Good nutrition is essential in menopause
In fact, food is one of the most important factors that will determine how well you age and how healthy you remain as you grow older.
Of course, several other factors play a role in good health, but lifestyle choices have a greater effect.
Good health is determined by lifestyle, the environment, and to a lesser degree, genetics. In fact, studies tell us that genetics cause only 25% of the variation in how long and how well we age. We can’t change our genetics, and we often can’t change our immediate environment. Still, we certainly can make changes to our lifestyles.
Harvard’s famous Nurses Health Study showed that heart diseases can be reduced by at least 80% by diet and lifestyle changes.
If we want to live a longer and healthier life, we should watch what we eat.
Healthy eating is important at any age, but good nutrition is essential in menopause and beyond.
Eating well helps to:
- Prevent obesity and control weight
- Prevent diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- Improve mental sharpness and focus
- Boosts energy levels
- Helps you to stay emotionally and physically balanced
Eating healthy is not about controlling weight. In fact, even people who maintain a healthy weight but eat a poor diet have a higher risk of falling ill, fractures, and depression. Healthy eating helps in resisting disease and maintaining emotional and mental wellbeing.
How can we achieve good nutrition in menopause?
Good nutrition is essential in menopause.
Sugar is addictive, and too much of it can cause diabetes and obesity. It is important to emphasize that sugar is hiding in so many foods that we eat these days, even ones that you might not think contain it. Therefore, it is very important to read labels and understand what you are putting in your body.
In menopause especially try to avoid sugar as much as possible as it has been shown to increase inflammatory processes in the body and can cause joint pain and many other problems.
Carbs and proteins are important components of any diet. However, please be careful about the quality of these foods that you put in your body. Complex carbs such as whole grains, lentils, and other pulses are better for you. Refined carbs such as white bread, pastries, pasta, and sugar have been stripped of their goodness and cause insulin spikes and obesity if eaten to excess.
You should also be careful about the quality of the proteins you consume. Fresh lean meat is far better than preserved or canned meat when possible. Legumes, nuts, and pulses also contain good proteins.
Avoid hydrogenated fats (mainly in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, and corn oils) as much as possible. According to the American Heart Association, try to use olive oil, avocado oil, nut oils, and other monounsaturated fats.
Make vegetables and fruits a big part of your meals. They supply your body with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A good way to ensure you are getting a wide variety of nutrients is to try to have color on your plate (reds, greens, yellows, orange, purple, etc.). Be careful about having too much fruit which contains sugar. We will cover this topic more fully in an upcoming blog.
4- Avoid processed food
Processed foods can contain preservatives and harmful chemicals. They often have artificial coloring, excessive amounts of sugar, corn syrup, and salt as well as hydrogenated fats. All these have been shown to be bad for your health. Avoid processed food.
There is increasing evidence that fasting for a few hours in a day is beneficial on many levels. It can help regulate insulin in the blood, reduce cravings, and help the body regenerate and heal. Intermittent fasting is a topic we will cover in a later blog, but please do not start any fasting regimen without consulting your doctor.
As much as possible, buy fresh foods and cook your own food. You will know what is in it and will preserve the wholesome goodness of the ingredients by cooking it yourself. Cooking is not for everyone, but it need not be complicated or difficult. A few simple, fresh ingredients stir-fried or steamed can be the way to get excellent nutrition.
We often do not watch what we drink. Maybe we have too much caffeine during the day or drink too many glasses of wine. Each, in moderation, is enjoyable and can be beneficial. However, too much caffeine and alcohol have been shown to increase hot flashes and other issues in menopause.
Sugary drinks and sodas can also add to difficulties with maintaining a healthy weight and do nothing for our health.
Start by portion control. One way to counteract weight gain in menopause is to keep an eye on the amounts we are eating. Often, using a smaller plate can be effective in eating smaller portions.
Moderate the way you eat too. Be present at mealtime and do not eat at your desk. Eat slowly and taste your food fully. Listen to your body and stop when you feel full.
Many women resort to emotional eating to calm themselves when they feel unhappy. Emotional eating is eating when you are not hungry but distracting yourself. There are many strategies to combat emotional eating, from visualization techniques, meditation, and other self-care strategies.
Food’s role is not only to feed our bodies and keep us alive. It plays an important social role. Sharing a meal with others strengthens social bonds that help us stay healthy and are important for our wellbeing. Invite someone for lunch or have a potluck dinner. Try to eat with your partner or family and have a conversation.
Good nutrition is essential in menopause. So, in the next few blogs, we will be addressing each of these topics separately. Food is the stuff of life and good nutrition is a gift you give yourself before, during and post-menopause.