Menopause and the years leading up to it is a natural transition in a woman’s life when her hormones start to fluctuate, and the menstrual cycle come to an end. These changes in hormones can cause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings and poor sleep and may negatively affect metabolism and bone density.
A healthy, balanced diet can really support you through these years and certain foods can be especially beneficial. Here are 5 foods you should add to your diet if you are experiencing menopause symptoms.
Broccoli is part of the cruciferous or brassica family of vegetables. It is related to other well-known vegetables such as cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts and turnip greens. These veggies contain a combination of beneficial phytochemicals which have a specific role in assisting the liver to excrete excess estrogen.
Broccoli, especially young broccoli sprouts are rich in the antioxidant compound, sulphoraphane which helps balance hormone levels and supports liver detoxification.
Consuming steamed broccoli several times a week and adding lots of young broccoli sprouts to your salads may assist with the effects of menopausal symptoms. Broccoli is also full of calcium for strong bones and fibre to prevent bloating and weight gain.
Maca powder is made from the native Peruvian maca root plant and has been used for centuries to enhance fertility and sex drive. During the menopause women often experience changes in their libido due to the fluctuating hormones and low levels of oestrogen. Studies show that maca consumption decreased sexual dysfunction and improved libido in postmenopausal women.
Maca has also been shown to reduce blood pressure levels and symptoms of depression in postmenopausal women.
Maca is now widely available from health food stores and the health aisle of your supermarket. Add a maca latte to your morning routine or pop some in your smoothie.
Raw cocoa is high in magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and antioxidants. Dark chocolate, especially raw cacao has been proven to relieve emotional stress, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.
Many menopausal women report increased feelings of stress, anxiety and depression during this phase of life. The polyphenols present in raw cacao are natural compounds that can help you alleviate anxiety and improve your mood.
The magnesium in cacao is vital for muscle relaxation. A deficiency in magnesium leads to insomnia, muscle twitching, anxiety and palpitations, all signs of stress. Adding a scoop of raw cacao to a smoothie or making some choc protein bliss balls is a great way to keep anxiety at bay and reduce irritability.
Tart Cherry Juice
Montmorency tart cherries are high in potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A, C, B6, E, and folic acid. They are also a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that winds the body down to a more lethargic and sleep-ready state. They also contain more anthocyanins than blueberries or acai, which help your body convert tryptophan to serotonin. A lack of melatonin can cause sleeplessness and even insomnia, whereas a deficiency in serotonin can result in feelings of depression and lethargy.
Studies have shown that tart cherries can also assist with regulating blood sugar levels, reduce muscle pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and joint pain.
A cold glass of tart cherry juice 30 minutes before bed can boost your melatonin levels, helping you fall asleep quickly and enjoy a restful nights sleep. If you find it difficult to get going in the mornings a glass of tart cherry juice with breakfast can raise your serotonin levels giving you a feel good mood boost.
Flax seeds also known as Linseeds are a good source of many nutrients. Their health benefits are mainly due to their high levels of omega-3 fats, lignans and fibre.
Omega-3 intake has been shown to be beneficial to heart health. Declining estrogen levels during menopause can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. A 2008 study found that postmenopausal women, consuming 30 grams of flax seeds daily lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by approximately 7% and 10%, respectively.
The plant lignans found in flax is a form of phytoestrogen, which may help in balancing and stabilizing estrogen levels in menopausal women while reducing the frequency of hot flashes.
To reap optimum benefits from flaxseeds, make sure you have them crushed. Grinding the seeds makes it easier for your body to absorb the lignans. Store the ground seeds in the refrigerator and have it with yogurt or sprinkled over oats every day.
Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and contains relatively few calories. It’s also packed with many nutrients, such as B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. During menopause, the loss of estrogen increases the risk of osteoporosis, which is why bone health becomes a big concern. The calcium, phosphorus and protein found in cottage cheese have consistently been linked to improved bone health.
Women transitioning into menopause often experience sudden, rapid weight gain and have difficulty controlling their blood sugar, even without making changes to their diet. This is due to lower levels of estrogen which plays a role in metabolism and body weight.
To regulate blood sugar and manage weight gain menopausal women have a reduced need for carbohydrates but an increased need for protein to prevent the loss of lean muscle. Cottage cheese is not only high in protein but also in essential amino acids such as leucine which is essential for maintaining muscle mass post menopause.
Cottage cheese is a versatile ingredient that you can incorporate into many different meals and recipes. Try substituting it for milk or yogurt in baking or add to a salad or smoothie.
The years leading up to the menopause don’t have to be a struggle. If you are over 45 and suffering from excess belly fat, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings book and appointment with Proactive Nutrition to learn more natural ways to alleviate these symptoms.