Due to changes in hormone balance, many women gain a significant amount of fat as they age. Especially harmful is the fat that gets deposited in the belly area during menopause, which is associated with health problems including diabetes and heart disease.
Here are 12 actions to take during your 30s so that once you enter middle age, you’ll have habits in place that can help you stay lean and healthy:
#1: Eat Enough Protein
Ensuring you are eating enough protein this will help you avoid losing lean muscle and help regulate appetite. The U.S. RDA grossly underestimates protein needs, which is likely one reason so many people are overweight. Research suggests you should shoot for 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight (0.73 g/lb), which for a 140 lb woman is about 100 grams a day.
#2: Eat High-Quality Protein At Every Meal
High-quality protein (poultry, red meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt) helps manage blood sugar and keep insulin levels in check. It’s also associated with having less belly fat in population studies, likely because the amino acids in protein are used to repair tissue instead of as an energy source as carbs or fat are. A rule of thumb is that one palm-size serving of fish or meat is 25 grams of protein. Same goes for a cup of Greek yogurt or 4 eggs.
#3: Eat Leafy Greens & Cruciferous Veggies
Leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower contain compounds that help the body to metabolize excess estrogen that leads to hormonal imbalances prior to menopause. These foods also have anti-cancer effects and can help you detox chemicals that mimic estrogen, so they’re a necessity later in life once estrogen levels go down.
#4: Avoid Refined Carbs & Junk Food
Stress triggers intake of high-carb foods, causing an insulin spike and creating the perfect fat storing environment. By avoiding these foods in favor of quality complex carbs (fruit, boiled grains, root veggies like sweet potatoes) at the most opportune times (such as for dinner or post-exercise), you can lower your insulin levels and help keep stress in check.
#5: Watch Out For Too Much Fruit & Other Healthy Carbs
In the mainstream, we often make the mistake of thinking of healthy carbs as free-for-all foods. Unless you’re doing high-volumes of intense exercise this is not a good approach because fruit, whole grains, and root vegetables still contain glucose and fructose, which will raise insulin and can negatively affect the hunger hormones when overconsumed. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy berries, an apple, or some sweet potatoes, just be aware of how much you’re eating.
#6: Eat High-Fiber Foods At Every Meal
Most Westerners are terrible about fiber, getting less than a quarter of the amount they need. Fiber is necessary to feed your healthy gut bacteria and it helps the body eliminate excess estrogen. Aim for 35 to 45 grams per day by including high-fiber vegetables at every meal. If your having trouble reaching this goal, supplemental fiber can improve hormone balance and aid fat loss.
#7: Reduce Caffeine
Coffee can do wonders for helping you get moving in the morning, but if you’re drinking it all day long, it will elevate the stress hormone cortisol and may worsen your experience of stress.
#8: Drink Apple Cider Vinegar Before Meals
Vinegar has a natural insulin sensitizing effect on your cells and consuming it prior to meals that contain carbs can help reduce fat storage. If you don’t like pure vinegar, try mixing apple cider vinegar with water, or add it to a salad and eat that first thing.
#9: Strength Train
Doing weight training is your exercise mode of choice because it will help you maintain your muscle mass, while improving levels of enzymes involved in fat burning. It also keeps you mobile and active, while helping to reset the adrenal axis for better stress management.
#10: Cope With Your Stress
Even if it seems like you might be less stressed as you enter middle age, many women find it beneficial to employ habits that actively help lower stress such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. This can help keep cortisol in check just as the body becomes more susceptible to its effects.
#11: Avoid Nutrient Deficiencies
Low intake of nutrients can lead hormones to get out of balance. Here are a few to focus on:
- Magnesium is needed for insulin sensitivity and stress management.
- Vitamin D is necessary for bone health and hormone balance.
- Vitamin C helps the body metabolize cortisol and synthesize hormones.
- B Vitamins are necessary for carbohydrate metabolism and cortisol balance.
#12: Use Supplements
A few supplements that can improve female hormone balance include the following:
- A supplement called DIM helps the body eliminate excess estrogens.
- Adaptogens such as rhodiola rosea or holy basil support the body through high stress times.
- Finally, the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA that are found in fish oil have been shown to decrease cortisol, improve insulin sensitivity, and help the body metabolize estrogen.