Do you still treat your body like you did in your early 20’s and 30’s? Do you find yourself skipping meals only to be so hungry that you munch on cheese and crackers, cookies or pizza instead of sitting down to a balanced meal? We’ve all gotten the message. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods. Get quality fat and protein. But do we do it?
Our habits run deep. We have knowledge deep in our subconscious from childhood and early adulthood that shapes the way we think about our body and the food we feed it. Have you ever thought of food as a reward? If you think of a particular food as being off limits, does it feel like punishment to not eat it? Can you imagine a holiday or a celebration without a particular food? We put a lot of emphasis on food. Going out to dinners, preparing our grandma's special dish, and using food as entertainment. None of these are using food for what its purpose is. Which is to fuel and nurture our bodies.
In menopause our hormones change, and it gets more difficult to keep our muscle and bones healthy and strong, to keep stress at a minimum and get quality sleep so that our cells can repair. Now it’s even more important to fuel our bodies nutritiously for optimum health and wellness. Here are three elements every meal needs.
Protein- Research is showing that menopausal women who consume more protein have lower body fat and higher metabolisms. Click here to read the article in PubMed.
Protein requires more calories to digest, therefore keeping your resting metabolic rate higher than when eating carbs and fat. We need quality protein to maintain and build muscle. Once we hit menopause, sarcopenia, osteopenia and osteoporosis become more common.In order to build muscle we have to strength train, consume enough protein and get enough sleep. No matter how much weight you lift, you can’t build muscle if you're not getting enough protein. So how much is enough? Everyone is different. Harvard Health shows a woman in her 50’s who weighs 140 pounds should have 53 grams of protein a day. Do you get at least that? I’m not a dietician, and you should follow your health care provider’s advice, but here’s what I do. I strive for 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, the author of Forever Strong, suggests even more protein. Click Here to read more about her Muscle Centric Medicine. Sources of lean protein to help build muscle and help with other menopausal symptoms include Greek yogurt (excellent source of calcium which is important for bone health) grilled chicken, lean beef (grass fed, even better), tuna, lentils, beans, tofu, eggs and turkey.
Fiber- A fiber rich diet at any age is important. In menopause, focusing on getting your fiber from fruits and vegetables as well as beans and legumes will help keep your gut healthy, bowels regular and weight under control. Fiber helps to slow down your digestion, which will help you feel full longer and will keep your insulin levels lower. I aim for 25 grams of fiber a day and this is what I recommend for my clients. Again, I’m not a licensed dietician but I follow Dr. Mary Claire Haver’s recommendations and she recommends the same. You can read more here. Sources of fiber to include at every meal are: green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries, lentils, peas, raspberries, nuts and seeds.
Healthy Fats- Both Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are essential fatty acids. Your body needs both for good health and can’t make them on its own. Omega 6’s are important for maintaining bone health, regulating metabolism and skin and hair growth. That being said, the standard American diet has a large emphasis on Omega 6’s. Getting Omega 6 fatty acids from sources like walnuts, leafy greens, sunflower seeds, tofu and eggs gives the benefit of Omega 6’s without all the saturated and trans fats that comes along with the Omega 6’s found in processed foods like: frozen pizzas, chips and other processed snack and fried foods. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in flax seeds, cold water fish like salmon, tuna and herring. Here’s where it can get a little overwhelming. Too much Omega 6 can lead to inflammation. This is why we want to avoid seed oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, peanut, soy and cottonseed, which is what most processed foods are made from. Consuming too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 can lead to inflammation and actually do us harm. Aim for a balance of 2:1 to 4:1, that is to consume double the amount of Omega 3’s compared to other fats. Click here to read the full article from University Health News Daily.
To keep it simple, crowd out foods that don’t offer you nutrients with foods that do. That’s whole foods that come as close to coming from the earth as possible. The more steps foods take from the earth to your plate the more processed it is and usually, the less nutrient dense it is. If you’ve been eating a lot of processed foods, take baby steps at first so you can make permanent lifestyle changes. This is where getting mindful about what we put into our body comes in handy. A frozen pizza or french fries may taste good while eating them, but what does your body feel like 30 minutes after eating? Pay attention to if you replace a processed dinner with a home cooked dinner the next night. How do you feel 30 minutes after you finish your meal? Click here to read a previous blog post What’s for Dinner to get some easy recipes for weekday meals.
If you’re interested in learning more about how I help my clients both through Health Coaching and my signature program The 6 Pillars of Wellness One-on-One coaching, email me at email@example.com.