Protein is Vital to the Health and Vitality of the Peri- and Postmenopausal Woman

The word ‘protein’ comes from the Greek prōteios meaning ‘of first importance.’ Our muscles, organs, bones, cartilage, skin, even antibodies, some hormones and all enzymes are composed of protein. Not consuming enough protein can lead to weakened immunity and compromised musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory function, especially in the postmenopausal woman.

Researchers are finding that very many postmenopausal women do not consume enough protein. On top of this, many women post-menopause gain weight in the form of fat. Balanced protein consumption is of particular importance to the postmenopausal woman because it can help keep her body from clinging to fat while promoting good metabolism.

Many mature women consume more carbohydrates than protein, and while they are consuming good carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, many are eating far more carbs than their body can handle at midlife. This makes both digestion and weight control much more difficult.

Hillary Wright, M. Ed., RDN in The Menopause Diet Plan also says:

“While it’s important to include enough protein, timing matters, too. Eating protein regularly throughout the day helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer while nourishing your muscles and bones.”

A recent large observational study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative and more than 88,000 women aged 49 to 81 found that women who followed their reduced-carbohydrate eating plan which is moderate in fat and high in protein were less likely to gain weight during their post-menopausal years.

A higher-carbohydrate eating plan with less protein and fat showed a notable increase in postmenopausal weight gain. Wright concludes:

“Though there will always be women who manage to maintain a stable weight on any number of eating patterns, this study points to the advantages of eating a lower-carbohydrate diet during the transition to menopause.

Eat lean protein like cold water fish including sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout and herring. Eat a variety of poultry and plant-based protein sources like legumes. These are processed more slowly from the stomach to the intestines making you feel full longer. It also helps stabilize blood sugar.

While there’s no medical test that determines the amount of collagen you have, it’s easy to recognize when collagen is starting to become dangerously low:

There is a great deal of reference to soy being an excellent source of protein for menopausal women. While proteins from animal sources like meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs are complete proteins meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids, the only plant-based protein that is also a complete protein is soy. (You can potentially fulfill your protein requirement by eating nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables however you must consume a variety of these incomplete proteins to make up a complete protein.)

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Consuming complete proteins is vital.

The Archives of Internal Medicine discovered a link between soy consumption and strong bones—another concern for more mature menopausal women. They found that women who consumed 13 grams per day of soy had a 35 to 37 percent lower risk of fractures compared to women who did not. Especially for the woman who really wants to eat plant-based all or most of the time, soy seems to be the best protein source. It also offers omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and B vitamins—nutrients that are extremely important during menopause.

Postmenopausal women are automatically at risk for heart attack or stroke unless they get proactive with diet and exercise. Consuming quality protein that is low in saturated fat improves blood triglycerides and high density lipoproteins thereby reducing those health risks.

Protein is vital for cell growth and maintenance and is even more vital for postmenopausal women whose bodies’ cell regeneration has slowed down. More than ever, the body still needs to develop and grow and heal. It needs to be able to replace dead cells and in some cases, replenish lost blood. Without adequate protein intake, the body cannot perform any of these functions very well.

The nervous system of the peri- and postmenopausal woman can easily go out-of-balance because of hormone fluctuations. The mature postmenopausal woman may notice her immune system isn’t what it used to be for a variety of reasons and largely again, because of hormone imbalance. Loss of sex hormones and increased cortisol release as a response to unmanaged stress diminishes the menopausal woman’s immunity. But proteins in the form of enzymes along with antibodies and hormones aggressively boost both nervous and immune systems.

Protein Consumption Can Help Burn Pesky Belly Fat

As mentioned earlier, many menopausal women take on fat and especially in the belly—hormonal belly it’s called because the weight gain is largely a case of hormone imbalance. Once gained, it’s slow to reverse however it can be done.

It’s important to eat plenty of protein which means you want to eat a source of protein at every meal and at every snack.

You should consume protein five to six times a day and the portion should be the size of the palm of your hand which translates to about four to six ounces.

If you do not eat plant-based you want to be sure that your proteins are lean and try to stay away from beef and pork.

This focus on consuming protein does not mean you reject fat. Good fat in moderate amounts transports oxygen to every cell of the body and it’s a component for building cells and body tissue. Good fat also helps the body absorb certain vitamins and other nutrients. It helps keep the brain lubricated while it supports the function of hormones and the nervous system.

It’s important to learn about fats—monounsaturated,(1) polyunsaturated(2) and saturated(3)—as well as the human made fat known as trans fat(4).

In order to gain control of excess weight gain during peri- and postmenopause, follow the rule of thumb to consume 25% of your calories from healthy fats, 35% of calories from lean protein and 40% of calories from low(5) to medium(6) glycemic(7) carbs.


1. Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest. They can lower your LDL bad cholesterol levels while increasing your good cholesterol levels. They include olive oil, macadamia oil, almonds, peanuts, cashews, avocados.

2. Polyunsaturated fats are essential in the diet because they include the omega essential fatty acids. They are found in fish like salmon, halibut, herring and mackerel. They are also found in soybeans and gains products. They, too, can help lower LDL bad cholesterol levels.

3. Saturated fats are considered bad fats. They are found in red meat and other animal products like dairy, lard and tropical oils like coconut and palm oils. Saturated fats are the fats that remain solid at room temperature. They raise bad LDL cholesterol levels which leads to hardening of the arteries, blood clots and clogged blood vessels resulting potentially in stroke or heart attack.

4. Trans fat is created by adding hydrogen to a polyunsaturated fat. The process turns liquid oils into more solid products like margarine. They raise LDL bad cholesterol levels while lowering our good cholesterol levels. They’re known to increase the risk of heart disease

5. Examples of low glycemic carbs are most fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods, and nuts.

6. Examples of medium glycemic carbs are white and sweet potatoes, corn, white rice, couscous, and breakfast cereals like Cream of Wheat.

7. Glycemic is a system that ranks foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on their effect on blood-sugar levels.


Ward, Elizabeth M., et al. The Menopause Diet Plan: A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness. United States, Harmony/Rodale, 2020.

Ward, Elizabeth M., et al. The Menopause Diet Plan: A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness. United States, Harmony/Rodale, 2020.

Team, The Hyperink. Menopause: How to Prepare for the Rest of Your Life. United States, Hyperink, 2012.

Jonekos, Staness. The Menopause Makeover. Canada, Harlequin Enterprises, Limited, 2012.

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