NUTRITION IN MENOPAUSE
As women our bodies are constantly changing with the onset of menopause being one of the biggest hormonal and physical changes.
Menopause is the cessation of the menstrual cycle and the hormones associated with it. Due to these hormonal changes, women become more at risk for metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease and osteoporosis. Although there are medical therapies, like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used to treat the side effects of menopause, many women choose to go a more natural route. This is where lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise become very important.
Let’s have a look at the changes that may occur in your body during menopause and what you can do to ensure you are as healthy as possible during this time.
Weight gain is one of the most visually obvious effects of menopause. Not only does weight gain cause physical changes but it can also lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Yes, weight gain can be due to hormonal changes, but age as well as sedentary habits can also be to blame. As we become older and less active, we tend to lose muscle mass. With the loss of muscle mass our metabolism changes, and we need less energy every day. Therefore, keeping active and including resistance exercise as well as consuming higher protein foods will help to preserve muscle mass, while adjusting your portion sizes will prevent weight gain.
Due to hormonal changes, bone density might decrease during the menopausal years. This can lead to osteoporosis. Engaging in resistance exercise and consuming enough calcium and vitamin D through your diet and supplementation can minimize these effects. Foods like milk, yogurt and low fat cheese are good calcium sources while eggs and liver are great sources of vitamin D. Having your bone density measured can highlight any issues and intervention early on can have great long-term benefits.
Another effect of hormonal changes is the increased risk for heart disease. Lack of oestrogen can lead to increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and blood vessel wall (endothelial) dysfunction which together can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the plaque that forms on the inside of blood vessels, restricting blood flow. This, together with increased blood pressure after menopause can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Studies have suggested that a Mediterranean diet, including nuts, seeds, lean animal proteins, olive oil, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are most beneficial for heart health.
PHYTOESTROGENS AS A TREATMENT FOR MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS
You might have heard about phytoestrogens before. Basically, phyto- refers to plant which means that phytoestrogens are a plant source of oestrogen and are presently the most popular form of alternative therapy for support of menopausal symptoms. Food sources of phytoestrogens include soy, legumes, olive oil, fruits and vegetables. Soybeans especially are in the spotlight when it comes to phytoestrogens and menopausal symptom treatment. Isoflavones, compounds abundant in soybeans, are thought to be responsible for the oestrogen-like effects, thereby relieving menopausal symptoms.
In the short term, phytoestrogens can relieve hot flushes and night sweats while in the long term promote weight loss (hello lean protein source) and glycaemic (blood sugar levels) control, reducing the risk of developing diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Phytoestrogens are a safe, low-risk solution to menopausal symptoms compared to hormone replacement therapy.
HOW CAN YOU INCLUDE MORE SOY IN YOUR DIET?
Soybeans are a good source of high-quality protein and is comparable to animal protein sources as it contains all the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) that cannot be made naturally by the body. They also contain less saturated fat and no cholesterol when compared to animal protein sources. Many soy products can be found at your local grocer and at specialist shops including meat alternatives like soy sausage or soy “meatballs”, edamame beans, miso, soymilk, tempeh and tofu.
WHERE DOES FUTURELIFE® FIT IN?
The FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ range, including FUTURELIFE® High Protein Smart food™, FUTURELIFE® Zero Smart food™ and FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ is soy and whole grain maize based. That means that these products are high in protein and that they contain the phytoestrogens that soy provides for the alleviation of menopausal symptoms. Soy, and therefore these FUTURELIFE® products, is also naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids that have shown to have heart health benefits.
Not only is FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ versatile and easy to prepare, but it’s also a complete, whole grain meal which is high in fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D and soy derived phytoestrogens, making it the perfect meal or shake to include in your diet during the menopausal years. With four flavours to choose from (banana, chocolate, strawberry and original) you can enjoy FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ as a meal or a shake at any time of day.
- Silva TR, Opperman K, Reis FM and Spritzer PM. 2021. Nutrition in Menopausal Women: A Narrative Review. Nutrients,13(7):2149. https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu13072149
- The Association of UK Dietitians. Menopause and diet: Food Fact Sheet. Date accessed: 20 July 2022. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/menopause-diet.html
- Chen L, Ko N and Chen K. 2019. Isoflavone Supplements for Menopausal Women: A Systematic Review. Nutrients,11(11):2649. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112649National School Nutrition Programme. (2021). Department of Basic Education. Retrieved from: https://www.education.gov.za/Programmes/NationalSchoolNutritionProgramme.aspx
- Abdi F, Rahnemaei FA, Roozbeh N and Pakzad R. 2021. Impact of Phytoestrogens on Treatment of Urogenital Menopause Symptoms: A Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. European journal of obstetrics & gynecology and reproductive biology, 261:222-235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2021.03.039
- De Franciscis P, Colacurci N, Riemma G, Conte A, Pittana E, Guida M and Schiattarella A. 2019. A Nutraceutical Approach to Menopausal Complaints. Medicina, 55(9):544. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina55090544
Author: Bianca Tromp RD (SA)