Healthy Nutrition for Menopause

 

By Dr. Keith Wharton

When it comes to menopause, change is inevitable, but just how comfortably that change occurs is heavily linked to how well you care for your health. Nutrition is among the most influential factors of good health. When your body is not absorbing nutrients properly and/or lacking nutrients, you can experience some intense discomforts and adverse health effects. During menopause, maintaining nutrient levels is paramount – your body needs all the support sufficient nutrition can offer when enduring this stage in life.

  • Important minerals
    • Iron. The recommended dietary allowance for iron in older women is 8 milligrams a day. Eating at least three servings of iron-rich foods or cooking foods in an iron skillet, will help ensure you get your daily allowance. Iron is found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts and enriched grain products. It is important to remember than heme iron – found in eggs and meat – is more bioavailable than non-heme iron, found in vegetables and nuts. If you do not consume eggs or meat, supplementation of iron may be necessary or preparing meals in an iron skillet.
    • Calcium.  Adequate intake of calcium for women over 50 is 1,200 milligrams per day. Calcium is found in dairy products, almonds, broccoli and legumes. Calcium absorption is often limited – especially in the presence of iron. It is recommended that women supplement calcium throughout the lifespan to fortify and maintain bone density.
  • Get plenty of fiber. Be sure to include foods high in fiber such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Most adult women should get about 21 grams of fiber per day.
  • Eat clean. Choosing fresh, organic whole foods over processed and boxed foods is one way to improve your nutrient absorption.
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of nutrients. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables – eat across the rainbow by varying the color and types of fruits and vegetables you have each week. This will ensure you get a wider array of nutrients.
    • Organic lean meats. Eat organic meats and, if possible, local. Knowing exactly where your meat is coming from is on way to ensure you are not exposed to hormones, pesticides and other toxins that can cause harm.
    • Identify allergies and sensitivities.  Many common foods can cause allergic reactions in the GI tract or simply disrupt your system. It is not uncommon for people to experience symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities without ever realizing it.  Symptoms range from upset stomach to constipation to mental fogginess to fatigue and depression. There are seven foods that are the most common culprits in the American diet: peanuts, soy, dairy, sugar, gluten and artificial sweeteners and ingredients. GI allergies and sensitivities can inhibit nutrient absorption; therefore, it is important to identify these conditions through an elimination diet.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. The amount of water necessary for optimal health and hydration varies from person to person because it depends on many factors, such as what and how much you eat, the climate you live in and your activity level. Your body is 60 percent and too little – means you will retain water, so your body will be able to use what it needs to survive. To maintain adequate levels, strive to drink three liters of water daily. This will help flush out toxins, improve nutrient absorption, inhibit water retention and keep you hydrated. If plain water bores you, spice up the flavor by soaking cucumbers, citrus fruits, apples or peaches in your water pitcher – it will offer so “zip” without adding unnecessary processed powders, sugar and calories.
  • Foods to avoid
    • Unhealthy fats. Fat should provide 25 to 35 percent or less of your total daily calories and come primarily from mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Limit saturated fat and avoid trans fats. These fats have been linked to high cholesterol and an increased risk for heart disease. Saturated fat is found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream and cheese. Trans fats are found in vegetable oils, many baked goods and some margarines.
    • Sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories or a little more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. One glass of apple juice or a frappuccino will exceed this amount by more than 50 percent. Excessive consumption of sugar has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
    • Salt. Excess sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure. Foods labeled as smoked, salt-cured or charbroiled contain high quantities of sodium and nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation. The FDA recommends that women limit their consumption of alcohol to one or fewer drinks a day. This level of intake has been associated with several potential physiological benefits, including improvements of cholesterol profiles, platelet and clotting function, insulin sensitivity and a decreased risk of dementia. Moderate intake of red wine, thanks to the high polyphenol content, may also protect against cerebrovascular disease. However, too much alcohol can limit absorption of nutrients.

 

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