Nutritionist shares ‘right’ & ‘wrong’ foods to lose weight at 40 – ‘replace refined carbs’

The Natural Beauty Show discuss menopause

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Nicki Williams is a nutritionist, women’s health and hormones expert, and author of It’s Not You, It’s Your Hormones – The Essential Guide for Women Over 40 to Fight Fat, Fatigue and Hormone Havoc. She spoke to Express.co.uk about what middle aged women can do to shed the pounds and maintain a healthy weight.

Nicki recommended that women over 40 focus on their diet to lose weight.

She explained: “Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet for every woman, but I’ve seen time and time again how food can transform your health.

“And it’s the same for hormones and the menopause transition. Hormones need a steady stream of nutrients for them to work efficiently. Do they get what they need? Often not in our modern diet.

“Without the right nutrients your menopause symptoms can worsen and your natural instinct is to go for a fast fix with the wrong foods – carbs, sugar, bad fats – making things even worse.

“We need to start focussing more on the nutrients in foods, not just calories. Food has the power to change how you look, feel, think and perform. It does this by sending messenger signals to your cells and hormones.”

Nicki went on to recommend which foods women should eat while going through the menopause.

She said: “Fill your plate half full of vegetables – the more colourful the better.

“These are healthy carbohydrates that will supply plenty of plant nutrients to your hormones and are also great for your gut bacteria. Focus on the cruciferous family – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, chard, rocket etc. – as these veg are particularly helpful for detoxifying excess hormones through the liver.”

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Interestingly, Nicki stressed that “fat is your new friend”, saying: “Good healthy fats are essential menopause foods. You need them for hormone production, absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and keeping blood sugar stable – filling you up so you are not hungry between meals.

“The best fats to add to your diet include coconut oil, olive oil, grass fed butter, avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish.”

Protein is also “essential for blood sugar balance, energy, detoxification, transport and storage of hormones, bone and muscle repair”.

“Go for good quality meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts and seeds,” Nicki added.

As for foods to avoid, Nicki recommended “limiting your refined carbohydrate intake”.

“Avoid processed foods, sugar, bread, pasta, pastries, cakes,” she said.

“Replace them with complex carbs like vegetables, brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, beans, and legumes.”

The nutritionist continued: “Avoid snacking between meals. This just encourages more insulin production. Try to leave four to six hours between meals – this encourages your body to use up the sugar stores and start burning fat for energy.”

Nicki also advised overnight fasting. She said: “No food between dinner and breakfast – 12 to 16 hours is optimal – helps the body to burn more fat.”

The hormones expert went on to explain why it’s common for women to gain weight during menopause.

“Increased stress in midlife, as well as changing hormones can increase cortisol levels, can create stubborn belly fat that is very hard to shift,” she said.

“As oestrogen levels decline, the body switches production to the adrenals and fat stores. A bit of extra fat is beneficial for the body for extra oestrogen so it can try to hang on to it.”

Nicki added: “Women going through peri-menopause and menopause are more prone to insulin resistance and weight gain. This is due to metabolic changes related to adrenal, thyroid and sex hormone fluctuations, and increased difficulty in tolerating carbohydrates.

“Whether it’s due to a slower metabolism, increased fat to muscle ratio, being less active or more stressed, we just can’t handle carbs like we used to.”

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