Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” said Hippocrates, the father of medicine. This mantra should guide our daily diets, even more importantly during and after menopause. A number of changes in your body will occur and weight gain may be one of them. It’s important to know that this is a common problem faced by many women. You are not alone. The best thing you can do to defend yourself against weight gain is to adapt your diet to your changing body. In the article below, our expert Agnieszka Szmurto gives eight basic rules to follow in order for everything to go just fine.
Diet affects quality of life during menopause. Proper eating habits are an action against weight gain and obesity. It is very important to pay attention to what you eat during this stage of life1. Weight gain during menopause increases the risk of high blood pressure, high blood lipid levels and insulin resistance; therefore, maintaining healthy diet is crucial2.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
It is also important to monitor blood sugar levels after menopause to prevent type 2 diabetes. It is necessary to eat balanced meals throughout the day. Your diet should be based on products with low and medium glycemic index, so it’s important to pay attention to the glycemic load of a meal1.
Here are some basic tips to follow to avoid gaining weight during menopause:
- Meals should be consumed regularly to prevent excessive drop in blood glucose. Starting from breakfast, there should be 4-5 meals eaten throughout the day. Breakfast should contain complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, or oatmeal, vegetables and legumes3.
- A brunch and afternoon snack should consist of small snacks in the form of a fruit, preferably with protein additives like plain yogurt, which are a source of calcium and are important in the prevention of osteoporosis4.
- Lunch should be the largest meal of the day, accounting for about 35% of energy intake. It should be eaten relatively early, in the middle of the day.
- Dinner can also be a warm meal, but it should be proportionally smaller than lunch.
- Skip the salt! Not only does salt lead to a rise in blood pressure, it also causes water retention, which can contribute to weight gain.
- Your diet should be rich in dairy products because they provide more calcium, protein, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and magnesium per calorie than any other food. Skimmed milk, cottage cheese, low fat plain yogurt are the recommended dairy products5.
- Calcium and vitamin D reduce fall-and-fracture risk and also prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D should be supplemented with 800 IU/day. Vitamin D can be also found in farmed trout, wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, cod liver oil, fresh mushrooms. Marine fish should be eaten twice a week6.
- Lastly, increased physical activity is very important due to the fact that it helps with weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity, and prevents osteoporosis. At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity three days per week, in combination with two strength training or weight lifting sessions is recommended2,6.
Diet – A Good Discussion Starter?
Diet change is often avoided when your partner doesn’t have the physical necessities. Keep in mind that your partner will also go through a kind of “menopause.” For men, “change of life” is called andropause, and it comes with as many life changes as menopause does for women. Diet is a good way to start a dialogue on this common, but different life-changing journey. Why not making it a discussion starter to encourage going through this journey together as a couple?
Key Elements to Remember to avoid menopause weight gain
DO adopt a proper diet — not a sophisticated one, just a healthy one. There are plenty of things you can eat that will, not only prevent weight gain, but will also help with the many symptoms you may feel.
DO keep your meal times regular so that your body can get used to this new diet.
1. Brończyk-Puzoń A, Piecha D, Nowak J, Koszowska A, Kulik-Kupka K, Dittfeld A, Zubelewicz-Szkodzińska B.Guidelines for dietary management of menopausal women with simple obesity. Prz Menopauzalny. 2015 Mar; 14(1):48–52.
2. Simkin-Silverman, L. R., & Wing, R. R. (2000). Weight gain during menopause. Postgraduate Medicine, 108(3),47–56.
3. Weickert, M. O., & Pfeiffer, A. F. (2018). Impact of Dietary Fiber Consumption on Insulin Resistance and the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition, 148(1), 7–12.
4. Purdue-Smithe, A. C., Whitcomb, B. W., Szegda, K. L., Boutot, M. E., Manson, J. E., Hankinson, S. E., Bertone-Johnson, E. R. (2017). Vitamin D and calcium intake and risk of early menopause. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ajcn145607.
5. Rizzoli, R., Bischoff-Ferrari, H., Dawson-Hughes, B., & Weaver, C. (2014). Nutrition and Bone Health in Women after the Menopause. Women’s Health, 10(6), 599–608.
6. Stachowiak G, Pertyński T, Pertyńska-Marczewska M. Metabolic disorders in menopause. Prz Menopauzalny.2015 Mar; 14(1): 59–64.