How can I manage my weight?
Gaining weight is quite is common around the time of the menopause. This is because as you age you tend to lose some muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when you aren’t doing anything active. This means that if the amount of muscle you have decreases, you need to eat fewer calories. But, it can be easy to eat more than you need to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
You might find it helpful to be mindful of your portion sizes, and make sure you’re eating a healthy balanced diet.
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Fresh, tinned, and dried all count.
- Include healthy, wholegrain starchy foods in every meal, such as wholemeal bread or brown rice.
- Eat moderate amounts of protein such as beans, lentils, chicken, fish and meat. Avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausages as much as possible.
- Include some calcium-rich foods every day (see below).
- Swap saturated fats, such as those found in butter and meat, for unsaturated fats, such as those found in oily fish, nuts and olive oil.
- Cut down on foods high in salt and sugar, such as crisps and chocolate.
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty throughout the day. If you don’t like water, you could try sugar-free squash or herbal tea.
Regular exercise will also help you to manage your weight. Find something that you enjoy and try to build it into your routine. Each week aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as cycling or brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, such as running or playing sport.
Try to include two sessions of strength-building exercises a week as well. Strengthening exercises involve moving your muscles against some resistance. These include lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing exercises such as push-ups or squats.
Eating healthily and exercising regularly will also help keep your heart healthy. This is important because the menopause can increase your risk of heart disease.
Can my diet help with hot flushes?
Many people experience hot flushes as a symptom of the menopause. There isn’t lots of evidence that certain foods or drinks trigger hot flushes, but some people find avoiding certain things helpful, such as:
This won’t work for everybody, so it’s best to try and see what works for you. You might find it useful to track your symptoms, as well as what you eat and drink, to see if there are any patterns.
Should I be eating phyto-oestrogens?
You might have heard some people talk about phyto-oestrogens. These are compounds found naturally in some plants that are similar to human oestrogens. It’s thought that eating these foods might be helpful for some menopause symptoms, but the evidence about whether they work is mixed.
Phyto-oestrogens are found in many different foods, including:
- soya products such as tofu or soya milk
- fruits and vegetables
It seems that regularly having portions of these foods throughout the day works better than having lots of them all at once. You could try adding linseeds to your breakfast cereal or having a soya yoghurt as a dessert.
It’s worth noting that it might take a few months to see any results, and that these foods won’t affect everybody’s symptoms.
How can I look after my bones?
Some symptoms of the menopause are less obvious because they happen inside your body. This includes the effect that the menopause has on your bones. The menopause can cause you to lose calcium from your bones and this can mean you are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
There are some things that you can do to help keep your bones healthy.
- Include muscle-strengthening exercises into your exercise routine (see ‘How can I manage my weight?’).
- Eat plenty of foods that are rich in calcium.
- Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.
Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and healthy. You should aim for two or three portions of calcium-rich foods every day. A portion can be:
- 200ml (a third of a pint) semi-skimmed milk
- 30g piece of cheese (about the size of a small matchbox)
- 3tbsp of yoghurt (a small pot)
If you don’t eat dairy, you can also get calcium from dairy alternatives, such as those made from soya or oats. But you should check that calcium has been added to these products, as they don’t usually contain enough calcium otherwise.
Vitamin D helps your bones absorb the calcium they need. It’s made under your skin when you go outside in daylight during the summer months. You can’t get enough vitamin D from your diet, but there are foods that do have small amounts, for example:
- oily fish such as salmon or pilchards
- fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals
- egg yolks
Some people will get less vitamin D than others. This includes people who live further North, those who tend to cover up outside, people over 65 and those with darker skin. These groups should consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D. Experts think most people might benefit from taking a supplement, especially during the winter.