Menopause, or the date 12 months after your last menstrual period, and perimenopause, the years leading up to that date, can be uncomfortable. Simply knowing that it’s a natural and normal transition doesn’t relieve hot flashes or poor sleep or any of the other myriad symptoms that you may experience.
Dr. Marsha Bornt and her team at Apple Hill Gynecology understand that managing your health through menopause can be challenging, particularly when you’re also caring for your family, working, or meeting other day-to-day obligations. We do offer treatments for symptoms that disrupt your life, but we’ve found many patients aren’t aware of a fairly simple adjustment they can make. Changing your diet could be a key to managing the symptoms of menopause.
Weight gain during menopause is not uncommon, and a few dietary changes may help you avoid that, as well. Here are a few of our best tips when it comes to nutrition during menopause.
Focus on calcium
When your body produces less estrogen, you tend to lose bone density. Being post-menopausal is a risk factor for osteoporosis. One way to offset that higher risk is to make sure you’re consuming enough calcium. Two to four servings of dairy products per day is sufficient.
Since you want to also make sure you’re eating an appropriate number of calories, you may want to focus on choosing lower-fat products, such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt.
Eat plenty of fiber
Whole grains and vegetables are two excellent sources of fiber, which can help you feel satiated. You want to choose whole grains rather than refined carbs, though, so look for brown rice, steel cut oats, and other unprocessed grains.
Eating at least 21 grams of fiber a day is associated with lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
Choose healthy fats
Although “low fat” is often used synonymously with “healthy” that isn’t always the case. For example, nuts are high in healthy fats, as are avocados. Plant-based fats are generally much better nutritionally than animal fats.
Avoiding highly processed foods can help you avoid the kinds of fats that are high in calories and low in nutrition.
Consume high quality protein
Another change associated with menopause, and indeed with aging generally, is loss of muscle mass. Eating an adequate amount of high-quality protein can help preserve your muscles.
Chicken, fish, and plant-based protein such as in beans and nuts, are lower in calories and nutritionally dense. Eating two to three servings of fish each week, snacking on nuts in moderation, and choosing chicken rather than beef are all good ways to increase the amount of protein you’re eating.
Balance is key
Eating a varied, balanced diet is the key to good health. As you progress toward menopause, you want to focus on foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as making sure you’re consuming an appropriate number of calories for your activity level.
If you have questions about what you should be eating as you near menopause, schedule an appointment at Apple Hill Gynecology. We’re always happy to answer your questions and discuss what’s appropriate for you in the context of your unique life and health background.