During menopause, estrogen levels drop, affecting the way your body functions in ways you wouldn’t expect.
In fact, menopause affects the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates. Low estrogen levels cause the body to work harder to metabolize carbohydrates.
Theories suggest that estrogen helps transport glucose to the brain as well.
“With these levels low, a lack of glucose in the brain can trigger hot flashes and cause brain fog,” said Annie Ielts, MS, RDN, LN, a registered dietitian with Avera Medical Group Functional Medicine.
How does diet affect menopausal symptoms?
Menopause includes many unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and low energy. Low estrogen can affect your bone, muscle mass, and metabolism.
A balanced diet helps at any stage of life.
- Add a variety of vegetables, protein and calcium to your diet.
- The Mediterranean diet is recommended as a good complete meal plan that focuses on lean proteins, whole grains and lots of plant foods.
- Don’t stress your body too hard with any extreme diet.
Understand carbohydrates and menopause symptoms
When we eat carbohydrates on their own, our blood sugar can spike. Within an hour or two, these levels collapse, leading to fatigue, irritability, brain fog, and sugar cravings.
Hormonal imbalance and thyroid dysfunction can accompany crashes. We’ve probably all tested them: Come in the middle of the morning or mid-afternoon, you just want a nap or you just can’t resist cake in the break room.
“You might feel like you wouldn’t be able to function unless you had a sugary coffee drink,” she said. “A high-carb breakfast or lunch leads to a crash.”
To stop this cycle, eat meals and snacks that consist primarily of protein and healthy fats. Keep carbohydrates to a minimum – less than 100 grams per day.
“When you do this, you’ll have steady blood sugars, long-lasting energy, a clearer mind, and feel ‘full’ for longer,” Ilts said. “You’re less likely to suffer from carb and sugar cravings, either.”
Avoiding carb highs and crashes enables your hormones and thyroid gland to function better, which will help reduce menopausal symptoms and allow you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Skim milk with yogurt or other low-fat dairy products can help add the calcium you need. Shoot to include 1,200-1,500 milligrams a day from your food. If you are not a fan of dairy products, you can get calcium from:
- Oatmeal and orange juice for breakfast
- Leafy greens at lunch, or
- Cooked and seasoned tofu for dinner
Know the good from the bad in carbohydrates, fats and proteins
Ilts said these food groups can be divided into two camps. Try to focus on the healthy and if you can skip the others.
- Unhealthy: Bread, pasta, cereal, bread, cake, cookies, chips, crackers, baked goods and sweets
- Healthy: Starchy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats
- Unhealthy: fatty fried foods like French fries and cheese balls as well as fat from processed meats like bacon or those that come from dairy cheese
- Healthy: avocado. butter made from nuts or seeds; olive healthy oils such as olive, avocado, and coconut; herb butter; Ghee. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna provide both healthy fats and protein.
- Unhealthy: baked and fried meat or fish and bacon
- Healthy: baked or grilled meat and fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, collagen powder
Be attentive to bone health
Estrogen is important for maintaining bone density. During menopause, estrogen levels drop, and this can lead to significant bone loss.
Calcium can help you resist.
“It is an essential mineral for bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis and osteoporosis,” Ilts said. You should aim for 1200-1500 mg per day from your food.
“If you tolerate dairy products, organic milk, plain yogurt, cheese and grass-fed butter are good sources of calcium,” she added. “If you’re intolerant of dairy, canned salmon and sardines with bones can help.”
Calcium-fortified milk alternatives, sesame seeds, tahini, chia seeds, almonds, broccoli and leafy greens are good sources of calcium, Ilts said. Make sure you get plenty of vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium to improve bone health.
Avera nutritionists help many women reduce the severity of their menopausal symptoms.
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