How Diet Affects the Menopause
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, the transition to the part of her life as her menstrual cycle comes to an end. Menopause is confirmed when 12 months after a woman’s last period has passed, however, the menopausal transition and symptoms associated with the menopause can actually last for many years after the menopause appears to have concluded.
Although the transition through menopause can see the rise of multiple different, and often uncomfortable, symptoms while also increasing your risk and susceptibility to certain diseases, having a healthy diet that contains certain foods could even help to reduce your symptoms and ease the transition through this period of life.
What Happens During the Menopause?
The transition into the post-menopausal period will see the decline of the estrogen hormone in the body. This will cause disruption to a woman’s normal cyclical patterns of estrogen and progesterone, and declining estrogen levels will see a negative impact on their metabolism. This is a key reason many women see weight gain during the menopausal period, and why a menopause diet plan to lose weight can help. These changes can also have an effect on the level of cholesterol within the body, as well as how easily the body can digest carbohydrates.
Some further symptoms of Menopause can include things from hot flashes, and even insomnia. Furthermore, changes in hormone levels can lead to a decline in bone density which will increase your risk of developing fractures.
In order to alleviate some of these symptoms, having a menopause diet plan to lose weight and alleviate more debilitating symptoms of menopause in place can help.
What Makes Menopause Weight Loss Difficult?
Around the time of menopause beginning, it can be very difficult to lose weight. In fact, many people notice that they are actually putting on weight during perimenopause, which can begin up to a decade before the onset of menopause proper. So how does this happen? What causes weight gain during menopause?
Several factors are at play during this period, and these include:
- Hormone fluctuations: Elevated and very low levels of oestrogen can both lead to an increase in fat storage.
- Loss of muscle mass: This occurs due to age, changes in hormone levels, and a decrease in physical activity.
- Inadequate sleep: Many women suffer from insomnia and night sweats during the menopausal period. Poor sleep has actually been linked to weight gain.
- Increased resistance to insulin: Women often become more resistant to insulin as they progress further in life, and this can make losing weight all the more difficult.
Furthermore, during menopause, fat storage actually shifts from the hips and thighs to primarily the abdomen, and this can cause an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease. Therefore, a menopause diet that helps to promote loss of abdominal fat are essential at this stage of life.
The Best Menopause Diet Plans
Below, we describe our top nutritious diets that are proven to help with weight loss and weight management during and beyond the menopausal transition.
The Low Carb Diet
A range of studies have shown that adopting a low carb diet is an excellent strategy for weight loss, and is even an effective menopause diet when it comes to the reduction of abdominal fat. Although perimenopausal and postmenopausal women have been involved in several studies of the low carb diet, there have only been a few studies solely looking at this focus group.
One study saw postmenopausal women on a low carb diet lose 21.8 pounds (9.9 kilograms), 27.5% of their body fat, and 3.5 inches (8.9 centimetres) from their waists within 6 months. Further still, the intake of carbohydrates does not need to be non-existent to promote weight loss.
Another study, featuring a paleo diet providing roughly 30% of daily calories from carbs, resulted in further reduction in abdominal fat after two years compared to a low-fat diet which provided 55–60% of calories from carbs.
The Mediterranean Diet
Although the Mediterranean diet is renowned for improving health and reducing the risk of heart disease overall, studies show that it can also help as a menopause diet to effectively lose weight.
Similarly to low carb diet studies, most studies regarding this diet looked at a range of people rather than exclusively post and perimenopausal women.
One study of men and women aged 55 and over who followed the Mediterranean diet showed significant reductions in abdominal fat - with their diets being supplemented with nuts and/or olive oil.
A Vegetarian or Plant-Based Diet
Evidence has shown that vegan and vegetarian diets are promising candidates for driving weight loss. Studies in postmenopausal women reported significant levels of weight loss and improvements in health in general among a group assigned a vegan diet.
A 2018 survey found that vegans going through perimenopause experienced far less severe vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes, and physical symptoms of menopause compared to omnivores.
Alternatively, a more flexible vegetarian diet, which includes dairy and eggs, has also been shown to promote weight loss in older women.
What is the Best Diet for Menopause Weight Loss?
There is actually evidence that certain foods within your diet may help to relieve some of the symptoms you experience during menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia, and lower bone density. In order to alleviate the symptoms above, your menopause diet should include foods like:
Due to Menopause increasing a woman’s risk of developing bone fractures due to a lesser bone density, dairy products are a great option that works in the way of reversing this. Because products like milk, cheese, and yoghurt contain minerals essential for bone health like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins D and K, your bone health can be maintained at a healthy level.
One study of nearly 750 postmenopausal women found that those who ate more dairy and animal protein had a significantly higher bone density than those who ate less. One review study also found that foods high in the glycine amino acid, which is found in milk and cheese, caused menopausal women to experience deeper sleep - showing that dairy may also help to improve sleep.
Further still, one study developed evidence that suggests dairy consumption can lead to a decreased risk of premature menopause, which occurs before the age of 45. It was found that women with the highest intake of vitamin D and calcium had a 17% reduced risk of early menopause.
Omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthy fats, may further benefit women going through menopause.
A review study of 483 menopausal women found that supplementing, and eating foods, with omega-3, caused a decrease in the frequency and occurrence of hot flashes and night sweats. However, a review of 8 studies on the subject of menopause and omega-3 found that only a few studies supported this beneficial effect on hot flashes.
Although these results were inconclusive, it may still provide some benefit to increase omega-3 intake with foods like fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon and anchovies, and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds during menopause to see if it alleviates symptoms for yourself.
Whole grains are highly nutrient-rich and densely packed with fibre and B vitamins like thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. This means that a menopause diet rich in whole grains can be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and even premature death.
One review found that, compared to people who mostly ate refined carbohydrates, people who ate over three servings of whole grains per day had a lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes of between 20-30%.
A study in over 11,000 postmenopausal women noted that eating at least 4.7 grams of whole grain fibre per 2,000 calories a day, which can be found in foods like brown rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, quinoa, and rye, helped to reduce the risk of early death by as much as 17%.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables in general, are packed with things that are fantastic for your health. Vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants can all be found in these foods, and it is recommended that every meal should have at least half your plate being fruit and vegetables.
One intervention study of over 17,000 menopausal women found that those who ate more vegetables, fruit, fibre and soy experienced a 19% reduction in hot flashes compared to the control group. But what is the best diet for menopause weight gain? This reduction was attributed to a healthier diet, which also gave rise to further weight loss - meaning a higher amount of these foods is the best diet for menopause to lose weight.
Cruciferous vegetables are one kind of vegetable that may provide even more benefits for postmenopausal women, as one study found that vegetables like broccoli can help to decrease levels of a breast cancer-related type of oestrogen, while increasing levels of oestrogen that helps to fend off the disease.
Dark berries also offer some great benefits for menopausal women, as an eight-week study in 60 menopausal women found that supplementing with 25 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder per day helped to lower blood pressure, however, more research is needed in this field.
One further eight-week study in 91 middle-aged women found that those who supplemented with 200mg of grape seed extract daily reported fewer hot flushes, a lower rate of insomnia, and lower levels of depression.
Phytoestrogens are compounds in certain foods that act as weak oestrogen hormones within the body. Although the inclusion of these within your diet can be seen as controversial, recent research suggests that there may be benefits to health for women going through menopause.
Foods that contain phytoestrogen naturally include soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, flax seeds, barley, grapes, berries, plums, green and black tea and more.
A review of 21 studies on soy found that postmenopausal women who took soy isoflavone supplements for a minimum of four weeks had 14% higher estradiol (estrogen) levels compared to those who took a placebo.
A further review of 15 studies, with time frames ranging from 3 to 12 months, found that food with phytoestrogens was found to lower the frequency of hot flashes compared to control groups, with no serious side effects.
A decline in oestrogen has been linked to a decrease in muscle mass and bone strength. This means that women going through menopause are recommended to eat more protein, and guidelines recommend that women over 50 eat 0.45–0.55 grams of protein per pound (1–1.2 grams per kg) of body weight daily — or 20–25 grams of high-quality protein per meal - with the recommended macronutrient distribution range for protein being 10-35% of total daily calories.
As collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, a recent one-year study in 131 postmenopausal women found that those who took at least 5 grams of collagen peptides per day had a significantly higher bone density compared to the placebo group.
A further large study of adults over 50 found that consumption of dairy protein was linked to a decreased risk of hip fractures by 8% - whereas consumption of plant protein lowered this risk further to 12%.
High protein content foods include eggs, meat, fish, legumes and dairy products. Additionally, you can add protein powders to smoothies or baked goods if you prefer a plant-based diet.
Overall, What is the Best Diet to Follow During Menopause?
While menopause is linked to changes in how your body functions, especially in terms of metabolism, reduced bone density, and an increased risk of heart disease, many women going through menopause also experience more unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flushes and insomnia.
The best diet for menopausal women to lose weight contains high levels of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein and dairy products - and these may even help to reduce the symptoms you experience during menopause. In order to develop the most effective diet for menopause, phytoestrogens and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish, may further help to alleviate symptoms too.
During this period of a woman’s life, the best diet for menopause weight loss will also mean limiting the amount of additional added sugars, processed carbs, alcohol, caffeine and high-sodium within your life - as well as a reduction in spicy foods.
An increase in the intake of magnesium is also proven to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are common side-effects of menopause itself. Find out how.
By supplementing your diet with OHMG magnesium water, you can offset the symptoms of menopause that cause anxiety and depression. Each deliciously fruity and tongue tantalising can of OHMG contains 56mg of magnesium - that’s as much as an avocado!
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