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According to registered nutritionist Shona Wilkinson, women going through menopause will see a decrease in both muscle mass and metabolism. But increasing one food type may help them to avoid this.
Shona recommended that dieters over the age of 50 increase their protein intake.
Increased protein in menopausal diets can help women in many ways, from weight management and muscle mass improvement, to balanced hormones production.
Protein can also help slimmers feel fuller for longer and reduce their need for sugar cravings throughout the day.
Shona explained: “Protein-rich foods tend to feel more filling and they are broken down and digested more slowly than carbohydrates, staying in the stomach for longer.
“When you eat a meal or snack containing protein and carbohydrates, the protein can also help to reduce the rate at which the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed.
“This means that you get a more even, steady supply of energy and are less likely to have cravings for sugary or carb-rich foods later on.”
Increasing protein intake can also help slimmers to achieve a more toned and slender body as it can maintain or improve muscle mass.
Shona continued: “This simply means having more toned muscles, which can improve your shape and also help to maintain a healthy metabolism as muscles burn more energy than fat.
“Protein also provides the building blocks for our body to produce hormones that support our energy, metabolism, drive, and mood.
“When we eat protein, our bodies break it down into individual components called amino acids. Each amino acid is then used for specific roles, like the building blocks of hormones.
“For example, the amino acid tyrosine is needed for your thyroid gland to make the hormone thyroxine, which keeps your metabolism up and makes sure you’re burning the right amount of energy.
“Tyrosine and phenylalanine are also needed to make adrenaline, the hormone that kicks in when the body requires a burst of energy. What’s more, tryptophan is used to make serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ that can stop you from craving comfort foods.”
However, Shona warned that “it is important not to go overboard” with protein, as too much of it “can result in being stored as fat, and as a result, contribute to weight gain, which is already common in the menopause”.
She added: “But, if you increase your intake with just the right amount, the benefits can be endless.”
So, what are the easiest ways for women to increase their protein intake?
Shona said: “Legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas and soy are important foods due to their plant protein and amino acid content, having three times the protein content of rice.
“Legumes provide two macronutrients in one food – they contain both carbohydrates and a varying amount of protein.
“They can be implemented in all diets, but especially ideal for those who are vegetarian or vegan and need to source proteins from plant-based foods.
“Nuts are also a great choice for vegans and meat eaters alike. Nuts are high in protein which is great for building muscle mass.”
The nutritionist added: “Pumpkin seeds are also high in protein and zinc and they make a fantastic healthy snack with zinc contributing to normal protein synthesis, which is great for helping with muscle growth.”
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