As we age, many women find that once they hit 40, they “just can’t eat like they used to.” While this is often talked about, what is often missed, is the cause or the “why”. As we age, hormones change, and estrogen levels start to drop. Improper hormone balance means more weight around the midsection, a slower metabolism, insulin resistance, and thinning hair. All these factors can make health feel like an uphill battle. The key to all of this: making sure our hormones, especially as we approach and enter menopause, are balanced.
So, how do we do this? Luckily there are quite a few things within your control, that can help. Here are 4 non-negotiable things you need to do to ensure healthy hormones as you age.
Non-negotiable #1: Get your protein in! Protein is the building block of hormones. By getting enough protein, you will see dramatic changes in many areas as you age. One of the main causes of weight gain as we age is the loss of lean body mass. This loss of muscle will happen faster if you are not consuming enough protein each day. Protein also keeps you feeling full longer, helping fight off those carb cravings. It is recommended you have at least .36-.50 grams of protein for each pound of body weight. For example, a 150 lb person should have at least 54g-75g of protein. While this goal is simple, it is not easy. It can be challenging to get that much protein each day. Make sure that you are adding protein to each of your meals and snacks. Some of the best sources of protein are lean red meat, beans, poultry, and fish. If you find you consistently come up short, protein supplements can help. Because supplements are not well-regulated, we recommend that you talk to a Registered Dietitian about which one might be best for you.
Non-negotiable #2: Resistance Training. While women tend to turn to cardio rather than resistance training, once over 40 they should certainly reconsider. Weight training is the key to two areas of high concern to women as they age: Weight gain and bone density. Close to 60% of older women in the US have reduced bone mass, and hormones play a huge role in bone density. While some bone loss is inevitable, resistance training is one of the best ways to slow the progression. If you have osteoporosis already, please consult a trained professional who can develop a plan that is safe for you. Resistance training also helps keep your metabolism running faster and helps your body utilize insulin effectively. Adding regular strength training will help with energy, mood, sleep, cardiovascular health, and hormonal health.
Non-negotiable #3: Feed your gut Microbiome. When your gut health is out of line, so are your hormones. The gut plays a huge role in estrogen production. Having poor gut health leads to all kinds of issues that come with low estrogens and improper hormone balance, such as weight gain, endometriosis, and an increased risk of breast cancer. Serotonin, often considered a hormone, is also created in the gut. Serotonin is the “happy hormone” making its impact on your mental health another reason to focus on your gut and hormonal health. To have a healthy gut, consume probiotics daily- through fermented foods such as sauerkraut, Keifer, yogurt, or supplements. Decrease your sugar intake, as sugar feeds the bad bacteria. Finally, focus on fiber- especially from fruits and vegetables.
Non-negotiable #4: Don’t forget the Magnesium. Magnesium is an often overlooked mineral but is highly important to our health and hormone production as we age. Magnesium helps our bodies use insulin more effectively, which in turn helps with weight control. Magnesium also helps with sleep, which is crucial for hormone and weight management. If you find you struggle with sleep as you age, low magnesium could be a factor. Good sources of Magnesium are dark leafy vegetables, avocados, nuts & seeds, and legumes. Talk to a Registered Dietitian if you are interested in supplementation.
As always, when working towards new goals, set yourself up for success. Try to add one goal at a time. When goals feel more manageable, we tend to be more successful.
Sarah Johnson MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with a strong passion for helping people discover the healing power of food. Today’s world offers more nutrition information at our fingertips than ever before. However, when it comes to nutrition, there is no one size fits all solution leading many to feel exhausted by years of “trial & error.” Sarah’s mission is to help people weed through the noise and to educate and empower them on simple ways food can help them regain their energy for life. She believes your body was designed to work well; you simply need the tools to get it back on track. Sarah graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a B.A. in Dietetics and went on to receive an M.S. in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin Stout where she focused on using nutrition to help those living with multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory diseases. Sarah lives in Mahtomedi with her husband and 3 children and loves the access to nature Minnesota living provides all year round.
ckgdmchange. “Top 10 Foods to Restore Hormone Balance.” Nutrition 4 Change, 20 May 2020, nutrition4change.com/articles/top-10-foods-to-restore-hormone-balance/.
DFARHUD, Dariush, et al. “Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors- Systematic Review Article.” Iranian Journal of Public Health, vol. 43, no. 11, Nov. 2014, pp. 1468–77, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449495/#:~:text=Serotonin%20is%20a%20neurotransmitter%20that.
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