During menopause and perimenopause, stress is one of our biggest foes. Stress alters your hormones and contributes to all the other menopausal symptoms including weight gain, hot flashes and emotional volatility. To reduce stress in menopause with healthy foods is easy and efective.
As you know stress can also make us fat. There are many reasons for this. When we are stressed out, we tend to eat more and eat not so healthy. Some of the foods that stress makes us eat are sweets, alcohol, big meals, Chinese take-out, fried foods, and fatty foods among others. Wine and cocktails are particularly tempting, and with nachos, even better. Those foods may offer temporary comfort, but they are only contributing to creating more stress later on.
Stress also affects your gut bacteria. Gut bacteria is critically important for your overall health and your weight. The hormone that produces stress affects the gut bacteria and contributes to weight gain, especially in the abdomen.
Stress is not only emotional, it is also physical. The foods we eats have an effect on cellular stress levels and also affect our emotional wellbeing. When the body doesn’t get enough nutrients, you will feel less energetic, and you may have less concentration and focus. All of this may lead to more stress and create a vicious cycle. Reducing stress in menopause is important and the right foods can help you.
Reduce Stress with nutrition
A nutritionally dense meal can help you feel more energetic and lower your stress and anxiety levels. The best way to fight stress is to eat a delicious, healthy, and balanced diet. This “diet” ideally should include all the different food groups.
Eating healthy, menopause-friendly foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and proteins is the best way to make sure that your body gets the optimum levels of nutrients to avoid hormonal imbalance. There are a lot of foods that can help us lower stress. These stress reduction foods will help you to calm your mind and energize your body permanently, instead of providing a temporary lift-me-up.
Best foods to reduce stress in menopause
Some of the best foods are:
The wonderful chamomile is my herb of preference to calm down. Either using its powerful smell with essential oils or drinking it in tea. Chamomile tea has been used for millennia in many cultures. You can drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed to help you sleep better or during the day when you feel stress creeping on you. The essential oil is also great for the same purposes, the oil is mainly used in skincare products to calm the skin because the smell is not particularly pleasant. Similar herbs are lavender and Melissa (lemon balm).
You probably knew this already. Chocolate has the power to lift our moods. Chocolate besides being almost seductive is also full of nutrients. When you need something sweet, a small piece of dark chocolate is healthier than most sweets with the exception of fruits. Of course commercial chocolate is loaded with sugar and fats and we can only indulge in moderation.
There are studies that show that chocolate has flavonols and polyphenols, two very important nutrients. To get more of these nutrients try to pick the darkest chocolate you can. Also look at the label; the fat in the chocolate has to be cocoa butter. Because cocoa butter is expensive, many companies separate the cocoa powder from its natural fat to sell them separately and add an unhealthy, cheaper fat.
Berries are fabulous fruits. They have great flavor, they are full of nutrients and they are naturally low in sugar. When you want something sweet and decadent, berries can be your fruit of choice. They are an easy snack that will help you to avoid unhealthy choices. You can create a parfait by adding blueberries and some yogurt or make a smoothie.
Berries have high levels of antioxidants that will help you to have better focus and lower stress.
The humble oatmeal is one of the most awesome grains in nutrition. Oats are full of fiber that helps to lower the bad cholesterol. The same fiber will keep you feeling full for long time. In addition oatmeal will help you control sugar cravings because it helps to control the sugar levels in the blood. Oatmeal increases the levels of serotonin in the body; this is the feel-good hormone. All of this will contribute to lower stress levels.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Full of nutrients and low in calories, green leafy vegetables are the star in the nutrition world. You can have them in smoothies, salads, sautéed, stir fried, curried, and even make chips with them. They are rich in nutrients that will help you balance your hormones, and therefore, your stress.
Omega 3 fats
These wonderful fats are very important for cardiovascular and mental health. They help to control micro-inflammation in the body and in the brain. Omega 3 fatty acids are very important during menopause for hormonal balance and they can also help you be more focused, more productive and happier; all of these will result in lower stress. You can reduce stress in menopause with healthy foods such as these great fats.
Food rich in omega 3s include salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and other nuts.
As we said before, the gut bacteria is very important for your mental and physical health. During menopause, your bacteria is affected by lower estrogen levels and this aggravates the menopausal symptoms. By eating some fermented foods you are helping replenish your gut bacteria.
There are many studies linking gut bacteria to depression and mood swings. It is very important to eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, etc..
Citrus fruits are so refreshing and full of vitamins, especially vitamin C. There are some studies indicating that vitamin C can directly help lower stress and anxiety levels and improve your mood.
Dehydration brings irritability and lethargy. Drinking enough water is very important to lower stress. If you prefer your water with flavor, you can drink infused waters.
Foods that make stress worse
The same way that some foods can help you lower stress, there are also some that will increase stress. We already talked about sugar, but there are many more. In general processed foods, especially ultra-processed foods, are really bad for your gut bacteria and subsequently greatly affect hormonal balance. These foods will suck your energy, make you hungry and lower your concentration levels. This happens because your body does not recognize them and they are full of toxins.
Ultra-processed foods include most commercial cereals, drinks like sodas, some commercial breads, most commercial snacks, some commercial sauces and condiments, etc. You can reduce stress in menopause with healthy foods.
Too much coffee can also increase anxiety and stress. Alcohol in general is not healthy; if you drink it, try to limit it.
Eating to lower your stress
In order to lower your stress you need to eat the right foods at the right time.
If you eat breakfast try to include complex carbohydrates such as oats and/or protein and some healthy fats. This type of breakfast will fill you up and give your energy. Avoid high sugar and bad fats.
If you feel like having a snack, try to eat nuts, fruits especially berries and citrus fruits, yogurt or a small piece of chocolate.
For lunch and dinner avoid too many refined carbs such as commercial breads, too much pasta, noodles etc. You can eat carbs, including pasta and noodles but they should include healthy proteins and vegetables. Try to eat natural foods and try to include vegetables of different colors.
Try to make your meals delicious. Healthy and stress-reducing foods don’t mean non-tasty foods. I believe that we have to enjoy our food. Food doesn’t only provide nutrients to the body, it also nurtures our souls. You don’t need to eat in a certain way all the time, you can indulge in foods that are not healthy, but try to eat healthy at least 50% of the time. This will help you to reduce stress in menopause and perimenopause.
Make your meals fun and eat using all your senses. Take your time to eat and enjoy your meals. And last but not least, try to eat at the same time every day. If your body doesn’t get food when it needs, it you will get stressed out.
I hope this article helps you to plan your meals, reach hormonal balance and a happier menopause.