There is a large number of different symptoms experienced by women during menopause but do any foods make these symptoms worse?
One of the foods that are believed to contribute to hot flushes and mood swings refined carbohydrates and sugary foods. You should avoid these at the best of times regardless of menopause or age. We’re talking cakes, white breads, pasta, pastries, biscuits……yes comfort foods. Not only do they put weight on but your gut doesn’t like them much. If you eat a lot of these foods they can cause high blood sugar and insulin resistance, weight gain and lack of energy because they will just bog you down.
It’s amazing how good you feel once you cut down these foods and replace them with their much healthier cousins such as wholegrain breads, wholemeal or legume pastas, brown rice and if you want something sweet make some delicious nut bars yourself with some fruit in there.
(Image sourced from Creative COmmons: https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/womens-health/a-gynecologist-answers-5-common-questions-about-menopause)
Here’s a challenge:
For 1 week stop eating anything white and see how it feels.
If you go to eat something white, stop and think ‘What can I have instead?’.
Make a new shopping list with the things you need to replace in your diet.
If you have put on a bit of weight around the middle this should be a concern as this is one of the key determinants in developing chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Ladies, your waist should be no more than 80cm and for your men it should be no more than 94cm. Easy done by not having whites in your diet (yes that includes white potato and hot chips 😊).
A beverage that is linked to increase hot flushes is alcohol. You knew I’d bring this up. Try to have a few alcohol-free days/week and instead take up a new hobby. Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep so try to go without it and see what happens.
Caffeine is another one that along with alcohol seems to make some women’s hot flushes more severe so if you are a coffee lover then try to cut back a bit and see if it helps.
What else should you be aware of during menopause?
High Salt is something else that you need to be aware of but you should be aware of this throughout your life not just when menopause hits. High salt diets can cause high blood pressure and you are more susceptible to high blood pressure as you age. What you can do is steer clear of putting salt on the table at mealtime and adding salt when you cook. Whenever you buy something look at the sodium content on the nutrition panel and try to stay under 120mg/100g (low salt) or 400mg/100g or less (reduced salt). This will not be easy which is why I always suggest eating fresh vegies and making your own meals from scratch to be on the safe side.
One of the best ways to stay healthy during menopause and beyond is to bring the Mediterranean diet into your life. There have been several studies in this area that show evidence of the health-related benefits of being on a Mediterranean diet. A traditional Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, and unsaturated fats and extra virgin olive oil. It is low in saturated fats, meat, and poultry but there should be a moderate to high intake of fish and dairy products (cheese and yogurt) topped off with a modest intake of alcohol in the form of wine.
There is an abundance of evidence that suggests adherence to the Mediterranean diet is linked to the reduction in the risk of all causes of mortality (chronic disease e.g. reductions in blood pressure, blood glucose levels, inflammation) as well as with a reduction in the incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease and cancer. This all depend on your environment, genetics, and lifestyle of course and if we all lived in the Mediterranean maybe we would be a little healthier!
(Image sourced from Creative Commons: https://greece.greekreporter.com/2019/06/03/feel-the-tranquility-of-greeces-skopelos-island/)
The take home message is to watch what you eat and understand how your body reacts to what you eat throughout your life not just as you age. This is the same with your gut and how it reacts to what you eat. We are all different so we need to know ourselves better than anyone.
Fung, T.T., et al., Mediterranean diet and incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke in women. Circulation, 2009. 119(8): p. 1093-1100.
Perez-Rey, J., et al., Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Bone Mineral Density in Spanish Premenopausal Women. Nutrients, 2019. 11(3).
Trichopoulou, A. and P. Lagiou, Healthy traditional Mediterranean diet: an expression of culture, history, and lifestyle. Nutr Rev, 1997. 55(11 Pt 1): p. 383-9.