Menopause can be a stressful and confusing time. Just when you thought you had everything in your life under control, your body and mind start to undergo changes. While you can’t stop menopause from happening, you can mitigate the effects with physical activity and proper nutrition. Here are some of the nutritional basics that will help your body and mind stay healthy and active for the long run.
The Need for Calcium and Vitamin D
As women age, the ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone starts to slow down, causing the symptoms associated with menopause. In addition to its role in female reproduction, estrogen is also involved with bone metabolism, and lowering levels can cause osteoporosis.
Calcium and vitamin D are necessary nutrients in bone metabolism, and boosting levels can help slow down osteoporosis. Researchers have not yet come to a consensus about how much calcium women need during menopause and beyond, but traditionally recommend 1,200 milligrams per day. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium, and doctors recommend supplementing with 600 IU per day.
Aim to eat two to four servings of calcium-rich food per day, such as dairy products, sardines, canned salmon, broccoli, and legumes. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fish, fortified dairy products and orange juice, and eggs.
Protein for Muscle Mass
As we age, we start to lose muscle mass, which, when combined with osteoporosis, can put menopausal women at higher risk of falls and fractures. Dieticians recommend eating one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day for women over the age of 50 to maintain muscle mass. Spread protein intake throughout the day rather than eating it all in one meal, as research shows this to be a more efficient way to build muscle.
Some good sources of dietary protein are lean beef, skinless chicken breast, low-fat Greek yogurt, soybeans, and eggs.
Cut Down on Sugar and Salt
Excess sugar and salt aren’t good for anyone, regardless of their age or gender, but as we enter menopause, avoiding them becomes even more important. Estrogen helps keep blood vessels healthy and flexible, and as levels fall as menopause approaches, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Increased intake of salt is associated with high blood pressure, so limiting intake can take some of the burden off the heart.
Eating too much added sugar can not only add unwanted weight, but can also put us at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that women eat less than 100 calories of added sugar per day, which is about six teaspoons.
Healthy Foods Are Whole Foods
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in unprocessed foods will go a long way toward keeping you healthy and vibrant for years to come. By focusing on the foods discussed above, you can keep your menopause symptoms at bay as well, making you feel as good as you look.