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Nutrition for Menopause

The menopause generally occurs in women between the ages of 40-60 and is a time of significant emotional and physical change.

Reproductive hormones naturally decline and the female menstrual cycle comes to an end.

The menopause can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing time. It can result in weight gain, loss in bone density, hot flushes, insomnia and mood swings.

The menopause and weight gain

During the menopause, your hormone levels will decrease, your metabolism will slow and you become more prone to storing body fat, particularly around the mid-section.

You may find that unless you adjust your calorie intake and activity levels, you are likely to gain weight.

It's important that you have an idea of the number of calories, based on your activity levels, age and weight, that you should be consuming daily.

You can use the following formula to work your total out;

For sedentary women aged 40-60, this is 8.3 x your weight in kilograms + 846 x 1.4 (or 1.5 if you are more active).

This figure is your target calorie intake per day.

If you are unsure, ask a registered fitness or health professional to help.

To aid in maintaining a healthy body composition throughout the menopause, you should consume enough protein at each meal.

This is because your lean muscle mass naturally decreases as you age.

Therefore you must maintain and even improve your muscle mass through diet (increased protein) and exercise (resistance training).

The average Brit only consumes around 10g of protein at breakfast, so find ways to increase your intake in the morning.

You could make yourselves scrambled egg, an omelette or porridge with nuts and seeds.

It's also important that you consume protein after strength building exercise to help stimulate muscle repair and recovery.

The menopause and weaker bones

During the menopause, declining oestrogen levels cause the depletion of bone density to accelerate.

To help combat the amount of bone loss, you should consume adequate calcium, vitamin D, protein, ensure a healthy BMI and incorporate weight-bearing exercise.

Over the age of 50, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium increases to 1,200mg/day (Ross et al 2011).

A food-first approach to meeting this is ideal because calcium supplements are often discouraged because of potential heart disease (Li et a