Can you eat yourself to happy?
The answer is yes! MY approach is to Nurture & Nourish yourself through menopause, so enjoy your food but keep it balanced and healthy.
Of course you need to eat the right food for your body type and combine it with supplements and exercise to ensure you are getting the right nutritional balance, but, yes, food can have an impact on how we feel about ourselves and our bodies.
During menopause, our bodies change shape and size due to the hormonal changes in oestrogen, testosterone and androgen, which causes our muscle turns more easily into fat and gets redistributed to our waistlines, and the skin loses its elasticity. It becomes harder to lose weight as our metabolism slows down. Weight gain can affect our sense of ourselves, our self confidence and mood.
The drop in oestrogen hormone can affect our mental health by causing a form of hormonal depression in some women. And its is well documented that hormonal fluctuations can cause stress and anxiety in menopausal women, and hot sweats and insomnia obviously affect our sleep and leave us feeling overwhelmed. There are a range of medical and natural remedies to help with these symptoms, including HRT and anti depressants, as well as yoga, breathing and meditation approaches.
So how can food support you?
Firstly, reduce your calorie intake to approx 1,600 calories for the average post-menopausal woman, and 1,200 if you want to lose weight. Do this slowly, one lb a week only or you'll end up with loose skin.
Secondly, boost your oestrogen levels with naturally occurring oestrogen in food called Isoflavones or Phytoestrogens. There is a list of these food sources below.
Please be aware that:
1. You can't completely replace the lost oestrogen in your body with plant based versions.
2. Soya products are a great source of calcium and oestrogen but women who are at risk of breast cancer would need to consult a nutritionists.
Thirdly, enjoy your food and creating new dishes and exploring new tastes. I'll post more recipes later.
· Cut down on sugars other than fruit (sugar can stimulate hot flushes, cause mood swings and increase weight)
· Cut out alcohol and caffeine that are vasodilators, which cause hot flushes and dehydration and insomnia during menopause.
· Choose wholemeal and fibre rich foods. Slow release carbohydrates rather than fast carb/ sugar rushes that make your irritable and tired later.
· Eat protein - perhaps more protein that you did before. It will stave off hunger and sugar cravings, maintain blood sugar level and make you feel more grounded. However, switch to fish or plant based proteins rather than red meat. If you're not already vegan or vegetarian, this is the time to try it out.
On average your plate should look like this:
Plate: 1/3 protein (fish, soya etc); 1/3 carbohydrates (green leaf veg, wholemeal rice); 1/3 fruit, salad and vegetables.
WHEN TO EAT:
Avoid mood swings by eating 3 meals a day but make these small and easily digestible.
Eat your last meal by 6pm and 'fast' until morning.
Carry healthy snacks with you including vegetable sticks and nuts or fruit - but not dried fruit unless cooked.
Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
Soya and tofu products, tempeh, soya milk
Some quorn ok if not to processed
Legumes: Peas, kidney beans, Lentils, chick peas
Nuts (but these can be fatty): almonds, walnuts and cashews unsalted.
Seaweeds: Spirulina, kelp
Grains: Wheat, rye, corn, brown rice,
Green leaf vegetables including spinach, Brussel sprouts, potatoes
Cooks with oils that include omega 3 and 6 – flaxseed, hemp and soya ol.
Eat oily fish 2x a week eg. salmon, sardines
Eat hemp seed an flaxseed ground into powder or oil
Cold pressed oils are better.
Milk, cheese, yoghurt
Eat B12 eg Marmite, get Vitamin D and E
Dark chocolate ok in moderation
A few unsalted almonds
Almond butter on wholemeal or seeded bread
Handful of nuts
Hummous on toast
Avoid dehydration drink 6-8 glasses a day.
Heat in the body caused by menopause and hot flushes and night sweats at night mean you are losing fluids and need more water during the day that normal. Carry water bottle with you and make it your mission to drink 6-8 glasses a day.
Avoid salty foods if possible and reduce added salt on food or eliminate completely.
Dehydration prevents the body eliminating waste and salt causes the body to bloat as it retains water to combat the salt levels.
Dehyrdration causes skin wrinkles.
Isoflavones – the richest source found in legumes, such as lentils, soya beans and chickpeas.
Lignans – found in grains and vegtables the best source is flaxseed.
Coumestans – in alfalfa and mung beans
Sources of phytoestrogens:
Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and green veg
Red Clover * BMS says there is little evidence that his helps during menopause