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Why breakfast is so important in menopause

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

When you’re busy, breakfast may be the most important thing you do in your day especially if you are perimenopause or menopausal. There are many studies that have linked eating breakfast to healthier weight, better moods and energy and improved concentration and memory.

Most of my patients don’t need a pill. What they really need is help... to make small, consistent changes to their lifestyle

— Dr Rangan Chatterjee

However, many of my clients when they first start working with me don’t have breakfast of a morning and there can be a number of reasons for this including:


  1. Lack of hunger in the morning

  2. Feeling nauseous first thing

  3. No time

  4. Habitually have had coffee first, especially if they are lacking in energy

  5. Intermittent Fasting (read my article on why Intermittent Fasting may not be that great for you either!)

  6. Worried about weight gain and think that skipping breakfast helps (read my article on ‘Are you Eating Enough?’ to understand why this may actually be counterintuitive)


At this stage in our life, as we head towards (or maybe are already in) menopause, breakfast needs to be a priority. Why? Blood sugar balancing!

Why breakfast in perimenopause or menopause is so important

What is blood sugar balancing?


A lot of people automatically think ‘diabetes’ when they hear the term ‘blood sugar balancing’, but actually this action is one of the most important first steps when it comes to tackling your health, be it physical, physiological or mental.


Glucose, the simplest form of sugar, is the body's main source of energy, and we need enough in our blood cells, including the brain, to function normally as well as it being essential for both physical and mental health. We get glucose from food: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Insulin is released whenever we eat, to help the cells absorb this glucose, reducing blood sugar and providing the cells with glucose for energy. Hence when we are tired or hungry we can often experience a ‘sugar craving’ - personally, I prefer to call it an ‘energy craving’.


However, skipping breakfast can cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low and we can get ‘hangry’, which some scientists spent a lot of money to confirm is real recently … perhaps they should have spoken to us registered nutritionists first!

What is blood sugar balancing?

The flip side being, if you start your day with caffeine or a high carb breakfast such as cornflakes or toast, then you’ll get a massive rush of sugar into the blood stream but then your blood sugars will drop quite quickly, maybe an hour later, leaving you ‘hangry’ also and probably reaching for more food!


As for lack of appetite or feeling nauseous of a morning – this is often stress or anxiety related, for the gut and the brain are linked and if we wake up stressed or anxious, or if we had a poor night’s sleep, then the body goes straight into fight and flight mode as part of our in-built survival mechanism. This causes blood flow to move away from the gut and pumps it into our muscles, heart and brain as we need to be ready to fight or flee (flight)!


Cortisol, under normal circumstances, counterbalances the action of insulin but if we are stressed, or have poor sleep, our cortisol levels become elevated and and this can make our cells less sensitive to insulin. Over time, this may lead to insulin resistance. Read the blog post “What is insulin resistance and why can it affect women in midlife?” to find out more.

Then throw in our midlife hormones, and blood sugar balancing becomes even more important for as our sex hormones naturally decline, they become even more affected by stress, and can create a bit of a hormonal, as well as blood sugar, rollercoaster!


Other things that can spike our blood sugars include:


  1. Too much or too intense exercise

  2. Alcohol, esp on an empty stomach

  3. Dehydration

  4. Artificial sweeteners


The good news is, this is where nutrition and breakfast steps in!

Starting your day on the front foot with a balanced, nutrient-dense, breakfast will set about not only balancing your blood sugars but also give you:


  1. More energy

  2. Balanced hormones healthier weight loss or management

  3. Better moods

  4. Less stress and 'hangry-ness'

  5. Greater satiety which can then help suport healthy weight maintenance or weight loss


And all the research shows, that those of us who eat a balanced breakfast, are much more likely to make better choices at other meals throughout the day.

 

Top 10 tips to include breakfast into your routine, even when you are busy


  1. Plan ahead – preparation really helps my clients, so they are not caught on the hop. Maybe make something in advance such as a grain-free almond ‘porridge’ – click here to get my recipe

  2. Have something with protein, but you can keep it simple. Even a piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts can do the trick

  3. Postpone the coffee until AFTER you have eaten – let’s not spike those cortisol levels any more than we must!

  4. Make a smoothie using nuts, seeds, berries, and non-dairy milk or yoghurt in a smoothie. You can add all the dry ingredients in the smoothie cup of an evening, then in the morning simply pour in the milk, blend and go!

  5. Have a small pot of plain coconut yoghurt, stir in 1-2 tbsp chia seeds into the pot and way you go!

  6. Prepare some hard-boiled eggs in advance – cook six eggs with dinner one evening. They will keep in the fridge for up t a week! Then you have three breakfasts ready to go – two hard boiled eggs of a morning and you can add some blueberries or cherry tomatoes for extra brownie points

  7. If you are heading into the office, find a local eatery that has fruit pots and small bags of nuts. Even Greggs the bakers do fruit and nuts so no excuses!

  8. Make some time – I bet you look at your phone and read the news, check your emails or scroll on social media of a morning! How about we claw 5-10 minutes of that time back and give yourself the best start to the day and a nourishing breakfast.

  9. Got an avocado? Halve it, grind some black pepper and eat straight from the skin!

  10. Breakfast doesn’t need to be sweet – some pre-cooked chicken is great, and like the eggs you can add some fruit or crudités to it for extra bonus and gut-loving fibre.

 

In case you have missed it, click the link below and get my free 21-page guide ‘Energising Breakfasts for Busy Women’ which explains more about the importance of breakfast but also includes lots of recipes, some of which take minutes to make!

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