Guest Post by Tamara Grand, PhD., Fitness Trainer and Blogger at FitKnitChick.com
As a fitness professional who works primarily with women in their 40’s and 50’s (and a 46-year old woman, herself), I’m well-versed in the symptoms of peri-menopause.
Weight gain, belly bloat, hot flashes, night sweats, muscle loss, food cravings and irritability, to name a few. While not pretty, each is a natural consequence of the fluctuating hormones that signal the beginning of the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
For many women, regular exercise (strength training to build muscle, increase bone density and boost metabolism) and proper nutrition can help reduce the frequency and intensity of their peri-menopause symptoms.
While there is no ‘magic pill’ that will eliminate all of the symptoms of peri-menopause, there are a handful of dietary ‘tweaks’ that are known to reduce the frequency and intensity of night sweats, hot flashes and food cravings, as well reducing your body’s tendency to store fat.
Some of these recommendations come from scientific studies, others by comparing and contrasting North American habits with those of other cultures in which peri-menopause symptoms are rarely reported (e.g., Japan).
Experiment with the suggestions below and pay attention to how YOUR body responds. ‘Being the detective’ is the best way to find long-term solutions to YOUR unique peri-menopause challenges!
1. Lean Protein.
While protein has the same calorie density as carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), it won’t elevate your blood sugars, trigger an insulin response and promote fat storage the way starchy carbs will. In addition, studies have shown that due to it’s higher satiety factor, including a protein source at each meal reduces between-meal feelings of hunger. It’s also great for building muscle; your ultimate fat-burning tool.
Can’t stomach another chicken breast or egg white omelette? Try a protein smoothie instead. North Coast Naturals 100% Natural Iso-Protein in vanilla is my favorite. I love to pair it with frozen berries, almond milk, flax seeds and a handful of spinach leaves.
The phytoestrogens (naturally occurring estrogen-like substances found in soybeans and other plants) can help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels. It may also reduce the frequency and intensity of “hot flashes” (researchers are still debating this effect). However, researchers still don’t know whether higher amounts of plant estrogens in the body increase the growth or risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers.
Sources of soy include tofu, edamame, miso soup and tempeh, or you can always add North Coast Naturals Organic Soy Protein to a smoothie. Until more is known, if you have or recently have had estrogen-dependent cancer, it’s probably best that you not consume phytoestrogen-rich food on a daily basis. Otherwise, enjoy in moderation.
A trace mineral that appears to increase the body’s ability to hold on to naturally produced estrogen. Boron can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including plums, prunes, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, pears, grapefruit, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli stems, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and turnips.
Find it difficult to get 7-10 servings of fruits and veggies daily? Try a scoop of Ultimate Daily Greens mixed with water or juice (or add it to your protein smoothie, like I do).
4. Vitamins B6 and B12.
The B-vitamin complex’s main job is fighting stress in the body. Consume more B6 to alleviate stress and mood disturbances including depression, anxiety and lack of energy. B12 is important for improving heart health and brain function.
Foods high in vitamin B6 include bran (both rice and wheat), pistachios, hazelnuts, garlic, tuna, salmon, sardines, sunflower and sesame seeds and chili powder. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products, including shellfish, beef and beef liver, fish, crustaceans, eggs and low-fat dairy. Most fortified cereals and soy products also contain vitamin B12.
5. Vitamin E.
A healthy dose of vitamin E, along with your B vitamins, can help decrease the likelihood of mood swings, irritability, memory problems, depression and may even relieve hot flashes. It’s also good for heart health.
The best dietary sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, paprika, red chili powder, peanuts, dried apricots, green olives, spinach and hemp seeds.
Chromium is an essential trace element. In addition to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, it helps to maintain normal blood sugar and insulin levels and also reduces cravings for sweets by supporting your body’s natural regulating systems that tell the brain you’re full.
Concentrated food sources of chromium include onions, tomatoes, brewer’s yeast, oysters, whole grains, bran cereals, and potatoes.
Tamara Grand holds a PhD in Biology and is a BCRPA-Certified Personal Trainer and Advanced Group Fitness Instructor. She blogs about fitness, food, family and fibre (knitting fibre, that is) at FitKnitChick.com and is excited to announce the recent release of her first fitness book, Ultimate Booty Workouts (available for online purchase at Amazon, Chapters and Barnes and Noble).