During perimenopause and menopause some women to gain weight. While this isn’t great it’s pretty common and there are many reasons why.
Two reasons why women gain weight during perimenopause & menopause.
Reduced muscle mass. According to Web MD, “From the time you are born to around the time you turn 30, your muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in your 30s, you start to lose muscle mass and function. The cause is age-related sarcopenia or sarcopenia with aging.”
“Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss.”
Muscle mass uses energy (burns calories) so when we have less of it the body burns less energy overall, leading to weight gain. Unfortunately, this weight gain may appear as increased belly fat.
As the saying goes, “Move it or lose it…..” you’ve got to choose to move it or you choose to lose it…..and btw, keep on moving it for the rest of your life!
During menopause there is an increase in the hunger hormone “ghrelin”. With an increase in this hormone comes the tendency is to feel hungrier. Menopause also decreased the “satiety” hormone “leptin” that helps us feel full after eating which can lead to overeating.
More ghrelin and less leptin = increased hunger and a decreased feeling of fullness…that’s a problem!
What does all of this have to do with breakfast?
Eating the right type of breakfast has been shown to help maintain muscle mass, balance levels of leptin and ghrelin, aid weight loss and maintaining that lower weight.
What makes a food “optimal” for breakfast in peri-menopause and menopause?
Foods that help to increase metabolic rate, fill you up, and keep you feeling fuller longer.
Let’s have a look at the characteristics of these “optimal” foods.
Make sure to get protein in the mornings. Eating protein is critical for women in menopause, and perimenopause as well.
We’ve been coaching nutrition for women over 16 years and consistently they lack protein over any macronutrient, regardless if they were a carnivore or vegetarian.
Protein helps to slightly increase metabolism and give your muscles the amino acids they need to stay strong. Protein also helps keep you feeling fuller longer which is great to try to offset that hunger hormone known as “ghrelin”.
Protein also helps to reduce bone loss that can happen very fast during this time.
Which foods are high in protein?
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and shellfish
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds (contain more fat than protein but still a great source of amino acids)
Read on and check out the great breakfast recipe for you to try tomorrow morning. It contains eggs which some say are the “perfect protein”.
Fiber is very important to help stabilize your blood sugars to reduce cravings. The reason this is particularly important in menopause is because the risk of diabetes and heart disease increases after menopause due to an accumulation of visceral fat in the abdomen. (Yes, we are talking about the infamous “belly fat”!).
Also, did you know that certain fibers you eat actually feed your friendly gut microbes?
The ones that help you digest food and even make certain nutrients for you?
Which foods are high in fiber?
Here are just a few of the items you could add to your diet to increase fiber intake.
- Vegetables (squash, peas, sweet potato, artichokes, collard greens, pumpkin, parsnips, Brussels sprouts etc.)
- Fruit (pears, avocados, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries etc.)
- Nuts (almonds, pistachios, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, walnuts, dried coconut etc.)
- Seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax etc.)
- Gluten-free grains (oat, quinoa, wild rice etc.)
- Beans and lentils
Bonus points if you get at least some of you daily fiber from flax. Flax not only contains fiber but it is also a source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Flax has even been shown to help reduce both hot flashes and the risk of breast cancer. Win-win!
Conclusion: What are “optimal” foods for breakfast in menopause? Ones that give you ample protein and fiber. Another great and simple breakfast if you are busy and “on the go”….8 oz almond milk, 2 scoops protein powder (30-40 grams), and a tablespoon of flax-seed. Blend and get out the door!
Recipe (Protein and Fiber): Vegetable Egg Muffins
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red pepper (diced)
- 2 cups baby spinach (chopped)
- 1 cup mushrooms (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 6 eggs
- 1 tablespoon flax (ground)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Grease or line a 12 serving muffin tin.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add oil and saute diced pepper until tender (about 5 minutes).
- Add mushrooms and garlic to frying pan and cook for an additional minute.
- Whisk eggs and flax together in a medium bowl.
- Place veggies into prepared muffin tin.
- Pour the egg/flax mixture over the veggies.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch and eggs are cooked
Serve & Enjoy!
Tip: Use organic eggs from a local farmer whenever possible.