Menopause

Updated 20 July 2014

Menopause and diet

Women are more susceptible to certain diseases after menopause. The correct diet can go a great deal to reducing the risk factors.

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Step 1: Understanding the relationship between menopause and food

Before menopause, women are protected against a number of diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis. Once their bodies stop producing oestrogen, the incidence of these diseases in older women increases alarmingly.

Lack of oestrogen also slows down the metabolism, often resulting in weight gain. Other factors that contribute to weight gain are the use of hormone replacement therapy, slowing down of the basic metabolism with increasing age, lack of exercise and increased food intake due to emotional problems such as depression.

By eating healthily, these health risks can be reduced.

Step 2: Adopting new healthy habits

Prevent diseases of lifestyle:

  • 1. Don’t smoke
  • 2. Lower high blood cholesterol levels
  • 3. Reduce obesity
  • 4. Control diabetes
  • 5. Control high blood pressure
  • 6. Increase physical activity
  • 7. Make dietary changes


Step 3: Understanding the basic principles to prevent postmenopausal health problems

  • reduce the total amount of fat you eat, especially of saturated fat and cholesterol which is mainly found in meat, eggs, and full cream dairy products
  • replace saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and oils (canola, avocado, sunflower, olive oil, and soft or tub margarines with a high polyunsaturated/ mono-unsaturated fatty acid content)
  • avoid foods containing trans-fatty acids (hard or block margarine, commercial cakes, biscuits and pies)
  • eat plenty of fish two to three times a week to increase your Omega-3 fatty acid intake
  • eat Omega-3 enriched eggs (four times a week)
  • eat foods rich in protective antioxidants (fresh fruit and vegetables)
  • eat foods rich in dietary fibre (fresh, raw fruits and vegetables and unprocessed grains and cereals)
  • take a vitamin E supplement
  • make sure you are getting sufficient B vitamins, especially folate, B6 and B12 which protect against heart disease - take a B complex supplement if necessary
  • eating foods high in plant oestrogens (phytoestrogens) may alleviate menopausal symptoms. Good sources include lima beans, soybeans and soy products (such as soymilk, roasted soy nuts, soy burgers and tofu), nuts, seeds, fennel, celery, parsley and flaxseed oil. Soy products also contain isoflavones which lower blood cholesterol levels
  • WARNING: The use of dietary soy supplements by women who suffer from breast cancer, or are taking tamoxifen, is not recommended by the American Dietetic Association
  • cut down on sodium intake by using less table salt and processed foods (check sodium content on labels)
  • to protect against osteoporosis, eat low-fat or skimmed milk and dairy products to boost calcium intake or take a calcium supplement so your daily intake is 1 000 milligrams per day before menopause and 1 500 milligrams per day after menopause
  • WARNING: According to the latest research, calcium supplements should contain vitamin D and vitamin K2 to prevent the calcium you take from being deposited in your arteries where it can cause problems like heart attacks, strokes and sudden death. Calcium supplements which also contain vitamins D and K2 will ensure that the calcium you take goes into your bones and not into your arteries.
  • cut down on alcohol intake – excessive alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer

(Photo of mature woman from Shutterstock)

Dr Ingrid van Heerden is a registered dietician and holds a doctoral degree in Nutrition and Biochemistry. She believes that "we are what we eat" and offers free nutrition and weight loss advice via her DietDoc service on Health24.com. Read more of her articles.

 

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