Women’s bodies go through many changes from adolescence into adulthood. Once we hit midlife, our body begins yet another transition. Menopause is marked after one year of the last menstrual cycle. Up until that point, perimenopause may start as early as 40 years old. During this phase, hormonal fluctuations cause changes in metabolism and which can affect one’s body weight. Rather than trying another fad diet, try focusing on lifestyle changes to improve your health and wellness through midlife include focusing on eating habits, stress management, sleep, and physical activity. It's part of the magic of Target100. In the Foundation Course and we focus as a community on the six pillars (stress, sleep, nutrition, hydration, movement, and exercise) support a healthy body at every life stage. Yes, that includes perimenopause and post-menopause.
Understanding the effect of hormonal changes can allow you to work with your body, instead of against it. Here are four key nutrients that will help you feel better and enjoy life!
The decline in estrogen from menopause impacts bone density. Weight-bearing exercises like walking and push-ups create a stress load on our muscles and bones, they respond by rebuilding, resulting in a stronger body. Getting enough calcium will ensure that your body has enough nutrients to repair. Postmenopausal women need 1,200mg of Calcium per day to support recovery and reduce the risk of fractures, and conditions like osteoporosis. Our body absorbs calcium best from foods. Talk with your healthcare professional to check if you are getting adequate calcium or would benefit from supplementation. Some examples of foods high in calcium include:
- 1 cup milk: 300mg
- 6oz yogurt: 300mg
- 1.5oz cheese: 300mg
- ¼ cup almonds: 100mg
- ½ cup tofu (made with calcium sulfate): 130mg
- ½ cup cooked soybeans 130mg
- ½ cup cooked spinach: 120mg
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds: 75mg
Calcium alone can not build bones, we also need to include foods rich in Vitamin D, Vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium. Vitamin D is also known as “the sunshine vitamin”, spending time outdoors is one way to get enough of this nutrient. The best food sources of Vitamin D are fatty fish, like salmon and trout, eggs, fortified foods, and beverages such as milk. Having a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds will provide your body with all the other essential nutrients to keep your bones and muscles healthy and strong. This salmon and peach salad recipe is a great way to boost your vitamin D intake with food.
Specific foods like soy and flaxseed, contain isoflavones, which are also known as phytoestrogens. Phyto means "from plants" and they have a similar structure to estrogen so they can bind estrogen receptors! Many studies have found that having a diet rich in phytoestrogens can help to reduce symptoms related to menopause. Rather than taking supplements, which can have negative side effects, try to focus on including food such as:
- red clover
- green tea
- split peas
- lima beans, fava beans
- flaxseeds (*aim for ground as our bodies do not digest whole flaxseeds well at all)
Adaptogens are natural substances that help the body adapt to stressors and keep hormones balanced. High-stress levels increase the production of hormones like cortisol resulting in weight gain. A few studies have seen a significant reduction in morning cortisol with the addition of adaptogens such as ashwagandha, also known as “Indian ginseng,” which has been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Other examples include ginseng and holy basil. Traditional practice involves consuming it as a tea rather than a supplement. Sipping a warm cup of tea is a simple stress-reduction activity. Other simple and effective stress reduction activities are highlighted in Target100’s Stress Pillar such as breathing exercises, stretching, meditation, spending time in nature, and aromatherapy.
Rather than dieting to maintain your premenopausal shape, work on accepting your body and focusing on lifestyle habits such as mindful eating and regular physical activity to embrace and achieve your best self in midlife and beyond! Within the Foundation Course, Liz Josefsberg, Target100 founder and the coaches focus on the power of the six pillars that interlock to unlock your lasting formula for weight loss and wellness success. Each decade brings with it specific health concerns and different nutrition needs. Nourishing your body for your life stage can help you sail through the decades while feeling great!
This post was written by our fantastic dietetic intern Carmelita Lombera.