Fight menopausal weight gain with the Mediterranean diet: Research shows this eating pattern reduces weight, symptoms

All adolescent women know the burden of having their menstrual cycles. But the end of these monthly periods is only the beginning when it comes to discomfort.

Menopause, a natural biological process, marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. It is diagnosed after 12 months without a period and usually happens in the late 40s or early 50s. While menopause may sound like a relief, it actually comes with its share of drawbacks. When the ovaries gradually reduce estrogen production, biological adjustments take place resulting in discomfort. Hot flashes, insomnia, breast tenderness, mood swings, fatigue and night sweats are some symptoms of perimenopause. Women are also prone to obesity or becoming overweight during this stage. Menopause lengths vary, so some women may experience years of sleepless nights while other women suffer other biochemical ordeals.

In the research entitled, “Adherence to Mediterranean dietary pattern and menopausal symptoms in relation to overweight/obesity in Spanish perimenopausal and postmenopausal women,” professor Alfredo Martinez and his team of researchers found that following a Mediterranean-style diet relieves the troublesome attachments of menopause. The study, which aims to enhance the quality of life among women in those stages, was published in the July 2015 issue of the North American journal Menopause. Researchers from the Nutrition Research Center of the University of Navarra, together with the General Council of Professional Associations of Spanish Pharmacists (CGCOF, in Spanish form) collected medical data from 8,954 perimenopausal and postmenopausal Spanish women including their nutritional habits and general lifestyle. After analysis, results showed that women who had healthy, “Mediterranean-style” lifestyles were less likely to experience perimenopausal or postmenopausal symptoms than women who had unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.

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Hormone therapy is the only known medical treatment that can effectively relieve the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and sweating at night. However, hormone therapy comes with its share of negative side effects. According to several studies, long-term hormone therapy may heighten the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and other chronic diseases.

A Mediterranean diet is a health plan that emphasizes eating plant-based food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, tubers (e.g. potatoes or yams) and abundant consumption of olive oil or flax seed oil. This health plan also encourages individuals to engage in regular physical activity, share meals with others and basically enjoy life. This type of diet promotes weight loss, prevents heart attacks and the onset of other chronic diseases. The study, as mentioned above, also associates the Mediterranean diet to lower risks of experiencing menopausal symptoms.

As suggested by the Mediterranean diet, below are some single-ingredient food items to include in your daily nutrition plan.

Vegetables – Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers
Fruits – Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches
Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
Legumes – Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas
Tubers – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams
Whole grains – Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole grain bread, pasta
Fish and seafood – Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels
Poultry – Chicken, duck, turkey
Eggs – Chicken, quail, duck
Dairy – Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt
Herbs and spices – Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper
Healthy fats – Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, avocado oil, flax seeds and flaxseed oil

Besides all this, the Mediterranean diet encourages having wine in moderation with meals.

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