During menopause, as your body completes its fertile years, your hormone levels will start to fluctuate and you may experience symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, and weight gain. Your estrogen levels begin to drop and eventually reach an all-time low and stay there for the rest of your life. Low estrogen levels greatly increase your risk for health conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease.
Many of these symptoms can be addressed by making some simple changes to your eating habits and you might be able to ease a lot of the discomfort while keeping your body healthier as you age. Start with the most direct approach – reduce calories and focus on low-calorie, nutrient dense foods. While this may seem like the hardest part, that’s actually where a macros-based diet shines.
Committing to an IIFYM diet can help you succeed at losing weight during menopause, because counting your macros and planning your “treats” like pre-packaged junk foods, fried foods, alcohol and sugar, can help you eat them in moderation without feeling like you’re missing out. And there are additional health benefits to focusing on lean proteins, fruits and vegetables as you get older… these foods can help reduce your risk of heart disease and improve cognitive brain function as you age.
Here are nine foods you should eat to improve your health and lose weight during menopause:
Your diet is probably low in calcium, even before menopause. Eat or drink two to four servings of dairy products or other calcium-rich foods a day. Calcium is found in foods like dairy products, fortified almond milk, fish with bones (sardines and canned salmon), broccoli, and legumes. Choose low-fat or skim dairy to receive beneficial calcium without the calories.
Broccoli is an often-overlooked source of usable calcium to boost your bone health. Pro tip: If you are concerned that broccoli will make you bloat, increase your Vitamin D intake to reduce the bloating.
3. Whole Grains
Hormone fluctuation affects brain chemistry and the production of serotonin causing mild depression and cravings. Low serotonin levels lead to mood swings, but a carbohydrate-rich healthy snack like half of a toasted 100% whole grain bagel could be all it takes to boost serotonin levels and mood.
4. Lean Proteins
Iron-rich foods like grass-fed red meat (or leafy green vegetables) are important as menopausal women are at risk for anemia and should be concerned about getting enough iron-rich foods. The B Vitamins provided by proteins also provide energy and regulate mood swings, while helping to stabilize blood sugar. Choose foods that are both high in B vitamins and lean protein.
Iron-rich foods including kale and similar leafy green vegetables are also rich sources of iron and ideal for menopausal women who are at risk for anemia and are concerned about getting enough iron-rich foods without adding unnecessary calories.
Salmon and similar oily fish provide omega-3 fatty acids that help battle the mood swings many women experience during menopause. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and cod also help provide energy and healthy fats while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 has also been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women.
Blueberries and berries, in general, can protect your brain by improving memory and possibly lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Berries are a rich source of antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to protect vision, brain function and memory. Berries also provide natural sweetness as an alternative to high-calorie foods with added sugars.
Almonds (in moderation) are a healthy snack that provides protein, fats and trace minerals like manganese and copper. They are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats which help to counter the drying effects of diminishing estrogen levels. Almonds are high in magnesium, Vitamin E and riboflavin which support vascular health.
Flaxseeds are packed with fiber, great for preventing heart disease and constipation. Flaxseeds also contain estrogen-mimicking compounds that can help temper hormonal changes.