With lack of time our constant enemy as we juggle demands from work, family, ageing parents and everything else we have going on in our lives, if you are like me, then ‘what’s for dinner?’ gets relegated to grabbing some meat from the freezer, throwing on some vegies and potatoes and feeding the family similar meals most nights of the week. Alternatively, some of you may have your pre-set menus and foods arrive from commercial home-delivery companies, via a box at the front door – new habits from lockdown-living perhaps. So, I wonder what you chose for your dinners this week?
If you chose meat-meals every night of the week and you are in menopause or post-menopause, you might just want to grab a tin of beans from the cupboard and have these instead. Because brand new evidence suggests that your ageing heart doesn’t benefit from more than 350 grams of red meat per week.
The New Zealand Heart Foundation has recently assessed the evidence on unprocessed red meat and poultry intake in heart health outcomes up to April, 2020. This provides us with new evidence on the maximum amount of red meat recommended and how to replace some meals with other sources of protein, preferably plant proteins. With a focus on reducing heart disease, key outcomes from this research recommends reducing red meat intake to less than 350 grams per week (cooked weight) to reduce the occurrence of heart disease. When you google 350gms in cooked meat weight, that’s the equivalent of just under two moderate-size steaks.
For women transitioning from peri-menopause to post-menopause (which takes around 8 years), heart disease is the number one health concern as we age. Looking after our cardiovascular health matters, especially when it comes to our diet. That’s why one of the main questions that I explored when I put together the food guide for the MyMT™ programmes, was ‘should we eat red meat and if so, how much is ‘enough’?
Not only is this an important question for the research that the New Zealand Heart Foundation has shared about meat intake and heart health this week, but for those of you in menopause, don’t forget that red meat and poultry are high in iron and our iron needs change as we move from peri to post menopause. If you haven’t considered this change in your iron needs and are wondering why you are still getting hot flushes (despite being on HRT), then please CLICK THROUGH HERE to read my blog about your changing iron levels in menopause.
RED MEAT AND FATS – Why we need to manage our Saturated Fat Intake:
With levels of oestrogen declining as we move through menopause, our liver, gall-bladder, muscles (including our heart muscle) and our digestive system change in size and structure. Therefore, the consideration of saturated fat intake is an important one. Whilst the high-fat, high-protein Keto diet has dominated mainstream media and the fitness industry, women moving into post-menopause with changing heart health and/or weight gain and sore joints, need to be careful about their total fat intake. It’s not a ‘free-for-all’ when it comes to fat intake, especially for those of you with a fatty liver or if you’ve had your gall-bladder removed. I talk about this in my Liver-Lover module which is part of the MyMT™ programmes and I explain it in my 2 hour online Masterclass on Menopause, which you can learn more about by clicking through below.
Meat intake is a prominent part of western culture, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom where many of you may be from. All of these countries also have the highest prevalence of heart disease in women. This means that the NZ Heart Foundation’s new position with the recommendation to choose foods lower in saturated fat (SFA) is an important message for us as according to the report, almost half the fat in red meat is saturated fat – predominantly palmitic acid with some stearic acid. With apologies to my wonderful sheep and beef farmers, this includes reducing our intake of red meat to only around 2-3 servings a week.
Studies indicate that palmitic acid is one of the most harmful fatty acids for the liver, leading to cell injury. For those of you who might already have a fatty liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or you don’t have a gall-bladder, then please watch your red meat intake as well as total fat intake, which may also lead to the progression of more inflammation in your liver. (Cansanseo, et al, 2018).
What proteins can we have instead?
Red meat is rich in protein (20-25gm of protein per 100gm) as well as iron, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and thiamine. Whilst I have options for those women who enjoy eating red meat on my programmes, especially those who are exercising regularly and are in peri-menopause, I also encourage women to switch out some meals for plant-based proteins. Looking through the lens of our changing cardiac health, when we substitute meat-meals for legumes and pulses, nuts and soy products, we also improve our blood lipid (fats) profile and our blood pressure. This is an important aspect for those of you who are already overweight or if you have changing blood pressure and cholesterol as you navigate menopause.
I often say that menopause is a vulnerable time for our health. Many of you may have already experienced some changes, especially to your cardiovascular and immune health. Whilst there are numerous reasons for these changes, if they’ve come upon you as you’ve arrived in mid-life, then yes, indeed, your hormonal changes as you age, are often the catalyst. Debra in beautiful Ontario, Canada was the same.
“Thank you so much for all the hard work you have done researching and making sense of this crazy menopause. I have lost 25 lbs (12 kgs), I sleep through the night, and I can think much more clearly. The joint and muscle pain is much better and I am enjoying long hikes with my dogs. I feel like I have a life again and also feel free from the stress of having to do too much, work or exercise.”
Finally, a warm shout-out to those of you in Melbourne, Australia. After 4 months of lockdown, I hope you are cautiously enjoying your new-found freedom. Well done to all of you.
- Cansanção, K., Silva Monteiro, L., Carvalho Leite, N., Dávalos, A., Tavares do Carmo, M., & Arantes Ferreira Peres, W. (2018). Advanced Liver Fibrosis Is Independently Associated with Palmitic Acid and Insulin Levels in Patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Nutrients, 10(11), 1586.
- National Heart Foundation of New Zealand (2020). Red meat and poultry position statement. NZHF, Wellington, NZ