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The Menopause Diet: 5 Things You Should Know About Fibre

The Menopause Diet: 5 Things You Should Know About Fibre

As we navigate the many changes happening to our bodies from perimenopause to postmenopause, our dietary choices become increasingly important. Among the myriad of recommendations, one nutrient stands out for its significant impact on health during this phase: fibre. 

Here we explore what makes fiber so essential, and how can it help manage menopausal symptoms while supporting our overall well-being throughout the changes

What is fibre?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods, but unlike other carbohydrates, it isn't digested by the human body. Instead, it passes through the digestive system mostly intact, providing several health benefits, from maintaining healthy digestion, preventing constipation, and managing weight, to regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. There are two main types of fibre:

  1. Soluble Fibre: This type dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in the gut. It's known to help reduce blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Sources include oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables.
  2. Insoluble Fibre: This type does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to the stool, helping food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. It's commonly found in whole grains, wheat bran, and vegetables.

        Why is fibre so important during menopause?

        As we transition from perimenopause to postmenopause, hormonal fluctuations often lead to various digestive issues, including constipation, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Fibre acts as a natural remedy for these discomforts, helping to keep us regular and supporting gut health. Moreover, fibre-rich foods help manage weight, regulate blood sugar levels, which contribute to hormonal balance, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, which become increasingly important once we reach postmenopause.

        Let's take a closer look at the benefits of a high-fibre diet during the menopause transition:

        1. Managing hormonal fluctuations:

        During perimenopause and menopause, hormonal fluctuations can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings, and weight gain. Including plenty of fibre-rich foods in your diet—such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains—can help stabilise blood sugar levels. This stability contributes to hormonal balance and can help lessen the severity of these symptoms.

        2. Supporting digestive health:

        Digestive problems like constipation, indigestion, and bloating are often experienced during the menopause transition. Fibre is crucial in supporting digestive health by encouraging regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and nourishing a healthy gut microbiome, which helps reduce bloating. Adding fibre-rich foods to your diet can help relieve these symptoms and improve your overall digestive well-being.

        3. Managing weight and metabolism:

        Weight management becomes more challenging during menopause due to several reasons, from hormonal changes and a slowing metabolism to being less active as you cope with other symptoms such as aching joints, broken sleep, and fatigue. High-fibre foods are not only nutrient-dense but also low in calories, making them ideal for managing weight. They also tend to be more filling than low-fibre foods, so you're likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer.

        4. Lowering heart disease risk:

        Heart disease risk increases after menopause due to hormonal changes and age-related factors. A diet rich in fibre has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, improving blood pressure, and supporting overall heart health. By incorporating plenty of fibre-rich foods into your diet, you can protect your heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications.

        5. Enhancing bone health:

        Maintaining strong and healthy bones is crucial during menopause to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. While calcium often takes the spotlight for bone health, fibre also plays a role in supporting bone density. Certain fibre-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain essential nutrients like magnesium and vitamin K, which are beneficial for bone health.

        How much fibre do you need in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause?

        Determining the optimal daily fibre intake during perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause depends on various factors, including age, activity level, and overall health status. However, as a general guideline, experts recommend aiming for around 25 grammes of fibre per day for women aged 19–50 and slightly less for those over 50. Adjusting fibre intake to meet individual needs and considering any specific dietary restrictions or health conditions is key to optimising its benefits during the menopausal transition.

        If your fibre intake is below the recommended level, consider adding more high-fibre foods to your diet. Some of the best sources include:

        • Whole Grains: Oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, whole wheat bread, and whole-grain pastas
        • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, peas, and soybeans.
        • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
        • Fruits: Berries (raspberries, blackberries), apples, pears, oranges, and bananas.
        • Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
        • Root Vegetables: Beetroot, parsnips, and turnips.
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