Menopause: How to eat and live healthier as we are getting older
Don’t let the “midlife spread” ruin your self-esteem in those years! As we get older, we’ll have to adapt our eating habits in order to stay well-shaped. I hate to tell you, but our metabolism is slowing down gradually so we need less and less food to maintain our body weight..
Around age 50 our caloric requirement is only 1,800 calories daily. Did you ever count your calories? 1,800 is not much, in fact, it’s amazingly little.... Just cutting down on portion size is one way, but you want to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. Not all foods are of the same value in that respect.
Presently we are experiencing a “protein craze”, and carbs are the ones we are told to avoid. While there’s some truth to this, the pendulum seems to be swinging back from the times when everybody was supposed to eat lots of carbs but little fats. This approach proved not to lead to any weight loss, instead people kept getting fatter.
Cutting down on carbs is a good idea, but you don’t need to eliminate them. Avoid “simple carbs”, the white, refined variety which is about as good for you as eating wall paint. These include cakes, candies, cookies, pastas, and white rice, since all they do is provide empty calories. They fatten you up without giving you any vitamins or minerals to speak of. I know most white flours are “enriched” with vitamins which were previously stripped during the refining process. So why not use the more natural, un-refined varieties in the first place?
One reason most commercial carbs are refined is their longer shelf life. Whole grain products need to be fresh and stored in a cool dark place, but they keep your blood sugar stable so you won’t get those hunger pangs. They are also much higher in vitamins and minerals than refined products.
Your protein intake should be adequate, about 1 to 1.5 gram per kilogram of body weight. Try to get more plant than animal source protein into your diet. Plant proteins are generally less acidic: beans and all legumes, soy milk, tofu, nuts and seeds are good choices.
Animal protein from low-fat cheese, yoghurt, quark, eggs, whey powders, and lean cuts of meat and poultry are ok, so are fish due to their fatty acid content. The main problems of animal products are that they contain saturated fats and cholesterol, and they are acidic. Saturated fats and cholesterol can clog up your arteries, acidity is hard on your kidney and can lead to calcium loss. Gout and arthritis are typical acidity-related conditions.
When it comes to fats, getting the right ones is key. Everything that’s white and hard at room temperature is saturated and needs to be avoided: mayo, white dressings, lard, shortening, all white rims or marbles in meats. Use instead unsaturated, un-hydrogenated products like Becel or olive oil for cooking and frying.
Flax seed and hemp oils and fish oils are good for your circulation; they are anti-inflammatory and can help balance hormone levels. However, flax seed oil cannot be heated and should be kept in the fridge.
You want to increase your intake of plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) to make up for the decrease of your own estrogen production during menopause. Plant estrogens help balance hormone levels without having the harmful side effects associated with synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy HRT.
This is how they work.:
Being shaped much like estrogen but with lower strength, they can dock on to the cell’s hormone receptor and act like estrogens there. That way they can help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and other undesirable signs of menopause.
Foods high in phytoestrogens include soy, flax, nuts, whole grains, apples, fennel, celery, parsley, alfalfa. Don’t shy away from tofu – blended with fruit it makes quite a nice, pudding-like dessert.
Cabbage and other crucuferous vegetables are also beneficial. They are high in indole-3-carbinol, a cancer-fighting and hormone-balancing compound.
What about your husband and children? Do they need some hormone-balancing, too, or would all these plant estrogens be harmful to them?
So far, we know that these foods are beneficial for men, too: They can promote prostate health and reduce the risk of cancer. As for adolescents, moderate amounts of soy products are certainly ok. There’s a concern about the high levels of phytestrogens in soy based infant formulas, but again, long-term studies have not found any increased risk later in life.
Fruit and vegetable are generally high in fibre, minerals, and vitamins and should be part of your daily regime.
The first two years of menopause are not a good time for prolonged fasting, “cleansing”, and harsh diets. During this time the body loses calcium at an increased rate and your whole system has to re-adjust to the new hormonal situation. You might feel teary, depressed, moody at times — all the more reason to pamper yourself, but please not by snacking on junk food! Stick to a healthy eating routine, get yourself those expensive berries instead of a candy bar, and realize that the skinny ones are more prone to bone loss, so you don’t want to be too thin after all...
A quality calcium/magnesium/vit.D supplement or a special bone formula is a good investment in those years. Do something for your skin, too, like dry brushing or exfoliating, followed by a nice body lotion. With soft skin like this, who needs to be a rack of bones?
And don’t forget about exercise! It has shown to increase endorphin activity which in return helps reduce hot flashes and makes you feel good.
Just keep in mind: Eat less but right, help speed up your metabolism through exercise, and take care of yourself. You are still worth having a nice haircut and clothes you like. Candies and cookies, however, should become strangers to your taste buds in the future!