besides caffeine can cause problems.
Wheat is best avoided if possible, as it can cause bloating, wind and constipation. If you must keep it in your diet make sure it is wholemeal. The same goes for pasta – and also avoid white rice, which has no nutritional value.
Too much salt is not good for you, as I’m sure you know. It can also trigger flushes and can contribute to high blood pressure, which often appears in the menopause. Try our Herbamare® salt; which contains a blend of organic herbs and vegetables mixed with sea salt.
Dairy is best avoided if possible but this may be difficult, so if you need it in your diet make sure it is organic (really important!) or go for sheep or goat milk and take it in moderation. Soya and almond milk make delicious alternatives!
Alcohol – this affects the nervous system and robs us of vital minerals such as magnesium, which is much needed for mood, relaxation and sleep.
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What do I do now?
This foundation diet will work well with whatever food avenue you wish to go down: meat eater, vegetarian or vegan. All you need to do now is add in your favourite healthy foods! Just remember that variety is really important. Don’t eat the same foods every day; the bigger the range of foods you have the more vitamins and minerals you are likely to get.
What about eating out, parties, holidays etc.? I would find this diet very difficult to follow then.
As I said before, I adore food and if I am out for a meal or on holiday I will stray from the path and enjoy myself, but as I don’t eat these foods everyday this becomes a real treat and as long as I go back to my usual diet quickly there is no lasting damage. What you might find though is that afterwards your symptoms may get worse for a day or so – but having the odd treat is very important too!
Any other tips?
If you can’t live without certain foods/drinks then do make sure that they are of good quality. Go for organic coffee, wine, chocolate, dairy or wheat if you can. These foods tend to be the most sprayed, contaminated or genetically altered on the planet so going organic will, at least, minimise the damage they do to your body!