Menopausal Weight Gain? Avoiding fats is the wrong approach to take
Menopausal Weight Gain? Avoiding fats is the wrong approach to take
The topic of fats is just so confusing, isn’t it?
Fats have had a bad reputation, but eating the right sorts of fats is beneficial before, during and after the menopause – not just for weight control but for those common menopausal symptoms.
Weight gain is often seen as a normal consequence during and after the menopause. Whilst low oestrogen is considered to play a role, it does not directly cause weight gain. But it can lead to a different distribution of weight, with less weight carried in the lower parts of the body (such as the thighs and hips) and an increase in abdominal fat.
Women may try calorie reduction diets – that will always focus on low fat- or try to exercise more. This may lead to a temporary weight reduction, but the weight usually returns, and it may all seem like too much effort or a lost cause.
Fact: Calorie counting is out of date and does not work.
Fat Myth: Fats make you fat
Fats are high in calories and when fats are removed or significantly reduced, they will have to be replaced with something to make up the deficit and most often this will be in the form of carbohydrates and sugars.
These may appear to be helpful as they are low in calories (gram for gram) in comparison to fats – IF you believe a low calorie approach is the route to weight loss. But carbohydrates (the starchy types like potatoes, pasta, bread) are more likely to lead to weight gain and especially abdominal fat.
Here’s why: It’s the influence of raised blood sugar from the starches and the action of insulin that results in blood sugar converted to fat and typically laid down around the abdomen.
In my opinion, starches and sugars in carbohydrates are the leading cause of weight gain.
How the right fats help you control your weight
Fats are far more satiating than carbohydrates. Proteins are too, and I encourage you to eat these with each main meal. When a meal contains fats (and proteins) you will stay fuller (and satisfied) for far longer than if the meal was carbohydrate based.
It’s then possible to reach the next main meal without a snack in-between. You’re less likely to be hungry, have a craving for something sweet or have an energy crash. Increasing fats (and proteins) with each main meal, and I guarantee you are less likely to reach for the biscuits mid-afternoon.
Snacks really are a major culprit preventing weight loss because they cause prolonged insulin release which encourages fat storage.
Yes, insulin encourages fat storage and inhibits fat breakdown.
Fat Fact: They help to mobilise fat stores, so they have an important role in weight management!
Why fats are essential for menopausal women
Did you know the precursor to post-menopausal sources of oestrogen and progesterone (from the adrenal glands) is cholesterol? Whilst the liver is a source of cholesterol, eating a diet of good natural fats helps to provide the building blocks.
Brain Health: Essential fats EPA and DHA form the building blocks for brain structure and brain function. Low mood, poor concentration and forgetfulness can be a sign of lacking important fats.
Aching Joints: Fats help to keep joints lubricated, and essential fats have an anti-inflammatory action too.
Skin health: Fats help to prevent dry skin and the anti-inflammatory ones are beneficial for eczema, which may reappear at this time of life.
The 7 best types of fats to eat every day
The ones we should and must include in our daily food intake are known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some of these are also called “essential fats” as the body cannot make them, and they are essential to our health.
Whilst some saturated fat found in animal foods is not detrimental to our health- and provides important fat soluble vitamins A, D and E, the focus should be on the following foods.
- Eggs. They contain lecithin which helps the breakdown of fat and are also a good source of protein. They make a fabulous breakfast.
- Oily fish: Aim for three portions a week: Fresh/tinned salmon, mackerel and sardines and the main ones. Unfortunately, tinned tuna has had the fats stripped away (and the fish can be high in heavy metals). Oily fish is very rich in EPA and DHA fats. The body can convert some Omega-3 from other food sources to EPA and DHA, but the conversion is very poor.
- Coconut oil. Rich in plant polyphenols, vitamin E and lauric acid – a medium chain fatty acid (different to the saturated fat found in animal food). Coconut oil may help improve cognition, skin health and energy. Does not break down at high temperatures, so good for cooking.
- Coconut, almond and full fat Greek yogurt. I love a breakfast of coconut yogurt, berries and walnuts.
- Extra Virgin olive oil and olives. It can help increase the “good” cholesterol HDL, high in antioxidants and considered to be beneficial for heart health. As a monounsaturated fat, it is also safe for cooking at high temperatures.
- Avocados are not only high in beneficial fats but also rich in beta-carotene, lutein, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium.
- Nuts and nut butters. Beneficial fats, good protein, rich in minerals and plant polyphenols. Best to eat a variety of unsalted plain nuts.
- Seeds: sunflower, flaxseed, chia, pumpkin, hemp, sesame: Beneficial fats, protein, fibre and antioxidants. Best to eat a variety rather than just one type.
When looking at your eating patterns and thinking how best to support your health (and weight) through the menopause, do make sure these fats are an important part of your regular eating patterns.
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