Why menopausal women need to prioritise a high protein diet

Eating a high protein diet during menopause can have health benefits. (Getty Images)
Eating a high protein diet during menopause can have health benefits. (Getty Images)

Protein is an important macronutrient to consume at any age, but it could be particularly useful for women going through menopause.

Protein refers to foods that are made up of amino acids – chemicals that can help to build and repair muscles – and includes lean meats, fish, dairy products, eggs, tofu, and nuts and seeds among other things.

As we age, our dietary protein intake increases, and one study found that women with adequate protein intake have better physical performance in their later years, while another study found that prioritising protein in perimenopause can ward off weight gain.

"Research suggests that increasing your protein can help manage symptoms and overall health during menopause," Lauren Chiren, CEO and Founder of Women of a Certain Stage, who is also a menopause trainer and certified nutritional advisor tells Yahoo UK.

"Protein plays a vital role in maintaining muscle mass, supporting bone health, and aiding in weight management – all areas of concern during the menopausal transition."

Overhead view of a large group of food with high content of healthy proteins. The composition includes salmon beef fillet, chicken breast, eggs, yogurt, mussels, chick peas, pistachios, cheese, brown lentild, beans, shrimps, canned tuna, pumpkin seeds, soybeans among others. High resolution 42Mp studio digital capture taken with SONY A7rII and Zeiss Batis 40mm F2.0 CF lens
Protein includes lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes. (Getty Images)

Chiren adds that ensuring you are eating protein-rich meals and snacks can help to stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce the likelihood of energy dips and mood changes that many women experience during menopause.

"If you are prone to craving, you may find that increasing your protein helps curb these too, especially if you also add healthy fats in the same meal or snack such as nuts, avocado, egg yolks, or cold pressed virgin olive oil," she adds.

Should you cut out carbs during menopause?

Along with an increased protein intake, some studies suggest that switching to higher-quality carbohydrates, such as oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and beans, can help to ward off some menopause symptoms.

"While it's not necessary to drastically cut carbs, focusing on the quality of carbohydrates you consume is important," Chiren says.

"Ideally start thinking about how you can increase your intake of 'complex' carbs like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and limit or reduce refined sugars and processed foods. Complex carbs are digested more slowly, helping to maintain steady blood sugar levels and support sustained energy throughout the day. All this helps your mood and energy levels. Always listen to your body and adjust your food accordingly."

The exact amount of protein to eat during menopause

Chiren explains that while the general recommendation for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram (g/kg) of bodyweight, during menopause this should be increased up to 1.2g/kg.

"Some experts suggest increasing protein intake to 1.0-1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day to help counteract muscle loss and support bone health," she adds.

"For a 70kg woman, this equates to approximately 70-84gs of protein daily. Again, it is important to work out the best plan for your unique body with a suitably qualified professional."

Baked sockeye salmon fish fillet with roasted sweet potato and broccoli, in enameled baking dish, selective focus
Salmon and sweet potato is a healthy, protein-filled meal option. (Getty Images)

Simple ways to increase protein intake

Below, Chiren gives a sample meal plan of how to increase your protein intake:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs or tofu, with spinach and whole-grain toast can provide a protein-rich start to the day.

Lunch: A quinoa salad with chickpeas, avocado, and a variety of vegetables offers a hearty, protein-packed option.

Dinner: Grilled salmon or chicken breast, accompanied by sweet potato and steamed broccoli, makes for a balanced, high-protein meal.

Snacks: Consider hummus with carrot sticks, a small handful of almonds, or a protein shake for on-the-go options.

"Adapting your food can be fun and a great way to explore new flavours and recipes," Chiren adds. “Menopause is a time of exploration, so getting creative with our food can help us slow down, take time to actively meal plan and shop and prepare tasty nutritious recipes. I like to spend a Sunday afternoon batch cooking so that I know my food is all ready for the week ahead.

"The key is finding what works best for you, ensuring your plan aligns with your unique health profile and nutritional needs."

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