As a menopause expert, the most frequently asked question in my practice is, ‘What should I eat for breakfast?” First, and most importantly? Don’t skip it!
Weight control is one of the most important reasons to eat breakfast – your mother’s adage, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” is key to a healthy menopause.
Weight gain is a common problem in menopausal women.
1. Reduced muscle mass. Menopause is associated with a natural decline in estrogen, which increases visceral fat mass and decreases bone mass density.
Muscle mass uses energy (burns calories). With less mass, the body burns less energy leading to weight gain, which typically appears as increased belly fat.
2. Hormonal changes during menopause affect appetite and increase the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
Peri-menopausal women have the highest level of ghrelin, resulting in increased appetite. Menopause also decreases the “satiety” hormone “leptin” – signaling that we are full after eating.
More ghrelin and less leptin = increased hunger and a decreased feeling of fullness. “Got the munchies anyone?” This is a formula for overeating.
So? Eating the right type of breakfast maintains muscle mass, balances levels of leptin and ghrelin, and aids in weight loss and weight management.
What are “optimal” breakfast foods in menopause?
Those that help 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 increase metabolism and provides muscles the amino acids they need to stay strong. Protein also helps keep you feeling fuller longer which is great to offset that gremlin of hormones- “ghrelin”.
Protein also helps to reduce bone loss.
Foods 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)
Fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and reduces cravings.
Diabetes and heart disease risks increase after menopause due to an accumulation of visceral fat in the abdomen. (Yes, I’m talking about the infamous “belly fat”!).
Specific fibers also feed friendly gut microbes that aid in food digestion.
High Fiber Foods:
● 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
Flax is the super hero of fiber and is
a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids that assists in reducing dreaded hot flashes and risk of breast cancer.
HEALTHY FATS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!
Saturated fats are the backbone of hormonal production – Eat plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, flaxseeds, salmon, halibut, tuna and avocado, almonds and walnuts (as well as nut butters).
When planning breakfast menus, always include ample protein, fiber and good fats.
Check out my Vegetable Egg Muffin recipe here.