Menopause is the natural and inevitable step in a woman’s life where the menstrual cycle concludes. Menopause can officially be confirmed twelve months after a woman’s last period. Many women dread menopause because it may come with some uncomfortable symptoms, as their hormone balances and bodies change, but regardless of the physical changes, menopause can also be a very liberating experience, where you may find more space to look after yourself and see life through a different lens.
Keeping a well balanced and varied diet is key to be a healthy human being, but even more so if you’re going through menopause. The shifts happening in your body may leave you more vulnerable to certain diseases and general discomfort, so read on to find out about which foods can help relieve your symptoms before and after the process of menopause so you can forget about the symptoms and make the most of a new stage in life.
As you transition into menopause, your oestrogen levels will naturally decrease as your ovaries slow down their activity. Oestrogen decrease is associated with a decline in muscle mass and tone. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a high level of protein intake. Including protein in your meals is also a good way to maintain stable blood sugar levels, which is also key to keep insulin crashes at bay and the uncomfortable symptoms that come with it.
If you don’t consume meat, other good sources of lean protein are soy derived products such as tofu, that also contain phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring plant compounds that are structured similarly to oestrogen and can help with hormone balance. Other good sources of protein include grains and pulses such as garbanzo beans and lentils.
The gradual decrease in oestrogen can also lead to more fragile bones which are prone to fractures. Consuming dairy products such as milk, cheese or yogurt will provide you with calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and vitamins D and K which are key to maintaining good bone health. These vitamins and minerals are also associated with better sleep, which can be a common problem during menopause.
There are steps to take even before menopause hits, a variety of studies show that women with higher calcium and vitamin D intake had a lesser risk of early onset menopause.
If you don’t consume dairy products, other good options to source your calcium are nuts and seeds or leafy green vegetables.
Oily fish such as salmon and trout as well as other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are essential and should be consumed as regularly as possible. These healthy fats aid in hormonal processes in your body and are fantastic to support brain and joint health. On top of this, they keep you feeling fuller for longer, which once again prevents those insulin spikes you want to avoid at all costs.
If you don’t consume fish, other good sources of healthy fats are avocados or flax seeds.
Broccoli packs a punch and it’s filled to the brim with beneficial compounds that will positively affect you during menopause. Aside from the fibre, protein and calcium present, vegetables like broccoli or kale have numerous antioxidants that can have a protective effect against oestrogen driven cancers.
Maintaining a good and stable intestinal rhythm is a key part of staying heathy before and after menopause. Fibre plays a key element in keeping the gut healthy and moving so it is essential to increase the uptake of fibre as menopause sets in. Oats can be a fantastic source of fibre and can be easily incorporated into your diet, porridge for breakfast anyone?
Many people don’t realise the importance of our gut and how much it affects the rest of our bodies and brains. Maintaining a healthy microbiome is the perfect way to sustain a good mind-gut connection.
Spinach (and other iron rich foods)
Iron is very important for the human body as it plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. For pre-menopausal and menopausal women, iron levels tend to be quite low. It’s important to keep checking your iron levels to be sure they’re high enough. In order to keep up your intake, consume iron rich foods such as spinach, legumes, quinoa, red meat (if you eat meat), shellfish, pumpkin seeds and even liver. It’s important to note that although these essential nutrients are found in animal products, there are always plant based alternatives that are equally as nutritious.
Although flax seeds have been mentioned previously, they deserve a section to themselves. They’re a superfood that has a plethora of benefits. Not only do flax seeds contain a very high level of protein, they also have fibre and omega 3, which are three of the main nutrients to look for before and during menopause. Flax seeds also contain lignans, the other big phytoestrogen other than soy. These elements are important as they’re hormone balancing compounds that mimic the effect of oestrogen in your body, reducing some of the most prevalent symptoms of menopause, like hot flushes.
Menopause is a time of turmoil for your body and your mind, so the first thing to keep in mind before even looking at your diet choices is to be kind to yourself. It’s likely that you’ll be surrounded by people in your household that belong to other age groups and are in other stages of their lives, and there may be times where you may feel overwhelmed by the lifestyle changes you have to make in comparison to everyone else around you. Be kind to yourself, take time to plan your meals and choose the foods that make you feel your best!
Madeline Miller writes articles on various topics at Coursework Help UK.