Dietitian Tips for Nutrition in Menopause [VIDEO]
The most important healthy eating strategies you need to know
Perimenopause and menopause certainly brings out many changes for women both in the short term as well as the long term. The good news is that nutrition can play an important role in helping to improve some of the longer health issues that tend to pop up for women in their forties and fifties.
What are some of the changes women expect at menopause that are linked to nutrition?
As hormones change for women in their 40’s and 50’s, so does our body as well as the risk of certain medical conditions such as:
As your estrogen levels decline, the risk of cardiovascular disease rises. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Nutrition plays a critical role in helping both prevent and manage heart disease, stroke, high blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Lowered bone density
Falling hormone levels also leads to bone density loss. The risk of osteoporosis and fractures of the spine, hips and wrists become a much more significant issue at menopause. Keeping active with weight bearing activity and choosing foods good for your bones is critical before, during and after menopause.
As you age your muscle mass naturally declines, which lowers your metabolism and makes it often more challenging to maintain your weight. Hormone changes during menopause also increase the rate at which you store visceral fat surrounding the vital organs deep within the abdomen area. Changing hormones at menopause can also lead to sleep disturbances and mood changes which can also indirectly influence eating and exercise habits further making weight maintenance challenging.
Fluctuating hormones at menopause may contribute to gas, bloating and sluggish digestion which can lead to more difficulty with regular bowel routines and constipation.
What are the best foods for menopause?
The latest research shows that the most important way to sustain long-term health is to think about your overall diet and an emphasis on whole foods rather than simply just focusing on eating less of a single nutrient (such as fat or sugar). You might also want to check out this previous popular article What is the best diet to follow? on our blog.
The best protection against heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis is to emphasize whole food (the stuff the grows in the ground, on trees and generally would be recognized by your grandparents as “real” food).
- While debates exist about which is the so-called “best diet” for health and weight management, eating more plant-based foods (vegetables and fruits) is always recommended.
- Research on women’s health also suggests whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, ground flax, olive oil, soy, dairy and prunes also have health promoting effects for women in menopause.
- Reduce caffeine, alcohol and potentially spicy foods as discussed here in one of our previous articles on nutrition in menopause: Foods for Menopause.
In the nutrition counseling support we offer at our in-person office as well as through virtual sessions we work with our clients to help them with nutrition in menopause with a philosophy that there are no bad foods, only bad overall diets. There is still room for your favorite sweet and savoury foods (such as chips and chocolate) chosen for fun and flexibility. You can eat anything, just not everything at menopause… it is all about being intentional about your choices.
Find out more about our nutrition counseling services to support you with nutrition in menopause: Personal Nutrition Counseling. Be sure to check your insurance coverage to see if they cover the services of a Registered Dietitian.
How can women in menopause navigate changes in weight?
First of all I think it is important to help normalize for women that it is common to see changes in our weight and body composition with age. There is nothing so-called ‘wrong’ as this is a natural part of ageing. Be compassionate with yourself. Offer your body the grace and respect it deserves for carrying you through life and bearing children. Remember you are more than your weight.
There are MANY factors that influence your weight as I’ve explored in depth in this article and video here Dietitian answers to your top questions about weight loss. Some of these factors we can control and some of these factors we can’t control.
Our metabolism slows with age. One of the best ways to prevent this is to increase muscle mass. This is one reason I’m a huge advocate for strength training such as lifting weights (and weight training is awesome to prevent injury as we get older as well as to help protect our bone health).
Through menopause in order to maintain the current weight you are at consider if there is room to exercise more or reduce your overall calorie intake. But note that at some point there is a ceiling to live a good life. At some point you can’t reduce your intake any further or exercise any more without injury, poor health and nutritional deficiency.
Making small changes to reduce our calorie intake can be tough to do since we become conditioned to eat a certain amount throughout our lifespan. Here are 3 things to consider:
- Are there changes I can make to the TYPE of food that I eat?
- Are there changes I can make to the AMOUNT of food that I eat?
- Are there changes I can make about WHY I am eating?
Work with an experienced Registered Dietitian that specializes in customized support for achievement of your personal best weight, emotional eating and women’s health to help you sort out the right balance of what, when, why and how much to eat.
Avoid extreme or restrictive low-calorie diets as these will increase stress on your body and worsen menopause symptoms such as lowering energy, mood, bone density and sleep quality.
Looking for more information on nutrition in menopause?
Read our 5 part blog series on nutrition in menopause here:
Part 1: What is menopause?
Part 2: Estrogen and your health
Part 3: Foods for menopause
For more nutrition articles, healthy recipes, and more, subscribe to our newsletter!
Sound Bites is a weekly newsletter written by our university-trained Registered Dietitians.
Join thousands of subscribers, and sign up for the newsletter, today!
Looking for more information on nutrition in menopause?
About Andrea Holwegner
CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker
Andrea the «Chocolate Loving Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more