As a woman ages, the requirements of her body change and certain changes need to be considered that support her well-being. Menopause can be a frustrating time for a lot of women. From the hot flashes, to lethargy, menopause can present various challenges, both physically and emotionally.
When do the majority of these changes occur? Menopause is a natural phase in a woman's life, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55 and bring about significant hormonal changes. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle can greatly alleviate symptoms and promote overall well-being during this transformative period.
Not sure what you should be changing with regards to your diet during your menopause years? Then you’ve come to the right place, as here are some recommendations that could be incorporated into a menopausal diet:
Maintaining a balanced diet is important during menopause. Women should focus on including a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats into their meals. Nutrient-rich foods provide essential vitamins and minerals, which are contributory in supporting bone health, managing weight, and supporting overall health and well-being.
Dairy and Calcium-Rich Foods
During the time of menopause, your requirement for calcium goes up significantly. Why? It’s because of the loss of the protective effect that estrogen has on bones that prevents reabsorption of calcium into the blood, ensuring structural components are kept strong. However, from menopause onwards, that protective effect is lost and the blood is free to leach away calcium from bones if it deems it as necessary.
The requirement for calcium around this time will stand at 1000-1200mg/daily. Remember that a glass of milk only offers about 125mg calcium. Along with supporting supplements, be sure to get enough calcium-rich foods like dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), leafy greens (kale, collard greens), and fortified plant-based milk alternatives (soy milk, almond milk) to help maintain bone density.
The importance of water
Staying well-hydrated is essential, especially during menopause. There is no understating the importance water plays in the human body, since it can keep cells healthy. Apart from that, water will keep those kidneys running at top efficiency. Drinking an ample amount of water, herbal teas, and low-sugar beverages like coconut water can help maintain optimal hydration levels.
More Fibre and Slow Digesting Carbs
Fibre has several functions, but of particular interest in the post-menopausal woman is its ability to bind and remove bile acids from circulation.
Replacing simple carbs with slow digesting varieties such as oats can help you cope with days that seemingly don’t end. Slow digesting carbs deliver glucose slowly through the day and will not result in big spikes and crashes in energy.
Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and oats provide complex carbohydrates, fibre, and essential nutrients. They help regulate blood sugar levels, support digestion, and provide sustained energy. Many grains contains B vitamins, which promote metabolism and overall health.
Limit Processed, Sugar laden Foods, and Caffeine
The first food that comes to mind when talking about wrong choices is most likely sugar laden ones. Sugar is infamous for causing mood swings regardless of your age. This is compounded during menopause, since unstable blood glucose levels coupled with fluctuating and diminishing estrogen levels make for a perfect storm. Try to minimize the consumption of processed foods, sugary snacks, and sugary beverages. Rather consume foods that offer slower digesting carbohydrates, which keep blood sugar levels steady much longer.
Sugar is not the only culprit! Caffeine heavy beverages/foods are also to blame, as they are known to influence adrenal energy functioning 1-2 hours following consumption. Excessive caffeine and alcohol can also disrupt sleep patterns and in some cases exacerbate hot flashes and mood swings. Moderation is thus key.
Soy and Flaxseed
Foods containing phytoestrogens, like soy products (tofu, edamame) and flaxseeds, may help ease menopausal symptoms due to their mild estrogenic effects. They can be suitable for a lot of women, but it's still advisable to consult a healthcare provider before making substantial dietary changes.
Soybean and soya products have been known to be beneficial to women. This is because of the presence of phytoestrogens, plant based sterols which mimic the effect of estrogen in the human body, effectively acting in a manner similar to the body’s natural hormone. This is important during menopause, as every little bit of extra estrogen can potentially help alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings caused by the sudden drop of the woman’s natural hormone.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties and support heart health. Olive oil, avocados, and nuts also provide healthy monounsaturated fats.
Though often overlooked in favor of fish oil, flaxseed has a few additional benefits with regards to menopause. Of key interest is the presence of estrogen-like compounds in flaxseeds, which help alleviate symptoms of hot flushes. They also have lots of fiber, making it a valuable addition to a menopausal diet.
Menopause should not be a time that involves just discomfort. Instead, it can be a time of great learning and adapting to a new chapter of your life.
It's important to remember that individual dietary needs may vary, and consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance based on specific health concerns and preferences. Furthermore, regular exercise, stress management techniques, and sufficient sleep are essential components of a holistic approach to managing menopause.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.