Menopause, for women is a phase when their bodies are changing, making it imperative to get a little more serious about taking care of themselves especially in terms of good nutrition. Weight gain during any stage of life is uncomfortable, more so during menopause due to decreasing estrogen levels and the stress associated with it. Fat accumulates around the abdomen which could increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. At this point in life, appropriate lifestyle changes and a correct diet is the call of the hour.
Here are a few quick guidelines to help you through the peri-menopause and menopause period:
GET ENOUGH CALCIUM:
2 – 4 servings of calcium rich food is all that is needed to retain & build healthy bones. Dairy products, fish with bones like sardines & tuna, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, ragi and legumes are all rich in calcium. However, opt for the low fat or fat free dairy products so that the fat intake remains under check.
PUMP IN THE IRON:
Atleast 3 servings of iron rich foods like poultry, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts and grains are recommended to keep the haemoglobin levels at the necessary levels.
DON’T FORGET THE FIBER:
Make sure you have enough fiber in the diet from foods such as cereals, whole wheat pastas, beans and dals, fresh fruits and vegetables.
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER:
Water helps you stay hydrated and may reduce the intensity of the hot flashes which is one of the classic symptoms of menopause.
CUT DOWN THE EXTRA FAT:
Saturated fat increases your risk for heart disease. So, cut down on ghee, butter, red meat & full fat dairy products. Use more of vegetable oils like olive oil, rice bran oil, etc. Watch out for trans fats in many baked products and some margarine, as it is known to increase cholesterol and your risk for heart disease.
MODERATION IN USING SUGAR & SALT:
A high sodium intake increases the risk of high blood pressure. Hence, avoid too much usage of packaged and processed foods like chips, wafers and ready to eat products. Extra sugar in products like cakes, cookies, pastries and biscuits will lead to unnecessary piling up of calories which if un-utilised are stored as fat in the adipose tissue.
Certain foods are known to help ease the various symptoms associated with menopause while others may aggravate them. A few studies have shown that isoflavones found in soy products may help relieve menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Also, certain foods like spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol may trigger hot flashes. So, keep a watch on the foods that work for you and those that don’t.
There is a direct relation between the lack of estrogen levels past menopause and development of osteoporosis. Hence, consider consulting your medical practitioner to be able to start Calcium and Vitamin D supplements if you aren’t getting enough through your diet.
MENOPAUSE AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
And an important factor that contributes to weight gain during this period is lack of physical activity. Staying physically active during this period will keep your metabolism humming, help in fat loss and increase muscle mass.
Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week like brisk walking, swimming, etc. Include strength training into your exercise schedule atleast twice a week. This will help slow mineral loss from bones that cause osteoporosis. And if you enjoy the routine, you will be regular at it.
Lastly, remember that this phase is temporary. Approach it positively and learn to manage the stress levels associated with it and you will see your symptoms being managed well.
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