Carbs in Perimenopause: Friend or Foe?
Before we get to the whole carbs thing, let's quickly recap about what's going on right now as we enter the years of 40+...
Perimenopause is a transitional period in your life when your body begins to prepare for menopause (12 months of no period), marking the end of your reproductive years.
It typically begins in your 40s and can last between 2 - 12 years. The average age to reach menopause is 51 years of age. During this time, you may experience a range of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood changes, sleep disturbance, brain fog.
Find out more here on the symptoms you might experience in Perimenopause. As you're unique, so are symptoms of perimenopause: the perimenopause experience will be different for everyone.
So! Are carbohydrates our friends or foes in perimenopause?
Happy news! FRIENDS
But.... of course, as with anything nutrition, it comes with a caveat: yes, carbs are our friends but they need to be the right type of carbs.
Eating the right carbohydrates during perimenopause is important, here's why:
Blood Sugar Control: Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body, but not all carbohydrates are created equal. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can help regulate blood sugar levels, which can be especially important during perimenopause when hormone fluctuations can lead to insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels.
Weight Management: Hormonal changes during perimenopause can cause weight gain, especially around the abdomen. Eating the right carbohydrates can help manage weight by promoting feelings of fullness, reducing cravings for sugary or fatty foods, and providing sustained energy for physical activity.
Heart Health: Eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates can also improve heart health by reducing levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing levels of healthy HDL cholesterol.
Mood and Energy: Carbohydrates play an important role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and energy levels. Eating the right carbohydrates, especially those with a low glycemic index, can help stabilise mood and energy levels during perimenopause.
- Hormone Function: Eating carbohydrates can help with normal hormone function during perimenopause because carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy, and they play a crucial role in the regulation of insulin and blood sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which your cells use for energy.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal.
Here are the carbohydrates we recommend eating and carbs we recommend avoiding during perimenopause:
Carbohydrates to Eat During Perimenopause:
Vegetables: Veggies are Queen! They are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients that we need to support our bodies through perimenopause.
You should aim for your plate to be ½ full of vegetables in as many colours as possible for each meal. Vegetables are full of different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that promote good health. Your plate should be ¼ starchy vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots and beets.
Pseudo-grains: Think quinoa and buckwheat (did you know they're actually seeds?!).
Whole grains: Whole grains such as long-grain brown rice, wild rice, oats and whole-wheat breads and pastas are high in fibre and complex carbohydrates which can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety.
**Special note: gluten intolerances are high in perimenopausal women as lower oestrogen levels can affect our gut health. So make a note of how you feel after eating gluten-containing foods. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
Fibrous fruits: apples, pears, berries, oranges, tangerines, kiwi fruit, avocado and pineapple.
- Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are an excellent source of protein, fibre, and complex carbohydrates. They can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety.
Carbohydrates to Avoid in Perimenopause:
Refined carbohydrates: White bread, white rice, and sugary snacks are low in fibre and can cause a spike in blood sugar levels which in turn can lead to cravings and weight gain.
Processed foods: Packaged snacks and fast food meals which contain high amounts of added sugars and unhealthy fats. These can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of chronic diseases later in life. No thanks!
Sweetened beverages: Soda and fruit juices are high in added sugars and calories, and can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can interfere with sleep patterns and disrupt hormonal balance, leading to increased symptoms of perimenopause. More about alcohol in perimenopause here.
Eating a healthy diet that includes complex carbohydrates can help manage perimenopause symptoms and help you feel better, overall.
We recommend avoiding refined carbohydrates, processed foods, sweetened beverages, and alcohol to reduce the risk of weight gain and other health problems.
Always consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for personalised dietary advice.