Good eating habits, a healthy diet, exercise and rest help maintain a good quality of life. It is important to look after yourself and know what is best for you.
Why is it essential to follow and maintain healthy eating habits?
Following some comprehensive and permanent health guidelines throughout life helps improve your quality of life and reduces the risk of disease. Similarly, these can reduce the discomforts of menopause and prevent other related diseases.
What is a healthy balanced menopause diet? Can I eat whatever I want?
According to the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition (Sociedad Española de Nutrición Comunitaria), eating a healthy diet, drinking 2 litres of water per day and taking moderate exercise promote good health.
Menopause is a time of physical and emotional change during which a healthy diet can help improve your quality of life. When women reach their 40s they need a lower calorie intake. A healthy balanced diet should be followed, together with certain specific recommendations:
- Avoid excess animal fats (saturated fats) because these will lead to menopause weight gain and raise cholesterol.
- Reduce your intake of foods such as processed meats, bacon, cream and processed confectionery, etc.
- It is important to eat unsaturated fats (olive oil, walnuts, almonds, etc.). Include fruit and vegetables in your daily menu.
- Increase your intake of fish, especially oily fish (rich in Omega-3 oils).
- Include moderate amounts of high-carbohydrate foods in your menopause diet (cereals and cereal-based products such as pasta, rice, bread, pulses and potatoes).
- Increased calcium intake is essential in this stage to promote intestinal assimilation and minimise the loss of bone mass.
- Vitamin D is also essential to help the body absorb the calcium found in milk, fish (sardines, salmon, tuna, etc.) and cereal.
- Rich in isoflavones, soya is another food that should be incorporated into your menopause diet, if you have not done so already. It can help reduce hot flushes, reduce cholesterol and also prevent osteoporosis.
- Drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day (approximately 8 glasses).
- Increasing the number of meals you eat while reducing the size of those meals (for example, dividing your daily food into 5 lighter meals) will help prevent hot flushes.
Why is it important to maintain a healthy weight?
Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce various diseases, mainly cardiovascular, joint and endocrinal diseases. It is important to maintain a healthy weight because, with advancing age, the percentage of women on doctor-recommended diets increases due to menopause weight gain and diabetes, among other reasons.
To maintain or reach a healthy weight it is advisable to follow the advice below (guidelines recommended by the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition for a healthy balanced diet):
- The caloric breakdown of meals must be personalised, taking into account the age, weight and level of physical activity of each individual to provide a balanced dietary intake.
- The most suitable caloric breakdown of meals in a day is: 20% at breakfast, 5-10% mid-morning, 40% at lunch, 5-10% mid-afternoon and 30% at dinner.
- The diet should be high in fruit, vegetables, cereals, pulses, milk and dairy products (preferably semi-skimmed or skimmed) to ensure an adequate calcium intake from the earliest age.
- No more than 30-35% of the total calorie intake should come from fats. We should make sure to include foods that contain Omega-3 oils in our diet.
- We should also ensure sufficient intake of fibre, between 20-35 g/day.
- Proteins should preferably come from fish or poultry, limiting red meat intake.
- If you eat a varied diet, you do not need to take vitamin supplements.
- You should eat the correct number of meals per day and at the correct times. It is also advisable to drink between 1.5 and 2 litres of water per day (approximately 8 glasses).
The best way to control menopause weight gain is to take regular exercise and follow a varied balanced menopause diet specific to the needs of each individual. There are no miracle diets.
Why is it so important to exercise?
Doing regular physical activity is highly advisable because it helps you prevent menopause weight gain and reduce the symptoms of menopause. Exercise strengthens the bones, heart and lungs, tones muscles and improves vitality.
Is rest really a health measure?
The amount of sleep you need depends on various factors, including your age. Adults usually sleep between 7 and 8 hours. It has been proven that insufficient sleep can be detrimental to the immune system, nervous system, coordination, mood and concentration. Physiologically, we need less sleep as we get older and our sleep patterns tend to change.
To sleep well it is important to follow good habits and create a comfortable environment:
- Have a fixed time to go to bed and get up.
- Make your bedroom comfortable, keep it well-ventilated and at a pleasant temperature (around 22ºC), minimising noise and light. Use a comfortable mattress and choose a thin pillow, if you use one.
- Your bed must be first and foremost a place for sleeping. Do not watch television or listen to the radio in it.
- Adopt a good sleeping position and use loose comfortable sleepwear.
- Although you should keep active and take regular moderate exercise in order to promote rest and help relieve tension, you should not exercise for at least three hours before going to bed due to its short-term stimulating effect.
- Do not force yourself to sleep. If, a while after going to bed, you have not managed to fall asleep, do not lie there with your head spinning. Get out of bed and do something relaxing (read, listen to music, etc.) until you feel sleepy.
You should avoid...
- Napping for longer than 15 or 20 minutes.
- Stimulants such as coffee and tea after midday.
- Large evening meals. Eat ham, cheese, bacon or tomato in moderation as these contain thiamine, a substance that increases the release of a brain stimulant. By contrast, yogurt, milk and banana are rich in tryptophan which can help you get to sleep.
- Drinking a lot of liquid for three hours before going to sleep.
- Eating if you wake in the middle of the night.
- Sleeping pills. These are only recommended as a last resort in specific cases of chronic insomnia and always under medical supervision.