Five ingredients to boost metabolism in menopause
Updated: Aug 18
It's a fundamental fact that a woman's metabolism naturally starts slowing down during her 30s and 40s, so way before menopause begins for many of us. It means that our bodies burn fewer calories at rest, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight, and this is in addition to us gradually losing muscle mass. However, this decline in metabolism accelerates significantly after menopause, when levels of that dastardly oestrogen hormone decrease sharply, making it far more noticeable if we allow it to get carried away. Of course, a woman's metabolism can vary greatly depending on genetics, body composition, and lifestyle, such as diet and exercise. As such, some women may experience a more noticeable drop in metabolism earlier or later than others.
It won't come as a surprise to any of us that as we hit our forties and start our menopause journey, that weight gain, particularly around our middle, accumulates more readily. What we once could eat now seems to head straight for our midriff and bellies; despite any exercise or calorie counting, the fat simply refuses to budge. This accumulation of fat in the abdominal area is because the decrease in oestrogen levels can cause the body to redistribute fat from other parts of the body, such as the hips and thighs, to the abdomen. Added to this is the natural loss of muscle mass, and our declining metabolic rate, contributing to this belly fat increase. So, why must we try and do something about it? This increase in visceral belly fat is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, so ideally, we don't want to keep or add to it if we can help it. So, I guess the question on everyone's lips is what we can do about this, and the answer is to boost metabolism in menopause.
The visceral belly fat that unashamedly congregates around our abdomens actually accumulates around the organs in the abdominal cavity. This can be particularly challenging to reduce through exercise. I'm sure many of you exercise religiously, sweating it out at the gym or pounding the streets in an attempt to shift the midriff muffin top without success. This is because there are certain types of exercise that can be effective at targeting visceral fat in menopausal women, and whilst others, like cardio, help overall health, they're not very effective for menopausal belly fat. Indeed, if you're an Instagram junkie, you may have seen ads for workouts targeting the goddess hormone. These workouts specifically target white fat cells, turning them into calorie-burning brown fat, but essentially include strength training which is resistance training, such as lifting weights or doing bodyweight resistance exercises. These can help build and maintain muscle mass, which can increase metabolism and help burn visceral fat. Aim for two to three weekly sessions, focusing on all major muscle groups. If you prefer the comfort of your home to work out, the Nintendo Switch Ring Fit uses resistance in many of their custom exercises, or resistance bands are perfect and don't cost the earth either.
Studies also show that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be effective at reducing visceral fat, as well as overall body fat, in postmenopausal women. HIIT is alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise, so if you've got the energy, go for it!
As a side note, including Yoga and Pilates in your exercise regime, can help improve core strength and posture, helping reduce the appearance of belly fat. Additionally, certain yoga poses, such as twists and forward folds, may help to stimulate digestion and reduce bloating.
Of course, it will come as no surprise that exercise should be combined with a healthy diet to reduce visceral fat effectively. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can help promote weight loss and overall health in menopausal women. However, the key thing is it's also about boosting your metabolism, which in turn will make shedding weight easier. Five foods have been shown to help boost menopausal metabolism to help shift those unwanted belly love handles, so you should try adding them to your daily intake if you can:
Flaxseed has been shown to have potential benefits for menopausal women, including the ability to help regulate metabolism. Not only have the lignans present in flaxseed been found to have estrogenic properties that can help alleviate menopause symptoms but they have also been found to positively affect lipid metabolism, helping to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. You can buy flaxseed in ground form, making it super easy to incorporate into your diet, such as:
Sprinkling ground flaxseed on top of yoghurt, oatmeal, or cereal
Mixing ground flaxseed into smoothies or protein shakes
Use ground flaxseed as a substitute for some flour in baked goods like muffins or bread
Sprinkle ground flaxseed on top of roasted vegetables or stir into soups or stews
Ginger has been found to offer several possible benefits for menopausal women, with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and being super helpful for improving and regulating metabolic function. Here are some easy ways to incorporate ginger into your diet:
Brew ginger tea by steeping freshly grated ginger in hot water for 5-10 minutes
Add freshly grated ginger to marinades, stir-fries, soups, and curries for added flavour
Mix ginger powder or fresh ginger into smoothies or juice blend
Use ground ginger when baking muffins, cookies, and cakes
Avocado is a nutrient-dense fruit that can provide numerous health benefits, including supporting metabolic function in menopausal women. Avocado is high in monounsaturated fats, which can help increase satiety and boost metabolism. It is also a good source of fibre, potassium, and vitamins C, K, and B6, which are essential for overall health and metabolic function. Take a look below for a few ideas on how you can incorporate avocado into your diet:
Mash avocado onto toast and sprinkle with salt and pepper for a quick and easy breakfast or snack
Use avocado as a replacement for mayonnaise or butter in recipes
Add sliced avocado to salads or sandwiches
Use avocado as a base for dips and spreads, such as guacamole or avocado houmous
Blend avocado into smoothies for added creaminess and nutrition
Use avocado oil for cooking and baking instead of other oils
Make an avocado and vegetable wrap for a healthy and satisfying lunch
Cinnamon is a delicious spice that can provide numerous health benefits, including supporting metabolic function in menopausal women. It contains antioxidants that can aid in reducing inflammation, a common issue during menopause. It also has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, which can support metabolic health. Always buy Ceylon cinnamon which is better for you rather than the more common cassia cinnamon. Here are some easy ways to incorporate cinnamon into your diet:
Add ground cinnamon to your morning oatmeal or yoghurt
Sprinkle cinnamon on top of sliced apples or pears for a healthy and delicious snack
Use cinnamon in baking, such as in muffins or bread
Mix cinnamon into your coffee or tea for a warm and flavorful drink
Add half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to your morning smoothie
Add cinnamon to savoury dishes, such as roasted vegetables or chilli, for added depth of flavour
Lentils are a nutritious food with numerous health benefits, including supporting metabolic function. They are high in fibre, which can help regulate digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes which is essential for metabolism because it allows the body to use energy more efficiently, helping prevent weight gain. Additionally, lentils are a good source of plant-based protein, which can help build and repair muscle tissue. Compared to fat tissue, muscle tissue burns more calories when the body is at rest, so having more muscle can help boost the metabolism and increase calorie burn. Of course, lentils won't be everyone's cup of tea unless you're vegan, but they are flavoursome if cooked with the right herbs and spices, making them super easy to incorporate into your diet. And they count as one of your meat-free nights!
Use lentils in soups and stews for added flavour and nutrition
Make a lentil curry, incorporating them with Indian spices, garlic and ginger
Add cooked lentils to your smoothies; blend them with your favourite fruits and other ingredients, and add spices like cinnamon or ginger for extra flavour
Use lentils as a vegetarian substitute for meat in dishes like tacos, spaghetti sauce, or sloppy joes
Add cooked lentils to salads or as a side dish with your meals
Note: As with any food or ingredient, eating them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet is essential. For instance, ginger can interact with some medications, and whilst cinnamon is generally safe for most people, consuming large amounts can be harmful, especially for people with liver or kidney issues. Always seek advice from your healthcare advisor if you have concerns and if you're thinking of consuming larger quantities.