Menopause Nutrition Basics - Part 2 - Macronutrients
Jun 10, 2019
“Let food be thy medicine”
Macronutrients: The building blocks of food
There are three main components of food: carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
Carbohydrates are any food that can be broken down by the body into simple sugars. This includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, grains, cereals, bread, rice, pasta, honey, sugar, soft drinks and baked goods such as muffins and cakes.
Sugar is used by the body as a fuel source, although the body can use other food sources for fuel (which is why they are called ‘simple’ sugars and not ‘essential’ sugars). Your body only uses sugar as an energy source. Too much of it causes weight gain, diabetes, fatigue, depletion of other nutrients, insomnia, acidity, reduced immunity, fatty liver, teeth cavities, and weak bones. It also promotes heart disease, inflammation, causes brain fog, feeds cancer cells and is highly addictive.
Considering carbohydrates break down to sugar, should we simply avoid all of them? No. Fruit and vegetables average 10% sugar, which leaves 90% nutrition in the form of water, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It’s simply about looking at the type of carbohydrate you’re consuming, rather than avoiding them altogether.
Tips for eating carbohydrates
- Vegetables and salads should be eaten in abundance. Anything grown above ground is generally lower in carbohydrates. Anything that is grown below ground, such as root vegetables like potatoes, are storehouses of sugar for the plant and are therefore higher in carbohydrates. Root vegetables are still ok to eat but most of your vegetables should be from above ground sources.
- The lowest carbohydrate fruits are berries and melons. Eat one to two serves of fruit every day.
- Nuts are a combination food, meaning they are a carbohydrate but also a protein and fat. My concern with nuts is mould. Any stored grain, seed or nut can be contaminated with mould. The best way to prevent this is to buy the freshest nuts possible and store them in the freezer instead of the cupboard. The healthiest nuts are activated nuts. You can buy these or make your own. An important thing to remember about eating nuts is to eat a portion and not an entire bag.
- Consume legumes in moderation. Legumes are also a phytoestrogen, but more about that later.
- Grains are best to eat sparingly.
Protein is broken down by the body into essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential means that you must consume this component as the human body cannot manufacture it. Therefore, eating foods that contain adequate amino acids is a must for a healthy and happy body.
Foods containing amino acids include:
- All animal products: meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy
- Vegetarian sources: nuts, seeds, tofu, lentils.
Amino acids are essential for:
- Every single cell in your body as they are a key building block for new cell creation.
- Building and repairing muscles, organs and other structural components of your body.
- Immune response (antibody formation).
- Energy (hemoglobin production—part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen).
- Building enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones.
- Regulating body processes (e.g., water balance, transports nutrients).
Did you read the part about needing protein to form hormones? Some women find it a catch-22. They know they need to eat more protein, but unfortunately, they struggle to digest it, so avoid it. If this is you, you need more digestive fire, more enzymes, and acids.
Each meal you eat must contain some protein.
Did you know the body breaks down fats to form essential and non-essential fatty acids? Like protein, essential means that you must consume this macronutrient, as the human body cannot manufacture it. Therefore, eating fat-containing foods is a must.
Foods containing good fats include:
- Animal products: wild fish, organic eggs, kangaroo, grass-fed meats
- Vegetarian sources: olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, grasses, coconut.
- Enables absorption and activation of fat-soluble nutrients (ADEK, calcium)
- Strengthens bones
- Increases sensation of fullness
- Production and regulation of hormones
- Nerve signaling, such as regulating insulin release
- Supports cellular structure and function (a key component of your cells phospholipid membrane)
- Reduces premature aging
- Cancer preventing
- Muscle building
- Fat burning (not fat gaining)
- Provides energy
- Source of lubrication
- Promotes hair, skin and nail health
- Supports brain health and cognitive function
- Promotes eye health
- Improves mood and behaviour
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Protects the liver from certain drugs and medications
- Encourages healthy lung function, as the lung coating surfactant is made from 100% fat
- Strengthens the immune system.
Please don’t be afraid of adding the right kinds of fats into your diet. There have been decades of misinformation about dietary fats and I see people struggle with this information daily. The easy rule of thumb regarding fats is that naturally containing fats are beneficial for health while man-made fats or interfered with fats are very detrimental to health.
Also in this series:
Menopause Nutrition Basics - Part 1
Menopause Nutrition Basics - Part 3 - Drinks
Menopause Diet Checklist
Menopause and Digestion