Menopause is a natural phase in a woman's life that marks the end of her reproductive years. It is accompanied by a range of physical and emotional changes that can be challenging to manage. Some of the problems inherent to menopause include increased abdominal and visceral fat, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes due to decreased metabolism; osteoporosis, a condition characterised by low bone density and an increased risk of fractures; sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass and strength; skin aging; and problems with sleep.
Fortunately, nutrition can play a key role in helping to alleviate these problems. Here are some tips on how to use food to support your body during menopause:
Calorie restriction, or decreasing the amount of food you eat daily by 20-30%, has been shown to increase longevity in some studies. It can also help with weight management during menopause, as metabolism tends to slow down during this time. However, it's important to make sure you're still getting enough nutrients, so be sure to choose nutrient-dense foods rather than cutting out entire food groups. Foods that are high in protein, fiber, and other important nutrients can help you feel full and satisfied while also providing essential nutrients for overall health.
Avoid processed foods, saturated fats, and sugar
Processed foods, saturated fats, and sugar can all contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. They can also contribute to skin aging through a process called glycation, in which excess sugar molecules combine with proteins to create advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs can damage collagen in the skin, leading to wrinkles and other signs of aging. To help support healthy skin and overall health during menopause, it's important to choose whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible and to limit your intake of saturated fats and added sugars.
Suppress tobacco and alcohol intake
Tobacco and alcohol can both increase the production of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the aging process. Tobacco can also increase the risk of various health problems, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol can affect liver health, accumulate toxins, and interfere with sleep quality. It's best to limit your intake of both tobacco and alcohol during menopause, as these substances can have negative impacts on your health and well-being.
Limit salt and spicy foods
Excess salt in food can contribute to fluid retention and dry out the skin. It can also draw water from cells and tissues, leaving them dehydrated. Spicy foods can also contribute to skin problems, such as rosacea, and may worsen hot flushes, a common symptom of menopause. To help support healthy skin and overall health during menopause, it's important to choose foods that are lower in salt and to be mindful of your intake of spicy foods.
Choose "cooling" foods
Certain foods are known as "cooling" foods because they have a calming effect on the body. These include apples, bananas, spinach, broccoli, eggs, and green tea. Incorporating these foods into your diet may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause. Cooling foods can be especially helpful during hot flashes, as they may help to regulate body temperature and promote a sense of calm.
Eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds
A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds can provide a wide range of nutrients that are important for overall health. These foods are also high in fiber, which can help with weight management and digestion.
Certain supplements, such as vitamin D, zinc, collagen, resveratrol, and omega-3s, may be helpful during menopause.
Get some sunlight
Exposure to sunlight for 30 minutes a day can help your body produce vitamin D, which is important for bone health and immune function. Just be sure to use sunscreen to protect your skin from damaging UV rays.
It's worth noting that it's not necessary to eliminate all of these foods from your diet entirely. Instead, it's important to be mindful of the quantity and quality of the foods you eat, and to make choices that support your overall health and well-being during menopause. By following these tips, you can help to mitigate some of the common problems associated with menopause and support your body during this transition.