Embracing Grains: A Vital Component of Healthy Diets During Menopause

As women navigate the challenging terrain of menopause, they often find themselves seeking information on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during this transformative phase. Contrary to common myths, scientific evidence suggests that incorporating grains, specifically staple refined grains like white bread, pasta, and rice, into a balanced eating plan can be beneficial for women during the menopausal transition and beyond.

Women may have heard that refined grains contribute to weight gain and obesity, especially during menopause; however, there is no substantial scientific evidence to support this claim. In addition, a noteworthy 2019 literature analysis revealed that when integrated into a healthy eating plan, staple refined grains are not linked to prevalent health concerns such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, or high blood pressure.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advocate for the consumption of six servings of grains daily within a 2,000-calorie eating plan, with an emphasis on making half of these servings whole grains. This recommendation holds true regardless of calorie intake, allowing for the inclusion of three servings of staple refined grains.

Contrary to misconceptions, everyday refined grain staples like bread, cereal, and pasta are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, making them significant, affordable, and convenient sources of nutrition. These enriched grain foods play a crucial role in providing vitamin B12, which is important for supporting the heart and nervous system, especially in older women. Considering that experts recommend those over 50 get most of their vitamin B12 in synthetic form, enriched grains are a practical and delicious solution.

Enriched grains not only contain synthetic vitamin B12, but they also offer a host of other B vitamins and iron – all significant to a woman’s health. By incorporating enriched grains into their diet, women can ensure they receive these key nutrients, promoting overall well-being during the menopausal and post-menopausal stages.

An essential aspect of weight management during menopause involves practicing portion control. By being mindful of serving sizes, women can enjoy their favorite grains without overconsuming calories. Additionally, pairing grains with protein can enhance satiety, making it easier to control overall calorie intake while helping to meet daily recommended nutrient intake. The synergy between portion control and balanced pairing of grains with protein not only contributes to a healthier lifestyle, but also empowers women to navigate the challenges of menopause with confidence and well-founded nutritional choices.

Amidst concerns about weight management during menopause, it’s necessary to understand that what matters most is the overall composition of the diet. Women can find relief in discovering that a balanced eating plan can include a mix of refined and whole grains, allowing them to enjoy their favorite foods while still maintaining control over their weight. Embracing grains is not just a dietary choice – it’s a step towards a healthier and more fulfilling menopausal journey.

The above information was contributed by Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN.