Are you a breakfast skipper or do you regularly eat breakfast? Is there a “best” breakfast for menopause?
There isn’t any evidence that there is one particular food or type of breakfast that is best for women in menopause. However, including certain foods at breakfast can help meet nutritional requirements, reduce future disease risk and may improve menopausal symptoms.
This article will cover the research linking breakfast and health and explain the foods and nutrients important for women in menopause. You will then learn what foods to include in your breakfast to help you thrive during your midlife years.
Why breakfast is important during menopause
Improved nutrient intake
Eating breakfast makes a positive contribution to nutrient intake and diet quality. Skipping meals makes it much harder to consume all the vitamins and minerals required for good health.
Reduce risk of chronic disease
As we age, our risk of developing chronic conditions increases, particularly post menopause as the protection of estrogen is reduced.
Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast daily have a reduced risk of chronic conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and hypertension.
Improved energy levels
Breaking the fast in the morning provides your body with energy for activity and concentration. Many women find themselves feeling low in energy in menopause which may be due to hormonal changes or lifestyle factors such as busy lives and stress.
Having breakfast in the morning can help provide the body with the energy needed to get through the morning.
How can breakfast help you meet your nutritional needs for menopause?
Post menopausal women have an increased risk of osteoporosis due to declining estrogen levels. Estrogen has a protective effect on bone density and as levels decrease, more calcium is lost.
Breakfast is the perfect meal to include calcium rich foods. Breakfast staples like cereal and milk, smoothies or grilled cheese on toast are all good examples of high calcium meals. People who skip breakfast tend to have lower intake of calcium so adding a calcium rich food at breakfast can be just what a midlife woman needs to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in the future.
Protein is an important nutrient during the midlife years as lean muscle mass tends to decrease during this time. Adequate protein intake can help reduce muscle loss resulting in a decrease in frailty and improved function as women age.
It is recommended to spread out your protein intake over the day to gain the most benefit. To do this, including high protein foods at each meal is important and that includes breakfast. Foods you may consider to add to breakfast are eggs, cheese, milk, tofu and nuts.
Premenopausal women may be at risk of low iron, especially if menstrual bleeding changes resulting in an increase in blood loss. The risk of low iron tends to decrease after menopause however, if dietary intake is inadequate, low iron can still be experienced. Women who are vegetarian or vegan are at higher risk.
To meet your iron requirements, you may need to include high iron foods at each meal. Breakfast foods that can help achieve this include iron fortified breakfast cereals, eggs and dark leafy greens like spinach or kale. Including high vitamin C foods like fruit or orange juice will improve absorption of iron.
Phytoestrogens are plant hormones that are similar to the estrogen in our body. They can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, although the effect is weaker.
Studies have shown that phytoestrogens (particularly isoflavones in soy) may reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flushes and may also improve bone mineral density in the spine. Other potential positive effects that have been researched are decreased risk of coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure.
What to include in your breakfast
Good sources of carbohydrates are cereals, grains, bread, milk, yoghurt and fruit. These foods will help keep your energy levels up throughout the morning. Carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index (GI), will break down more slowly and improve your energy levels over a longer period of time.
Lower GI choices include oats, grainy or sourdough bread, most fruit, milk and yoghurt.
Including protein at breakfast will help you feel full longer and will improve your overall protein intake. Good sources of protein for breakfast include eggs, dairy, soy milk, tofu, nuts, seeds and some breakfast cereals.
High Calcium foods
To improve your calcium intake, foods high in calcium are important to eat at breakfast.
Dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese are excellent choices. Plant-based milk and yoghurt that is fortified with calcium can be substituted for regular dairy.
Other options include almonds, leafy green vegetables,tofu and calcium fortified breakfast cereals.
Unsaturated fats found in avocado, linseeds (flaxseeds) and other seeds, nuts, olive oil and salmon can be included at breakfast. These fats can help reduce your cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease. They also have anti-inflammatory effects and the omega-3 varieties can reduce blood pressure.
Fibre is important for keeping our bowel healthy. It prevents constipation and improves gut health.
Choose breads and cereals that are higher in fibre such as oats, bran or whole grain based cereals and whole grain breads.
Fruit and vegetables are also high in fibre. Try adding fruit to your cereal or include vegetables like mushrooms, tomato, spinach and avocado.
Breakfast ideas for Menopause
- Cereal and fruit
- Overnight oats
- Overnight weetbix
- Fruit and yoghurt
- Pancakes topped with fruit, yoghurt and nuts
- Eggs on toast (add vegetables like spinach and mushrooms)
- Omelette with cheese, tomato, mushrooms
- Tofu scramble
- Avocado on toast (add tomato, mushrooms, feta cheese)
- Baked beans – try my smoky baked beans recipe
On the go options
- Breakfast muffins – try these maple apple muffins
- Breakfast burrito
- Breakfast wrap – add avocado, tomato, egg or spinach and feta or peanut butter and banana
- Egg cups
Is there a best breakfast for menopause? Not specifically. However, breakfast is an excellent time to include certain foods that can improve nutritional intake and prevent chronic disease and may improve menopausal symptoms like hot flushes.
There are a range of foods you can include at breakfast and having a variety will ensure you get the most benefit. Include a source of carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats. And then consider foods high in calcium, iron and fibre as well as phytoestrogen rich foods.