Most women know what a healthy diet looks like when they’re young – but not as many know what a post-menopause diet should look like.
Or even that your diet should change post menopause.
But it makes sense once you think about it.
Everything changes post menopause. So why shouldn't your dietary needs change, too?
Luckily, a healthy post-menopause diet doesn't look much different from the healthy diet you've been eating up until now.
Just a few easy tweaks…
Your Need for Calcium Increases
Now is the age when it becomes most important to maintain your calcium levels in order to hold off osteoporosis, so your post-menopause diet should reflect that.
Women under 50 should be aiming for 1000mg of calcium per day, but that goes up to 1200 mg of calcium per day once you pass age 50.
That’s more calcium than you get in a cup of skim milk and a single serving of yogurt, combined, which means you really need to up your calcium intake.
Dairy products are the most common source of calcium – look to low-fat cheeses, yogurts, and milk – but they aren't the only sources.
Add nuts, legumes, and green leafy vegetables to your post-menopause diet to round out your calcium needs.
You’ll Also Need More Vitamin D
Your body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium effectively, but your need for Vitamin D increases post menopause, too.
After 70, you need to be getting 800IU of Vitamin D every day.
Not only does this help your body absorb calcium, but Vitamin D is also essential to muscle function and health.
Since muscle loss can be a part of aging, keeping enough Vitamin D in your diet post menopause can help keep your bones and your muscles strong.
Unfortunately, there aren't many foods that contain Vitamin D naturally. The best, natural source is fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. You can also find foods like juices and some cereals that have been fortified with Vitamin D. Your best bet, though, is to talk to your doctor and see if she recommends a supplement.
This Just In: Water Helps Prevent Dryness
You've probably heard for years that you should drink 8 glasses of water a day and, maybe, some days you even got close.
But those 8 glasses really do make a difference to your diet once you’re post menopause.
One of the most common symptoms of menopause is vaginal dryness.
Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can make sex painful, as well. In fact, when you go to the doctor, one of the first questions she’s going to ask is if you’re drinking enough water – so make sure you can answer yes!
Also, hydration helps keep skin looking younger, muscles firing efficiently, and your brain sharp. All of which means it’s time to actually start drinking those 8 glasses of water.
Vitamin B Helps You Keep Your Perfect Memory
By the time you’re post-menopausal, you've probably started experiencing “senior moments.”
Those are a normal part of aging, and can even sometimes be amusing.
But if you’re starting to be concerned about them, if they've started to feel less normal, you may want to work some of the B Vitamins into your diet.
Being deficient in folate, B-6, and especially B-12 can lead to memory loss and confusion.
A B-12 deficiency can lead to more than cognitive difficulties. Not getting enough B-12 in your diet post-menopause can cause hallucinations and paranoia.
So before you get worried about dementia, talk to your doctor – and make sure you’re getting enough B Vitamins. You can find Vitamin B-12 in shellfish, red meat, and low-fat dairy products.
What You Leave Out of Your Diet Is as Important as What You Add in
Unlike calcium and Vitamin D, your need for iron decreases as you age.
From the age of 19 until you’re 50, you need 18mg of iron per day.
But once you turn 50, that requirement drops to 8mg.
The good thing in terms of a post-menopause diet is that it is very difficult to overdose on iron just by the foods you eat.
But if you've been taking an iron supplement, or have been making specific changes in your diet to increase your iron intake, talk to your doctor about discontinuing.
And One More Thing (This One’s Important!)
Then there’s the heartbreaker.
You know that glass of wine you get to have every night because it’s good for your heart? It’s not such a given in a post-menopause diet.
Sadly, once you get through menopause, that same glass of wine increases your risk of breast cancer.
Is it still good for your heart? It is. But not so much for your breasts. Since it could be seen as a swap between heart health and breast health, figure out where your personal health risks lie, and choose appropriately.
Sure, your nutritional needs change as you age – but those changes don’t have to be scary or intimidating. Boost a few things, drop a few others. And just like that, a post-menopause diet is as easy as it is healthy.