Minerals and vitamins for the menopause
The menopause can bring with it an entourage of symptoms, ranging from the mildly troublesome to the truly debilitating, but the good news is that, in many cases, there are a number of measures we can take to help lessen their impact on our day-to-day lives. Increasing our intake of certain vitamins and minerals can help combat physical changes that the menopause brings, such as brittle bones and dry skin, as well as deficiencies which may be mimicking or aggravating menopause symptoms. Read on to find out which might help and for some delicious ways to incorporate them in our diets.
Vitamin D and calcium for bone strength and mood
Maintaining our bone density through good diet and exercise is essential, as from our late twenties onwards, we are unable to build any more calcium into our bones. During the first five years of the menopause, we can lose nearly 10 per cent of our bone mass, so it is vital that our diets incorporate plenty of calcium and, where possible, vitamin D, which helps our body to absorb calcium. Brown rice and oily fish are great sources of calcium, especially if you eat the bones of smaller fish, and this tuna steak poke bowl is a perfect mix of the two (fresh tuna is an oily fish). Keep an eye out for orange juice and cereals that have been fortified with vitamin D. Yoghurt, cheese, and milk are some of the best natural sources of calcium.
Having low levels of vitamin D can have a profound effect on our mood, particularly in the dark winter months when our skin cannot produce enough of it in the limited, less intense winter sunshine. In the summer months, spending ten minutes a day with your arms and legs exposed in the sunshine without protection should enable your skin to produce sufficient vitamin D. In winter, you may wish to take a supplement to top up your waning levels.
If hot flushes are keeping you up at night or stopping you in your tracks, magnesium may provide you with some relief. Studies have suggested that magnesium may help alleviate the symptoms of hot flushes and decrease their regularity considerably. Magnesium has effective relaxing properties and can contribute to a better night’s sleep. Nuts and seeds are a great source – bake a loaf of Liz’s menopause cake to reap the benefits of magnesium-packed linseeds and sunflower seeds, and soya milk and flour rich in phytoestrogens.
Vitamin C and selenium
With decreasing oestrogen levels comes lower levels of skin-plumping collagen, which can leave our skin wrinkled, dry, and at greater risk of sun damage. During this period of change, it’s especially important to maintain vitamin C levels to protect skin tissue and promote wound-healing. Oranges, kale and red peppers all have high levels of vitamin C. Surprisingly, Brussels sprouts are also a great source of the vitamin – especially when cooked with orange juice. Try to incorporate foods rich in the mineral selenium in your diet as this helps protect cells and tissue from damage. Amazingly, just one to two Brazil nuts will provide you with your recommended daily intake of selenium!
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