Menopause Diet Essentials for Women After 40
Nutrition strategies to ease menopause symptoms
For women after the age of 40 years of age, the physical and emotional changes due to perimenopause can be a big challenge influencing energy, mood, weight and long-term chronic disease risk. The good news is that adopting a ‘menopause diet’ and making slight shifts to your diet can positively help you manage menopause symptoms to help you look and feel your best.
Keep reading this blog post to find out the 5 most important diet tips for women in peri-menopause and menopause.
Looking for personalized menopause diet support? Our menopause dietitian team can help ensure you’re eating healthy and getting all the nutrients you need. Contact us today to learn more about our nutrition counselling services.
What are the major issues for women after 40 in perimenopause and menopause?
As hormone levels change in menopause it is common for women to experience:
- Lowered energy levels and fatigue
- Mood swings (such as depression, anxiety)
- Lowered bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Sleep disruption
- Weight gain
- Reduced muscle mass
Making changes in your diet might help to alleviate menopause symptoms.
Watch my segment on nutrition for women after 40 on Global Morning Calgary:
5 key nutrition and diet recommendations for women after 40
1. Combine carbohydrates AND protein
One of the most important aspects of effective energy and mood management is to ensure you balance your meals and snacks with both carbohydrates AND protein. One without the other has a negative impact on your overall energy.
- Carbohydrates provide your brain with satisfaction. Not only does your brain run on carbohydrate for energy so does your muscles.
- While portion sizes of carbohydrate-rich foods such as grains, starches and sweets are important (since it is common for many people to overeat these items) you do not want a carb free diet.
- Following a very low carbohydrate diet that skimps on carbohydrate-rich foods such as grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits can lead to fatigue, depression, anxiety and poor long-term health.
- If you are confused about how much carbohydrate you need per day, work with a Registered Dietitian to find out what is ideal for your needs.
- Protein provides overall satiety and fullness. Protein is also important for maintaining muscle and tissue repair – important because as women age, they lose muscle mass. As muscle mass declines, so does our metabolism and how much food our body requires.
- Women over 40 should aim for 10-35% of your total calories from protein. Find out more on our previous blog here: How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?
- Meals without protein simply do not keep you full and sustained with energy and can lead to frequent hunger, cravings, and mood swings.
- Make sure to have a source of protein with all your major meals and snacks to feel your best.
Good sources of protein include:
- Nut butter
2. Focus on whole foods
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).
The best protection against heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis for women in menopause 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, seafood and olive oil also have health promoting effects for women in menopause.
Examples of whole foods for women in menopause:
- Whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice, oats and barley)
- Vegetables & fruits
- Nuts & seeds
- Vegetable oil such as olive oil & avocado
- Lean poultry, meats, fish & eggs
- Beans & legumes
- Milk & yogurt
3. Consider a small reduction in your calorie intake
Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down (digests and absorbs) food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body. When you eat more calories than you need, your body may store the extra calories as body fat. For more information on some of the top questions on weight loss visit our previous blog: Nutrition Facts on How to Move to Your Personal Best Weight.
Weight gain is a very common menopause symptom. It is important to note that gaining a few pounds may have very little impact on your long term health since your weight is not a measure of health. Our metabolism slows with age and if you had a goal to maintain the current weight you are at you will need to exercise more or reduce your overall calorie intake. This is indeed tough to do since we become conditioned to eat a certain amount throughout our lifespan but will inevitably need to adjust our calorie intake down as we age.
If you decide to reduce your calorie intake to maintain your weight with age here are 3 ways to reduce calories:
- 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 weight concerns, emotional eating and behavior modification 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.
4. Get enough calcium and vitamin D
Adequate calcium and vitamin D is essential to prevent bone loss for women in menopause. Many women do not get enough calcium and vitamin D. This increases the risk for osteoporosis, colon cancer and high blood pressure.
- Women over 50 require 1200 mg of calcium per day.
- Without at least three servings of calcium-rich foods each day, you are unlikely to get enough calcium from food alone and will need calcium supplements.
- Examples of calcium-rich servings are: 1 cup of milk or fortified soy or almond milk, ¾ cup of yogurt, 1½ ounces of cheese
- Vitamin D is critical to bone health, cancer prevention and more.
- Some foods such milk and fatty fish contain vitamin D but taking a supplement is recommended.
- Health Canada recommends that all adults up to age 70 get 600 IU each day from food and supplements. 800 IU per day is advised for those over 70. Some health groups suggest an even higher level of vitamin D may be helpful. Speak to your doctor or dietitian about what is best for you.
5. Take a Vitamin B12 Supplement
Vitamin B12 is important for brain and nerve health along with making red blood cells.
As we age our ability to absorb vitamin B12 declines.
- Vitamin B12 is found only in animal-based foods like eggs, dairy, meat, seafood and poultry, and some fortified foods like soy milk and soy-based meat substitutes.
- Health Canada advises that adults over 50 years consume foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement containing it.
- Menopausal women need 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day for health (often the amount found in an age-appropriate multivitamin).
- Be sure to have your doctor check the B12 levels in your blood.
What about other dietary supplements for women after 40 and during menopause?
While there are many dietary supplements and herbs promoted for menopause symptoms, not all are beneficial and some may be harmful or interact with medications you are taking. Be wary of the conflict of interest that exists by so-called “nutrition experts” that are not only providing advice but also sell the product they are promoting. Work with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in dietary supplement education and learn the pros and cons for yourself.
Check out some of these nutrition articles on our website:
How to Navigate Emotional Eating
Dietitian Answers to Your Top Weight Loss Questions
Looking for personalized menopause diet support? Our dietitian team can help ensure you’re eating healthy and getting all the nutrients you need.
If you are seeking support for menopause, weight concerns, emotional eating and finding an eating style that doesn’t expect you to be perfect and can work for your life, you’ve come to the right place.
As Registered Nutritionists / Dietitians that specialize in women’s health, weight concerns and emotional eating we can see you in our local Calgary Nutritionist office or as an Online Dietitian by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling.
Read more about our nutrition counseling programs and book an appointment by our experienced Registered Nutritionist / Dietitian team here: NUTRITION COUNSELING
About Andrea Holwegner
CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker
Andrea the «Chocoholic 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