Menopause is a natural process and not a diagnosis. Weight gain is an irritating part of menopause and it can lead to other health risks if it is not controlled.
Research has shown that a focus on what you eat during menopause can help you conquer menopausal weight gain.1 This does not necessarily mean you will get your 20s body back; however, focusing on your food habits may help you control the weight gain during menopause, thereby staying healthy.
Let’s examine foods you can include that will help maintain and promote healthy weight during menopause.
Foods That Help Maintain Weight During Menopause
When you enter perimenopause or during menopause, there is a drop in your estrogen or progesterone levels. This is a cause for your inexplicable craving for sugar or sugary foods.
Mood swings before and during menopause are common during which there may be a dip in the serotonin level in your body as well. Serotonin is a mood enhancer. A dip in serotonin is known to affect your mood, behavior, appetite, and digestion. This also contributes to your sugar cravings during menopause which will, in turn, contribute to your weight gain.
To help with the sugar cravings, it is important to substitute refined sugars as they are the worst type of sugar to consume. Honey is a natural sweet liquid and can be used as a substitute for refined sugars. Other “natural” sugar substitutes include molasses, barley malt, palm sugar, date sugar, etc.2
Although these are substitutes, they should be consumed in moderate amounts. These can be unhealthy if eaten in large amounts because they elevate the blood glucose level and in turn the insulin level.
2. Fresh Tuna
Fat before, during, and after menopause is beneficial if it is the right kind of fat. The “wrong” fat or saturated fats should definitely be cut down. Saturated fats include beef, pork, poultry with skin, and others.
Good essential fatty acids are important for your body, of which omega-3 is the most important for women during their menopause. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the level of bad cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases.3 The American Heart Association recommends having at least two servings of fish per week.
There are many foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include oily fish – fresh tuna, salmon, herring, sardine, etc, flax seeds, walnuts, spinach, soybeans, eggs, and others.
Including omega-3 rich foods in your diet helps you have the “good” fats in your body, thereby controlling unwanted weight gain during menopause.
3. Whole Grains
During menopause, metabolism slows down. This can be a factor that contributes to the excess weight gain during menopause. Eating foods rich in fiber will help boost your metabolism rate.
Adequate fiber intake prevents constipation and diverticulosis, promotes a healthy weight, and prevents heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.4
Foods rich in fiber include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains like barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, and others.
High-fiber foods are low in calories and tend to be light but filling and take a long time to digest.5 This reduces the need to eat more food thereby reducing snacking on junk foods.
The results from a study also show that dietary soluble fiber intake is associated with a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women.6
Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds found in a wide variety of foods, most commonly found in soy.7 During menopause, estrogen levels tend to drop which can affect the mood and may also cause an imbalance of sorts that can lead to unhealthy food habits.
Foods rich in phytoestrogens may help reduce these menopausal symptoms.8 These foods include soy and soy products – soy milk, soy yogurt, flax seeds, hummus, garlic, fenugreek, and others.
There is research being made to link these foods and the reduction of menopausal symptoms. Current data are insufficient to draw definitive conclusions regarding the use of phytoestrogens.9
While this might be true, there is a study made that focused on the role of estrogen in regulating food intake, body weight, energy expenditure, and body fat distribution. This study involved a series of animal experiments. There is no evidence of this study on humans. Researchers showed how estrogen receptors located in the hypothalamus serve as a master switch to control food intake, energy expenditure, and body fat distribution. This creates a link between estrogen and weight gain.10
Too much of anything is not good; therefore, it is always best to eat these foods in adequate amounts and help fight the excess fat you gain during menopause.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Pitt Researchers Identify Behaviors That May Lead to Successful Weight Control in Older Women. University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.|
|2.||↑||Cabot, Sandra. Can’t Lose Weight? Unlock the secrets that keep you fat. SCB International.|
|3, 8.||↑||Menopause. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|4.||↑||Abdulaziz, Hana Feeney. “Nutrition for menopause and beyond.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 15, no. 3 (2010): 108-107.|
|5.||↑||Phillips, E. “Everything you need to know about the menopause.” London, UK: Rodale International Ltd (2004).|
|6.||↑||Li, Qian, Theodore R. Holford, Yawei Zhang, Peter Boyle, Susan T. Mayne, Min Dai, and Tongzhang Zheng. “Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer by menopausal and estrogen receptor status.” European journal of nutrition 52, no. 1 (2013): 217-223.|
|7.||↑||Patisaul, Heather B., and Wendy Jefferson. “The pros and cons of phytoestrogens.” Frontiers in neuroendocrinology 31, no. 4 (2010): 400-419.|
|9.||↑||Vincent, Ann, and Lorraine A. Fitzpatrick. “Soy isoflavones: are they useful in menopause?.” In Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 75, no. 11, pp. 1174-1184. Elsevier, 2000.|
|10.||↑||Revealing estrogen’s secret role in obesity. American Chemical Society.|