Health

Mastering menopause - a Citro guide

Menopause is as individual as we are

There’s a growing list of fads, diets and cure-alls that promise to ease menopause symptoms. 

Yet menopause - and its precursor perimenopause - are not a one-size-fits-all problem.

We all bring a different genetic profile, lifestyle behaviours and health habits to our experience of transition through menopause, but good nutrition is the foundation that can help everyone.

That’s why Citro has partnered with nutritionist Faye James, author of The Menopause Diet and member of the Nutrition Council Australia and associate member of the Australian Menopause Society. 

She already writes recipes for Citro - all healthy, all tasty and all easy - and has a wealth of knowledge to share.

Each of us experience different symptoms from menopause and perimenopause, with some experiencing symptoms that last several years and others experiencing barely a blip.

Most Australian women experience menopause between 45 and 60 years of age, with the average age being 51 years. 

You’ve officially transitioned from perimenopause to menopause when you have gone 12 months without having your period.

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is a great Australian online resource for trusted advice around menopause and perimenopause.

In the meantime, Faye’s recipes are delicious and easy (and, no, they won’t actually cause menopause!)

Healthy habits to beat menopause

By Faye James, author of The Long Life Plan, The 10:10 Diet and The Menopause Diet

As more scientific research uncovers the dangers of eating ultra-processed foods like biscuits and sugary breakfast cereals, using whole foods to ease inflammation during menopause makes sense.

Whole foods help

A diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish can help counter stress in the body during the perimenopause and menopause.

Inflammation is widely accepted as the precursor to many chronic diseases and autoimmune conditions. 

Studies have demonstrated that eating styles like the Mediterranean diet are effective in reducing the risk of heart disease and improving menopausal symptoms.

For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, as well as improvement in symptoms such as hot flushes and sleep difficulties in menopausal women.

Another study found that a Mediterranean diet was effective in reducing weight gain, improving bone health, and reducing the risk of heart disease in menopausal women.

These studies demonstrate the benefit of incorporating a Mediterranean- style diet into your lifestyle during the menopause. 

But science aside, let’s not complicate matters. This guide offers simple tweaks which can not only future-proof your health, but also aid weight loss and increase energy and longevity.

Combating menopausal weight gain

Menopause can bring about many unwanted changes, including weight gain.

It’s not uncommon to gain 2–2.5 kg over the course of 3 years during this time. Following these simple rules on a day-to-day basis can help combat weight gain during this period.

DO Eat enough protein

Recent research shows that eating enough protein is crucial for older women going through the menopause as it helps to combat muscle loss.

Aim for 1–1.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day, which equates to 20–30 g of protein per meal. 

Good sources of protein include

  • 200 g of Greek-style yogurt, 
  • one salmon fillet
  • or 200 g of beans (such as baked beans or four-bean mix) on two slices of wholegrain toast.

DO Watch your carb intake

Carb intake should also be monitored during menopause. A steady diet heavy in refined or processed carbs, such as white pasta and bread, can contribute to excess belly fat.

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that a reduced-carbohydrate diet may help decrease the likelihood of weight gain during menopause.

DO Count calories

Calories should also be kept in check during this time. Aim to eat somewhere between 1,000 and 1,800 calories a day depending on your height, weight and activity levels.

DO Try intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can also be a helpful weight-loss strategy during menopause.

This involves eating during a window of 8 to 12 hours and avoiding eating for the rest of the day. It’s important to check with a doctor before starting intermittent fasting to avoid any potential risks to your health.

Dos and don’ts of menopause wellbeing

Levelling up your nutrition game during menopause can enhance your quality of life and help alleviate symptoms like mood swings and weight gain. 

Optimal nutrition plays a crucial role in mitigating menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes, exhaustion, bloating, and potential weight gain. 

According to a study published in the journal Menopause in April 2019, a survey of 400 post-menopausal women revealed that those who had a diet rich in fruits and vegetables were less likely to experience menopausal symptoms compared to women who consumed more fatty foods and sweets.

Reducing the intake of these foods may alleviate the discomfort associated with the menopausal transition and contribute to overall health in the long term.

Here are Faye's recommendations for the top foods to avoid.

DON’T Eat processed foods

Avoid potato chips, cookies and other processed snacks. They are loaded with sodium, added sugars and bad fats and can make you feel bloated and retain water. Instead, opt for healthier snacks like carrots with hummus, or seeded crackers with peanut butter.

DON’T Eat spicy foods

Spice up your life, but be careful with that hot sauce. Foods that are high on the heat scale can trigger hot flushes, sweating, and flushing. Stick to mild spices like basil, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, which will still add flavour without heat.

DON’T Eat fast food

Convenient, but not always the healthiest, fast food is often high in fat, which increases your risk for heart disease, a condition women are already more susceptible to after menopause.  

DON’T Overindulge in alcohol

While it’s fine to have the odd drink, it’s best to keep it moderate. It is recommended that women limit themselves to one alcoholic drink or less per day. Research has shown that alcohol can trigger hot flushes in some women.

DON’T Drink too much caffeine

Love your morning coffee? It could be making your menopause symptoms worse.

A study conducted by Mayo Clinic found that menopausal women who consumed caffeine were more likely to have hot flushes. Try switching to caffeine-free drinks like hot ginger or peppermint tea, or if you need a pick-me-up, go for a quick walk.

DON’T Eat too much fatty meat

High in saturated fat, fatty meats like brisket and bacon can lower serotonin levels, leading to feelings of anger, grumpiness and irritability. Choose leaner cuts of meat like chicken, turkey or lean ground beef instead.

Go gut happy

During menopause, we can experience mood swings. One of the key factors in keeping our mood in check is to keep the gut happy.

Gut health is an essential component of overall health, and it is estimated that 90% of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin lives in the gut.

A healthy gut is home to a diverse community of beneficial microbes, also known as gut flora, which play a crucial role in regulating digestive function, immune response, and mental health.

DO Eat a diet rich in fibre

Fibre is crucial for promoting regular bowel movements and supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Foods high in fibre include whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes.

DO Eat plenty of prebiotic foods

Prebiotic foods are non-digestible carbohydrates that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Examples of prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, asparagus, and lentils.

DO Eat plenty of probiotic foods

Probiotic foods are foods that contain live micro- organisms that can improve the balance

of gut flora. Examples of probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

DO Eat a diet rich in polyphenols

Polyphenols are plant compounds that have been shown to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Foods high in polyphenols include berries, nuts, and seeds.

Protect your heart and bones

Estrogen is known to protect our cardiovascular and bone health, but as the hormone drops during perimenopause and menopause, it’s vital to use nutrition and lifestyle strategies to support overall health. 

To protect your heart during and after menopause, it is important to focus on a healthy diet that can reduce the risks associated with the drop in oestrogen levels.

Estrogen has cardio-protective properties, so a decrease in its levels increases the risk of heart disease.

A reduction in Estrogen also causes an increase in LDL cholesterol levels, which is considered the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol. However, by making certain dietary changes, you can reduce these risks and protect your heart.

Replace foods high in saturated fat

Replace foods high in saturated fat, such as red and processed meat, butter, full-fat dairy products, cakes, and biscuits, with foods high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.

Include at least one weekly serving of oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel to provide essential omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for heart health.

Increase fibre

Increase your fibre intake by including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds in your diet. Oats and barley are particularly beneficial as they contain beta-glucan, which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Aim for at least 3 g of fibre per day, which can be achieved by having 30 g of oats or 250 ml of oat milk.

Eating a small handful of nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, on a daily basis has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels

Get your 5 portions in

Consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day to provide essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients that help protect your heart. Choose wholegrain options such as wholegrain bread, oats, rice and pasta, as they have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Eat soy-based food

DO Incorporate soy-based foods, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame beans and soy milk/yogurt, into your diet. Soy foods can help reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Reduce salt

Reduce your daily salt intake to less than 6 g. This is important not only for heart health, but also for maintaining healthy kidneys. Research has shown that menopausal women can become more sensitive to salt.

Maintain bone health

To maintain bone health, it is important to consume a balanced diet that includes the right amount of nutrients.

According to research, up to 20% of bone density can be lost in the 5-7 years after menopause due to declining levels of oestrogen, which helps protect bone strength. 

To slow this loss, it is recommended to engage in regular weight-bearing exercise and consume adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K.

Eat plenty of calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and it is recommended to consume 700 mg of calcium per day. This can be achieved through consuming three servings of dairy or fortified plant milk (200 ml), hard cheese (30 g), dairy or fortified plant yogurt (150 g), calcium-set tofu (100 g), tinned sardines (60 g), ready-to-eat dried figs (four) or cooked kale (¼ cup). It is generally not necessary to take calcium supplements on top of a healthy balanced diet.

Get your vitamin D

Vitamin D is also important for bone health as it helps the body absorb calcium from food. It can be found in oily fish, eggs, and fortified plant milks.

Manage stress

Chronic stress can lead to a decrease in bone density, so it’s important to manage mental stress levels through activities like yoga, meditation and exercise.

Exercise and menopause

Prioritise your fitness during menopause to boost your mood and lower the risk of chronic disease.

Menopause marks a significant change in a woman’s life but it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your health and wellness.

In fact, using menopause as a reason to prioritise your fitness can have numerous benefits, from reducing the risk of certain diseases to boosting your mood.

So why not embrace this time and make a commitment to take care of yourself?

During and after menopause, the body experiences various changes, such as muscle loss, abdominal fat gain and bone loss. However, regular exercise can counteract these effects and offer additional benefits.

Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, especially as muscle loss increases during menopause.

It has also been linked to reducing the risk of various types of cancer, such as breast, colon, and endometrial cancer.

In addition, exercise can slow bone loss, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Menopause weight gain can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but exercise can help lower these risks.

What’s more, exercise helps boost your mood. Studies have shown that regular exercise is linked to a lower risk of depression and cognitive decline.

While exercise hasn’t been proven to directly reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances, maintaining a healthy weight through physical activity seems to help alleviate these symptoms and improves your overall quality of life.

It recommended that you undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, along with strength training twice a week. There are several options to choose from, each with its own benefits.

Aerobic activity

Brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and water aerobics can help you shed excess kilos and maintain a healthy weight.

Strength training

Using weight machines, hand-held weights or resistance tubing can help reduce body fat, strengthen muscles, and increase calorie burn. Read more about the benefits of strength training on Citro.

Stretching

Improving flexibility through stretching can be done after each workout or through yoga, pilates or dance.

Stability and balance exercises

Improving stability through activities like tai chi or yoga or simple balance exercises like standing on one leg can help prevent falls.

Staying motivated

Setting achievable goals, working out with a partner or friend, and regularly updating your goals as you reach new levels of fitness can help you stay motivated. Remember, you don’t need a gym to get moving. Activities like dancing and gardening can also provide health. Make sure to warm up and cool down safely before and after each workout.

Did you know?

Stress boosts two hormones, ghrelin, and cortisol, that increase your appetite and can make your body store unwanted belly fat. Stress also dials down leptin, a hormone that signals your body that you’re full. 

Supplements and menopause

As a nutritionist, Faye James recommends eating a healthy diet before relying on supplements or vitamins. If dietary intake is inadequate, here are the supplements she recommends.

Should you take supplements during menopause or perimenopause? 

Faye advises her clients that as long as their diet is rich in the right nutrients, there’s no need for supplements. My recommendation is that if you stick to my Menopause Diet you shouldn’t need to take extra supplements.

That said, there are some key supplements that you can take if you are struggling to meet your daily requirements through diet alone. 

Calcium

During menopause women are at increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become fragile and more likely to break. Calcium is an essential nutrient for maintaining strong bones, and a daily intake of 1,200 mg per day is recommended for women over the age of 50. If you are struggling to get enough calcium you should consult your doctor but a supplement may be helpful. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is essential for bone health. It can also help in blood sugar regulation and immunity. The recommended daily dose for women over the age of 50 is 600 to 800 IU per day. 

Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in many bodily processes, including bone health, regulation of mood and aiding restful sleep. It may also help with anxiety, joint pain and hot and cold flashes.

The recommended daily dose for women over the age of 50 is 320 mg per day. 

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve heart health and may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety when menopausal. The recommended daily dose is 1000 mg of EPA and DHA combined.

Vitamin B complex

Vitamin B helps support the nervous system and can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are common during menopause. It also plays a role in energy production, aiding in the reduction of fatigue. Vitamin B has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function and may also regulate hormones, helping to relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.  The recommended daily dose for vitamin B complex varies based on a number of factors but aim for 1.5 to 2 mg of B1, 1.2 mg of B2, 50 mg of B3, 2.4 mcg of B12, and 5 mg of B6 per day.

Collagen

Collagen is a protein that is important for skin health, joint mobility, and overall body maintenance and comes in either marine or bovine supplementation. During menopause, skin can become thinner and less elastic and joints can become stiffer. Collagen supplementation has been shown to improve skin hydration and reduce joint pain in some studies. The recommended daily dose is 1–2 g.

3 things to check if you take supplements

Check in with your doctor

Like any medicine, vitamins can have side effects or interact in unwanted ways with other medicines.  

For example, fish oil interacts with some blood pressure medications and blood thinning drugs.

Vitamins should only be used as directed on the label, and you should consult a health professional if you experience any health issues while taking a vitamin.

A healthy diet with wholefoods is best

Getting most of your nutrients by eating a wide range of different foods (with plenty of vegetables) is the best way to support your health. Using every meal and snack for optimal nutrition makes sense as we get older.

Check where your vitamins and supplements are manufactured

There have been instances of overseas-manufactured supplements bought by Australians being contaminated. The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates all vitamins sold legally in Australia.

All medicines that are approved for supply in Australia include either an AUST R number or an AUST L number on their label.

Supplements that do not display these numbers may not be approved for sale in Australia.  

Some products sold online may not be approved for sale in Australia even though you can buy them here.

Get supplements tailored to you

Citro partner Vitable can deliver Australian-made supplements to your door, with $10 cashback if you pay on your Citro Card.

Simply take the quiz to uncover the right supplements for your needs and then follow the prompts to get what you need in an easy monthly subscription.

You can cancel anytime. Read more about supplementation on Citro.

6 healthy recipes to ease menopause symptoms

A note from Faye James

The menopause is a time of significant hormonal changes, characterised by a drop in levels of the hormone oestrogen. 

This drop can lead to a variety of overwhelming and frustrating symptoms including hot flushes, headaches, anxiety, sleep difficulties, irritability, and joint pain.

During the perimenopause and menopause, hormone levels fluctuate, triggering changes that can have a negative impact on bone health, heart health, and brain health.

Additionally, menopausal changes are associated with weight gain, a decline in bone density and muscle mass, and an increased risk of heart disease.

But as annoying as the symptoms are, the good news is that simple dietary changes can help make this transition easier. What’s more, there’s no need for crazy fad diets or complex regimes.

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