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Diet and recipes

Food and the menopause

Diet and Recipes

Food is one of those subjects which seems to be constantly at the centre of some worrying story or another. If you slavishly followed every piece of advice you heard you’d probably exist on a diet of purified water and organic celery – until you wasted away or lost any further enthusiasm for life!

Not to say that there isn’t a lot of good advice out there but a lot of the research reported in the media seems to be presented in an unbalanced way to make a more exciting story.

For example after a recent scare about eating bacon and red meat one of the UK’s top cancer specialists said the advice was “too trite and too dogmatic” and warned “no one will do it”.

He added: “Alcohol, red meat and bacon in moderation will do us no harm and to suggest they will is wrong. I don’t intend to give up my Sunday roast and glass of wine.”

The most sensible advice is probably that a varied, balanced diet avoiding too much fat, taking everything in moderation and nothing in excess will work pretty well for you through much of your life.

However, there are periods where that balance could be adjusted as the chemistry of your body changes. Pregnancy and Menopause are both good examples of such periods.

During Menopause you need to adjust your diet to reflect the changes that are going on in the chemistry of your body.

If you already have a healthy, balanced diet most of these changes involve eating things that you’ll already eat, just in slightly different proportions – if your diet is not so great then changing it for a more healthy one will do you good all round!

You also need to think about how frequently you eat.

It’s recommended that you try and eat smaller meals, but more eat more frequently.

You should aim to eat around every 4 hours during the day which will help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable and you should also make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your hydration levels up.

Diet and the menopause

Your diet is important at this stage of your life.

Even without the menopause the changes in your body as you age mean that what you eat and how frequently you eat it will change. The better balanced your diet the better your body will work – and that will help with the effects of the menopause. Here are some key elements of a healthy diet.

Proteins

Your body needs proteins because it can’t produce all the amino acids it needs by itself.

The only foods which contain all the proteins you need are animal based. Things like meat, fish, eggs and milk.

However plant proteins can be combined to include all of the essential amino acids and form a complete protein. Examples of combined, complete plant proteins are rice + beans, milk + wheat cereal, and corn + beans.

There is evidence that animal proteins increase the rate of calcium loss compared to vegetable proteins and thus can worsen conditions such as osteoporosis – so you don’t have to eat meat– but if you don’t you need to get your mix of non meat foods right!

Fibre

All of us should be eating foods rich in starch and fibre (such as rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes, pulses and fruit and veg). They are low in fat and are good sources of a wide range of essential nutrients as well as keeping the digestive system working smoothly.

Iron rich foods

Iron is important for your body as it is one of the key elements in your blood.
Whilst the best source of iron is, surprise, surprise, red meat you don’t want to eat too much of this. So good alternatives are pulses, oily fish, eggs, bread and green vegetables.

Vitamin C

Everyone knows that vitamin C is good for you, but your body isn’t very good at storing it as it is water soluble.
So, you need to consume regular portions of citrus fruit, fruit juice, green vegetables and things like peppers and potatoes.

Calcium rich foods

Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) is a major problem for women around the time of the menopause. It’s caused by your body using the material from your bones to “top up” shortages of chemicals it needs elsewhere and a reduction in its ability to make new bone.
Calcium rich foods, such as dairy products, broccoli and cabbage and tinned sardines all help to keep the calcium levels in your body up and may reduce bone loss.
You should try to use low fat versions of dairy products to maintain a low fat intake

Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens help the body boost its production of oestrogen and so can, to some extent, counteract the lowered oestrogen levels of the menopause.
This can help counter some of the effects such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness, as well as helping to reduce bone loss. In addition they are said to protect against heart disease and some cancers.
The biggest and best of foods containing phytoestrogens is Soya but they are also present in foods such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, rice, oats, wheat, broccoli, carrots and potatoes – to name but a few!

Menopause Recipes

Preparing meals which will help you with your menopause doesn’t mean eating less interesting food – in fact having a reason to take a fresh look at what you eat is a great opportunity to try some exciting new recipes!

We have two great recipe books in our Books section, Marilyn Glenville / Lewis Essons’ “Healthy Eating for the Menopause” published by Kyle Cathie Ltd and Maryon Stewart’s “The Phyto Factor” published by Vermilion.

These recipes are taken from them, and give you some examples of the exciting food you can eat whilst improving your menopause diet. If you are interested in buying the books click on the links at the bottom of the recipes to get to the books section.