The menopause is a normal biological process and a natural part of ageing. But for many women, it can come with life-changing symptoms including insomnia, hot flushes, and debilitating depression and anxiety. And for every woman — even those lucky enough to have minimal symptoms — declining oestrogen levels increase the risk of long-term health conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis. Though symptoms can be challenging, menopause is a great opportunity to take stock of your overall health. It can be a time of discovery, to try new things and introduce habits that will help you enjoy a healthy and happy second half of life. During menopause, eating well can help to manage symptoms, protect bones and maintain a healthy weight. If you get your eating habits in order during this time, you set yourself in good stead for strong bones, healthy heart, bouncy skin and plenty of energy, well into later life.
Well-being guru Liz Earle’s tried and tested tips for eating well during menopause and beyond.
It’s best to cut back on sugar as much as possible as it can trigger a sharp rise in blood glucose levels, followed by an inevitable crash.
As well as wreaking havoc with mood and energy levels, these highs and lows can encourage the body to convert excess calories into fat that is stored around the abdomen, increasing the risk of developing type two diabetes and heart disease. To curb sugar cravings, swap refined carbs such as white bread for wholegrain alternatives. If you’re desperate for a sweet treat in the afternoon, snack on antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and plain almonds.
A diet rich in healthy fats helps the body produce hormones, which is essential in mid-life. So much so that a low-fat diet should be avoided during menopause.
As well as helping with hormone production, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to have antiinflammatory benefits in the body.
And a particular strain, known as DHA, may even help ward off cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s in later life.
Research also suggests omega-3 may help reduce the occurrence and severity of hot flushes and night sweats. You can find healthy fats in
such as sardines, salmon and
, nuts and seeds.
FILL UP ON FIBRE
In addition to eating plenty of
, fibre can also help suppress cravings and prevent weight gain.
There is also strong evidence to suggest eating a fibre-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and bowel cancer. The Government recommends 25g a day for women — find it in green veggies, wholegrains, lentils and beans.
GOOD GUT HEALTH
Research suggests gut health is hugely influential when it comes to our mood. In fact, up to 90 per cent of serotonin is produced in the gut.
So it’s important to look after the friendly bacteria that live there by eating a diet rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Probiotic foods contain “live” friendly bacteria that help populate the gut and improve its diversity, keeping it healthy. Find them in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt. Prebiotic food feeds the bugs in your gut and helps them thrive. Good sources are fibre-rich foods including wholegrains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
B-complex vitamins have also been shown to boost brain health. They’re are involved with mood regulation in the brain and are essential for the production of serotonin — the happy hormone that may well be in short supply after sleepless nights. Good sources of B-complex vitamins include meat, fish, dairy products, fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.
It helps the body deal with stress, promotes good sleep and strengthens bones. Yet many people have a magnesium deficiency, and this is especially common in people who eat a lot of meat, dairy and processed foods.
Regular coffee and alcohol consumption can also inhibit the body’s ability to absorb the mineral from food. Good sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and wholegrains. Though we should be able to get enough from our diet, many women, especially those who sleep badly, find taking a supplement can improve well-being during menopause. Choose one that contains magnesium citrate, which is more easily absorbed by the body.