When you hit menopause, your dietary choices are all the more important for your health and well-being. Fortunately, it's easy to make the right decisions when it comes to choosing the best foods for your changing body.
Minerals like calcium and magnesium are an important part of postmenopausal health. They feed the nervous and cardiovascular systems and contribute to stronger bones. Reduced-fat dairy products and greens like spinach, turnip greens, and mustard greens are great sources of calcium, while leafy greens like chard and spinach (gotta love that spinach!) are full of magnesium. Try steaming greens and herbs from your local specialty-food market or farmers market (the fresher, the better). Toss with olive oil and a little salt, and you'll see how delicious eating healthy can be!
Foods high in natural plant estrogens — or phytoestrogens — may also help with reducing menopausal symptoms. Soy and flaxseeds are good sources of phytoestrogens. Try grilling up some tofu, have a handful of soy nuts or a glass of soy milk, or sprinkle flaxseeds on your morning cereal. (Flaxseed is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help protect against heart disease.) Simply add a few of these foods to your usual diet, gradually increasing your ratio of menopause-healthy foods to the usual fare.
And, remember, it’s okay to enjoy the food that you crave, but do so in moderation. Sometimes all you need to satisfy your sweet-tooth craving is a bit of dark chocolate (as opposed to a giant piece of cake). Or, if you have a salt craving, you can munch on edamame or a handful of almonds instead of downing a big bag of potato chips. Listen to your body. Stop eating when you are full, and eat only when you are hungry. If it’s dinnertime and you aren’t hungry, don’t give in and gorge yourself on tacos with your girlfriends out of peer pressure. And, if you are starving, take a few minutes to consider what food your body really needs, as opposed to eating mindlessly.
Exercise is also key because as we age, our metabolism slows down. This means you can eat the same amount of calories but still gain weight because you are not burning as many on a day-to-day basis. Up your calorie burning by taking a bike ride with your partner after dinner or by walking to the market instead of driving.
As you undergo your new menopause lifestyle changes, don’t get too focused on the number on the scale. It’s not about fitting into a size 0. Sexuality stems from feeling good about yourself, by feeling desirable, sexy, fit, and healthy. You won’t feel sexy if you just ate a giant bowl of macaroni and cheese or a greasy pizza. Nor will you feel sexy if you are lounging about the house in an old pair of sweats every night. And, let’s be honest, your partner won’t feel as attracted to you! It’s important to maintain your appearance for your partner’s sake, as well as your own.
And, remember, in the end, you’re only as young as you feel…and cheeseburgers don’t make anyone feel spry (or sexy)!