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What’s the best diet for perimenopause?

How to eat for perimenopause

The best diet for perimenopause is one that supports good blood sugar regulation, thyroid health, adrenal health, gut health, immune health, hormone detoxification, and muscle mass.

This diagram shows the 360° degree approach we need to take when looking to support the body through perimenopause.

I get that this answer might be somewhat annoying or frustrating when you just want a diet or clear set of rules to follow to support your hormones, or to know HOW to eat in order to get X result or fix this one thing. Nutrition just doesn’t work like that and there is no one size that fits all.

I urge you to keep reading though!

First, what IS perimenopause?

As you reach your mid to late 30s, your sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone are starting to behave differently, which is due to the change in brain to ovary communication that occurs from around aged 35. This marks the start of your bodies very slow and gradual journey towards achieving menopause (after going 12 consecutive months without having a period).

Essentially, your brain to ovary communication becomes less robust or reliable than it was throughout your 20s and first half of your 30s, resulting in oestrogen fluctuating more erratically and progesterone starting to decline.

Oestrogen is made all month long, in different amounts, but progesterone is only made as a result of ovulation, and so if you don’t ovulate in any given month, you don’t make progesterone. In perimenopause, you start to have more and more ‘non-ovulatory’ menstrual cycles, resulting in a general decline in progesterone. The erratic fluctuations in oestrogen and decline in progesterone get more and more pronounced the further you progress into your 40s. Click here to read my previous blog called “What is perimenopause” to learn more about what’s happening and why.

Symptoms of perimenopause

This shift in oestrogen and progesterone starts to result in various and many symptoms that are physical, mental and emotional. The shift in these two important hormones impacts other areas of your health and body systems, such as:

  • Body fat and ability to lay down new muscle mass
  • Metabolic health (blood sugar regulation, insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, cholesterol)
  • Thyroid health (your thyroid gland’s ability to make thyroid hormone and/or your body’s ability to convert thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3) for use by your cells)
  • Adrenal health (glands in your body that produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions)
  • Menstrual cycles + periods
  • Your circadian rhythm + sleep
  • Cognitive health
  • Immune health
  • Skin health
  • Gut health
Table showing the varied and many symptoms associated with perimenopause

So, what’s the best diet for perimenopause?

Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all diet for perimenopause, eating for good blood sugar regulation and nourishment of all the systems mentioned above is essential and absolutely foundational if you want to support your body and minimise and even eliminate many or all of these symptoms! Your nutrition choices and habits are an important tool that you should leverage now more than ever, and always from here on in!

Foundational nutrition principles for perimenopause

Your body needs support now more than ever. This isn’t a phase of life where you can ignore the nutritional needs of your body and hormone health. It’s a time to be leveraging nutrition as one of the biggest tools you have and can take control of. Put the effort in now to learn how to nourish and support your body then get to work in implementing the necessary changes or tweaks to what you’re already doing, and you will be SO THANKFUL, trust me.

If we don’t intervene in our 40s by making adjustments to our eating and lifestyle habits we can be in for a much rougher hormonal ride where we’re struggling to manage our weight, sleep, mood, focus, and general health.

Inside my Thrive Through Perimenopause course there’s an entire module (module 1) dedicated to building the nutrition foundations to THRIVE through perimenopause (and beyond).

In a nutshell, the foundational nutrition habits are to:

  • Eat 3 blood sugar balancing meals daily, no snacks
  • Get a minimum of 1.5 grams of protein per kg of your body weight everyday (split out across 3 meals)
  • Fast for 12-14 hours overnight

Why does blood sugar balance matter so much, I’m not diabetic?!

Good blood sugar regulation supports the balance of some really key hormones that have a SIGNIFICANT impact on your experience in perimenopause (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Blood glucose regulation pretty much underlies ALL aspects of health including hormone health, metabolic health, energy, mood + cognition, immune health, thyroid health, circadian rhythm, and weight regulation.

What does a ‘blood sugar balancing’ meal look like?

A blood-sugar balancing meal contains a healthy balance of protein, good fats, non-starchy vegetables, and slow-release/complex carbohydrates. Here is a breakdown of each category for you:

Protein

You want to get 30 to 40g of protein at each meal, this fills about a quarter of your plate, for example from:

  • Grass-fed and preferably organic red meat (beef, lamb), free-range chicken and turkey, fish (all but especially oily, cold-water fish). A 100-150g cooked weight portion of any of these will provide around 20-35g of protein

Or, use a blend of the following foods, which are lower in protein per 100g serving than meat and fish:

  • Eggs
  • Organic, non GMO tofu or tempeh
  • Lentils, chickpeas, edamame beans, other beans (these are also sources of carbohydrates so keep this in mind when planning your carb portion of your plate)
  • Feta, halloumi (ideally from sheep or goats milk)

You can also use an unflavoured, good quality protein powder such as a whey isolate or a vegan powder that’s made up of a blend of plant proteins (e.g., pea, rice, sunflower, quinoa..). Brands I like include Pulsin, Bulk, and Sunwarrior.

Carbohydrates

1 closed fist size / 50-100g cooked weight of:

  • Brown, wild, red, or black rice
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Baby new potatoes
  • Lentils, butter beans, chickpeas, etc.

Or 2 closed fist/100-200g cooked weight:

  • Carrot, beetroot, parsnip

Fats

1 thumb / approx 1 tablespoon, (choose 2):

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream
  • Nut butter (almond, cashew)
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, etc.)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, chia, hemp, sunflower, sesame, flax)
  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, trout)

Non-starchy vegetables

Half your plate / 2+ closed fists of variety of colourful vegetables:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red+green), leeks, asparagus, green beans, bell pepper, bok choi/pak choi, courgette, aubergine, garlic, cavalo nero, mushrooms, onions, rocket, watercress, tomato, radish, celery, fennel, cucumber, artichoke, green peas, etc.

Other foods to focus on:

  • Berries – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries
  • Phytoestrogen foods; flaxseed (ground, 1-2 TBSPS daily), chickpeas, and natural soy foods such as edamame beans, tofu, and tempeh (avoid all processed soy such as soy milk and soy-based meat substitutes).
  • Oily fish (for omega 3 fats EPA and DHA)
  • Herbs and spices (especially rosemary, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon)
  • Loose leaf/quality green tea
  • Chicken livers and other organ meats (organic)
  • Dark chocolate 85% +

Eating 3 square (balanced) meals each day, within a maximum 12 hour window, with no snacking in between meals (unless you absolutely have to for example if the gap between lunch and dinner is too long), is the most effective way to regulate your blood glucose levels.

You will benefit from good blood sugar regulation by way of a reduction/improvement in symptoms and situations such as;

  • Brain fog
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Energy dips
  • Sleep issues
  • PMS
  • Weight gain but particularly belly fat
  • Mood swings
  • Low mood, anxiety, irritability
  • Lack of concentration and focus
  • Breast pain
  • Heavy periods, painful periods
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Hot flushes, night sweats
  • Headaches

So there you have it, my nutshell guide to eating for perimenopause and hormone nourishment and support. Perhaps you’re already on the right track, give or take a few things here or there, in that case great! You might just benefit from making a few little tweaks based on this blog. Or perhaps you need to make some more significant changes. Whichever it is, please don’t be overwhelmed by it. Start small, start somewhere, be consistent with that one small change/implementation and then continue to slowly build from there. This isn’t a temporary ‘plan’ or quick fix, you’re in this for the long haul so go at your own pace! I promise that even one tiny change can make a BIG difference to your health and how you feel.

Lots of love,
Francesca xx

PS.

The Thrive Through Perimenopause Course teaches you everything you need to know to support your body and hormones to THRIVE in your 40s (and beyond!). There is a live group programme option (weekly group Zoom calls and private Facebook group for 12 weeks) or a self study option (no calls, just access to the course content membership site and private Facebook group). Both options give you LIFETIME access to the course content, including any updates made as things evolve. Click here for more info and to buy/join! Or if 1-2-1 support is a better fit for you, click here for info.

Hi, I'm Francesca

I’m a Registered Nutritional Therapist who helps womens in their 40s find vibrant health and vitality, and thrive through perimenopause and beyond.

With nearly 10 years of experience working with hundreds of people, I empower and support women to support their bodies and hormones for a smooth and happy ride in their 4os.

Through our work together, clients have improved their energy, their periods and cycles, their mood, sleep, brain fog and digestion, and learned how to better manage their weight.

I am here to help you get back to YOU so you can have a fantastic time in your 40s.

My signature nutrition and lifestyle coaching approach to supporting women with their health and wellbeing is refreshing, down-to-earth and realistic.

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