It’s not just you… during menopause women tend to gain weight. It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries: how can you eat and exercise the same way before but find yourself with extra weight on after menopause. Of course those extra pounds tend to find their way around the midsection. The number one question I get all the time is “how do I get rid of my belly fat.”
Let’s break it down to two main reasons as to why women gain weight during menopause:
Reason #1: Reduced muscle mass as we age. There has always been such a focus on cardio exercises to lose weight but there’s more and more information out there supporting the addition of muscle conditioning exercises for weight loss. In fact research suggest they are more effective. Muscle mass uses energy (burns calories)- even at rest. So when we have less muscle mass the body burns less energy overall which leads to weight gain. Unfortunately this weight gain may appear as increased belly fat. Never to the places we want, right?
Reason #2: The hunger hormone known as “ghrelin”. During menopause there is an increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin. With an increase in this hormone comes the tendency is to feel hungrier more often. Menopause also decreased the “satiety” hormone “leptin” that helps us feel full after eating which can lead to overeating. This may explain the constant need to snack, especially at night.
More ghrelin and less leptin = increased hunger and a decreased feeling of fullness. Yikes!!!!
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 are the optimal foods to eat for breakfast when you’re in 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. Protein helps to slightly increase the 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 ghrelin, that not-so-wonderful hunger hormone. It also helps to reduce muscle and bone loss that can happen very fast during this time.
Here are some examples of some great sources of 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)
Fibre 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 I’m talking about the infamous belly fat!
Also, did you know that certain fibres you eat actually feed your friendly gut microbes? These are often referred to as prebiotics (food for the probiotics). They are the ones that help you digest food and even make certain nutrients for you.
Here are just a few of the items you could add to your diet to increase fibre 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 fibre from flax. Flax not only contains fibre 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!
For years fats were looked upon as the enemy. The mindset was that they must be reduced or cut out completely. Boy were we wrong. Healthy fats are essential to the diet for many reasons: glowing skin, brain health (our brain is made up of almost 80% of fats), absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and the production of hormones.
Here are some examples of healthy fats that I like to include in my diet on a regular basis:
- Avocado (nature’s butter – gives you that creamy texture when added to recipes)
- Grass-fed butter (high in GLA & Omega-6 which gives you that glowing skin)
- Nuts and nut butters (almonds, pistachios, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, walnuts, dried coconut etc.)
- Coconut oil