How can I eat healthier after menopause?

Eating healthily is a mantra for all people, no matter how old they are. Maintaining healthy eating, especially after menopause is the key. After menopause, blood pressure rises and insulin become more ineffective, bones become brittle and weight creeps up slowly—a recipe for heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Eating well can help decrease inflammation, maintain bone strength and get you off a blood-sugar roller coaster. To do that:

  • Eat like a Mediterranean. That means, lean proteins (chicken, fish), heart-healthy fats (like DHA omega-3s) and tons of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid the 5 food felons—saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, syrups and any grains that aren't 100 percent whole.
  • Take calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3 and a multivitamin to cover the gaps in your diet.
  • Limit your alcoholic beverages to one drink a day for the ladies and two for the gents.
  • Get those 10,000 steps. It will help control your appetite.
Mrs. Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Get enough calcium. Eating and drinking two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your daily diet. Calcium is found in dairy products, fish with bones (such as sardines and canned salmon), broccoli, and legumes. An adequate intake of calcium for women aged 51 and older is 1,200 milligrams per day.

Increase your iron intake. Eating at least three servings of iron-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough iron in your daily diet. Iron is found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and enriched grain products. The recommended dietary allowance for iron in older women is 8 milligrams a day.

Eat fiber-rich foods. Help yourself to foods high in fiber such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Most adult women should get about 21 grams of fiber a day.

Eat fruits and vegetables. Include at least 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables each day.

Drink plenty of water. This will help you stay hydrated. It's impossible to determine how much water we all need, because this depends on many factors, such as how much you eat, the climate you live in, and how active you are. As a general rule, drinking eight glasses of water every day fulfills the daily requirement for most healthy adults.

Reduce foods high in fat. Fat should provide 25% to 35% or less of your total daily calories. Also, limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Saturated fat raises cholesterol and increases your risk for heart disease. Saturated fat is found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream, and cheese. Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day. Also try to limit your intake of trans fats, found in vegetable oils, many baked goods, and some margarines. Trans fat also raises cholesterol and increases your risk for heart disease.

Use sugar and salt in moderation. Too much sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure. Also, go easy on smoked, salt-cured, and charbroiled foods -- these foods contain high levels of nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.

Limit alcohol and caffeine. Women should limit their consumption of alcohol to one or fewer drinks a day and caffeine two cups per day.

Healthy eating at any age is simply watching what you eat and drink. By eating more fruits and vegetables, you will easily consume fewer calories and increase your fiber content. Also, choose lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish. Whole grains will also help add fiber to your diet for better health. Making simple choices like an apple instead of a cookie add up and make a big difference.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.