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What food should I be eating at menopause?

Nutritional Needs After Menopause

Menopausal hormone changes cause us to become physiologically different creatures than during our fertile years. So what exactly are our nutritional needs after menopause?

In this interview on Canberra’s ABC radio 666, WellFemme’s Dr Kelly Teagle discusses menopause and nutrition with dietician Carolyn Salisbury.

Click to play Part 1 of Kelly and Caroline’s menopause chat on ABC Canberra, 23rd March 2021. 

 

Click to play Part 2 of Kelly and Caroline’s menopause chat on ABC Canberra, 6th April 2021. 

 

What Do I Need to Know About Nutrition and Menopause?

WellFemme has you covered with great Blog articles and webinars, including some important information about your nutritional needs after menopause. The following except is from our post and webinar of June 2020 entitled “Diet and Exercise after Menopause“:

Your Body Changes at Menopause

Due to the changes in hormones during perimenopause, especially oestrogen, our bodies change.

One of the changes you may notice is an increase in belly fat (known as central adiposity) and more total body fat. Besides just not feeling great about how our shape is changing, the increased body fat more importantly impacts on our overall health and wellbeing, putting us at higher risk of chronic disease. Research has shown that if your waist is >90cm and/or your waist to hip ratio is > than 0.85, this places you into this higher risk category for health issues – like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases like diabetes.

In addition, if your Body Mass Index is less than 30 the severity of your menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, unexplained mood swings and sleep disturbances can be less.

Other physiological changes in menopause include

  • reduced bone density
  • change in muscle fibre type so we can lose strength
  • disturbed sleep
  • increased mood swings and anxiety

Nutrition after Perimenopause

Very few Australians eat in accordance with recommended nutritional guidelines. If we did there would be hugely reduced rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancers, and other chronic diseases.

As we age we require less calories because of overall reduction in activity levels and reduced lean muscle mass (which burns calories 24/7). Our bodies are also less efficient at absorbing nutrients as we age, but we still require the same amount of nutrients so what we eat has to be more nutritionally dense and less calorie dense.

Eating this way also lets you eat bigger portions of food for the same amount of calories, so you feel fuller with less calories. It also helps in losing weight or preventing weight gain.

The Link Between Diet and Mental Health

Mental health issues are incredibly common around perimenopause, with women 3x more likely to have depression at menopause than pre-menopausally. The Jean Hailes article “Foods for your future” quotes studies demonstrating that a Mediterranean diet is linked to higher psychological resilience, ie. coping better with stress.

“The Mediterranean diet is rich is natural wholefoods, with a particular focus on vegetables, as well as olive oil, fruits, legumes and wholegrains,” …”In this study, consuming high amounts of antioxidants present in these foods and including a large variety of fruits and vegetables was associated with higher mental resilience and stress-coping ability.”

A Mediterranean diet has also been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. That leads us to…

Nutrition for Heart Health after menopause

Heart disease and dementia are the equal highest killers of Australian women. CVD was responsible for 1/3 of all female deaths in 2016 (around 28000 women). A Mediterranean diet is not only protective of your mental health, it also is protective against heart disease.

Other key strategies to improving heart health are:

  • Decrease saturated fats and increase monounsaturated fats
  • Increase soluble fibre in your diet such as oats, barley and psyllium which can reduce cholesterol, and
  • Eat high fibre/ wholegrain for optimal nutrition and bowel health.

What should you eat for Bone Health at Menopause?

Bone density drops sharply with the estrogen decline at menopause. An adequate alcium intake is important for bone health. Good sources include dairy (such as milk, yoghurt and cheese), sardines or salmon (with the bones in). Calcium is also found in vegetarian/vegan-friendly food such as calcium-enriched tofu, soy, almonds and broccoli.

Vitamin D helps uptake of calcium; if you are dark skinned, vit D deficient or don’t get much sunlight a vit D supplement might be helpful.

How to increase Iron at Menopause

Perimenopause often brings frequent or heavy periods (menorrhagia), which can lead to iron deficiency. If you have menorrhagia ask your doctor about getting your iron level tested.

Ways to improve your iron levels include lean red meat, or eating green leafy vegetables with a carbohydrate and some vitamin C to boost its absorption.  Avoid eating your iron-rich foods or taking iron supplements with tea or calcium-rich foods such as dairy, as they inhibit iron absorption in the gut.

Can Soy help my Menopause Symptoms?

About one-third of women may get some improvement in their menopausal symptoms from eating soy- these are the women with the right type of gut bacteria to process it into the required molecules.

Why is Protein important for Menopause?

Quality lean proteins help you build and retain lean muscle mass, and can help you feel full at meals. Protein also contains zinc which is protective against mood disorders and is important for brain functions like memory, learning and concentration.

How Good is Your Nutritional Intake?

Take the Healthy Eating Quiz to compare your nutritional intake to the Australian healthy eating guidelines.

 The quiz is linked to the “No money, No time” recipe planning site, which ties in with quiz’s recommendations.

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What is WellFemme About?

If you can’t find the professional help you need for your peri/menopausal symptoms then book a Telehealth consultation with an expert WellFemme menopause doctor.

Not sure if Telehealth is for you? Free trial consultations are available to find out how WellFemme can help with your menopausal symptoms.

WellFemme is Australia’s first dedicated Telehealth menopause clinic, servicing locations nationwide including: Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Darwin, Perth, Hobart, Brisbane, Dubbo, Bendigo, Broken Hill, Broome, Alice Springs, Launceston, Cairns, Mildura, Lightning Ridge, Kalgoorlie, Albany, Toowoomba, Charleville, Port Headland, Katherine, Ballarat, Coober Pedy, Bourke, Albury… and your place! 🙂


Tags
diet, dietary intake, healthy food, menopause, nutrition, Perimenopause, postmenopausal diet, postmenopausal nutrition, what to eat after menopause,