Menopause is an obligatory stage in the life of every woman. It corresponds to the cessation of ovarian functioning, therefore menstruation. Usually it occurs between 45 and 55 years old, with an average around 50 years (source 1). While menopause is not a disease, estrogen deficiency can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep or mood disorders or… weight gain.
around fifty, the body changes as a result of hormonal changes. The amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries drops, which results in a migration of fat reserves from the saddlebags to the abdomen.
In a same time, the phenomenon of water retention is accentuated and muscle mass begins to decline, leading to a drop in basal metabolic rate, that is, resting energy expenditure.
This period is sometimes accompanied, in addition, by a need to compensate by eating more, fatter and sweeter, which enhances weight gain and storage. To limit the effects of this inevitable menopause, many efforts are needed! The challenge : succeed in reducing energy intake without causing deficiencies, frequent at this pivotal time in life.
Certain foods or eating habits can aggravate the symptoms of menopause, and in particular promote weight gain. Here are some tips to follow.
To avoid gaining pounds, but especially to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, postmenopausal women are advised to avoid certain foods. This is particularly the case of refined sugars, found in candies, cakes, sodas…which cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels (glycaemia), hot flashes, mood swings… We also recommend avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine. There are alternatives for the aperitif: we replace the glass of alcohol with a glass of tomato juice, for example.
wage war on “bad” fats! Trans fatty acids, saturated fats… They harm cardiovascular health, promote overweight and abdominal obesity. Replace them with “good” fats (monounsaturated fats, omega-3…) found mainly in oily fish and oils.
We no longer cook by sight, but with a tablespoon : 1 C. per day is enough, favoring vegetable oils and varying them (rapeseed, walnuts, olives, flax, etc.). Fat-free cooking methods are favored: steam, foil, oven… and light sauces are added (tomato coulis, fromage blanc beaten with lemon and herbs, light vinaigrette…). In the morning, swap the butter rich in saturated fats for an almond puree rich in omega-9.
At menopause, there is more water retention. However, sodium retains water in the cells! Limit prepared meals and foods high in salt (breads, smoked fish, cold meats, cheeses, stock cubes, soy sauce, etc.), you don’t resalt your plate at the table, we enhance the taste of the dishes with spices and herbs and we rinse the preserves. As salt whets the appetite, reducing it is also a good way to eat less. Not to mention that salt, in excess, promotes high blood pressure and the development of cardiovascular diseases.
When the basal metabolic rate decreases, the energy intake must also decrease. Otherwise, excess calories are stored. We are therefore reviewing the portions downwardsespecially at dinner, we do not refill ourselves, and we do not force ourselves to eat when we are not hungry.
During this transition period that is menopause, hormones do not make it easy for you. To avoid weight gain, it is advisable to adapt a special diet.
One of the major risks of menopause isosteoporosis, a demineralization of the bones that can lead to fractures. To limit this phenomenon, we increase our contributions calciumsalt and acidifying products are reduced which favor his escape. We consume dairy products, but not only, because they are sometimes rich in saturated fats and, for some, difficult to digest. We think of oilseeds (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.), rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium waters (Hépar, Contrex, etc.) and canned sardines.
Vitamin D helps fight osteoporosis. She promotes the proper absorption of calcium but also better retention of it by the bone system. The foods richest in vitamin D are often fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, canned sardines, herring, tuna, etc.), but also liver, egg yolk, cottage cheese, mushrooms, enriched soy milk, etc.
Rich in fiber and water but low in calories, vegetables satiate at a lower cost and slow down the assimilation of other nutrients, thus limiting storage. They are rich in potassium, a mineral that fights water retention, and calcium which helps prevent osteoporosis. We prefer them cooked to facilitate their digestion. We favor the green vegetables (spinach, green beans, broccoli, artichoke…). We do not forget the legumes (cooked lentils, dried weights, dried beans…). which are an excellent source of fiber, but also of protein. Pulses, they bring very interesting contributions in potassium, iron and magnesium.
Another interesting source of fiber: the fruits. According to a 2022 study (source 3), the prunes would be particularly beneficial to bone health.
It is often advised to consume soy or soy products during menopause. Indeed, soy helps regulate the hormonal disorder induced by menopause (and therefore symptoms such as hot flashes, etc.), thanks to its richness in isoflavones, these natural substances that act in the body a bit like estrogen. Be careful, however, in the event of hypothyroidism, which is common in postmenopausal women. In this case, soy should not be avoided.
A scientific study of North American Menopause Society published in the magazine Menopause (source 2), demonstrates that a low-fat, soy-rich vegan diet could reduce moderate to severe hot flashes by 84%. The frequency of hot flashes would go from almost five a day to less than one a day in a short time, thanks to this diet.
It is important to choose the right snack, and to know when to take it. We generally recommend 1 to 2 daily snacks spread throughout the day, which will provide fiber and protein. Exit snacks with fast or refined sugars! Prefer associations:
If you can’t do without your cereal, prefer the full versions and combine them with fresh fruit or natural yogurt or milk (cow, soy). For bread fanatics: 1 slice of wholemeal bread + 1 teaspoon of peanut or almond butter.
During menopause, a healthy lifestyle can reduce symptoms and promote general well-being. Beyond a healthy diet, the practice of a physical activity can help limit weight gain and preserve muscle capital in postmenopausal women. Certain physical activities, if they are regular, are particularly recommended.
Prioritize activities that maintain and promote bone strength. Alternate sports such as cycling, swimming… with low impact sports (walking or Nordic walking). For the more athletic, running or jumping rope.
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