As you drive from Portsmouth to Reading in the United Kingdom, you pass one of King Charles’ organic farms and his farm shop. With his Coronation this weekend, I was remembering calling into the shop and buying some walnuts there. Whenever, I travel overseas now, I try and source walnuts and other nuts, to have in my bag for healthy snacks.
I remember thinking at the time, whether he knew how important walnuts are to women’s healthy ageing, especially in relation to helping them to restore some progesterone into their body.
Foods may not directly contain progesterone (apart from butter and other dairy products), but some foods could help trigger the natural progesterone production in your body. Walnuts do this, because not only do they contain contain plant sterols which can stimulate the production of progesterone in women, but they are also rich in Vitamin B6, which also helps to raise progesterone production.
We often don’t think about the role of progesterone as we move through menopause into post-menopause, but I want to bring your attention to it – hence, the article about walnuts!
As we move through menopause into our post-reproductive years ahead, there are changes that occur around the body that are also contributing to our symptoms. These changes are due to the natural ageing process – a process which can contribute to inflammation. Menopause itself is now regonised as an inflammatory event in a woman’s life-cycle (McCarthy & Raval, 2020), hence, why I’m always focusing women who join me in the MyMT™ coaching community, on anti-inflammatory foods and lifestyle changes that are specific to this age and stage of life.
I’m also focusing them on foods that contain progesterone. This includes walnuts.
Progesterone isn’t always a hormone that gets discussed with menopause conversations. The dominant hormone that is discussed is usually oestrogen. However, all hormones work in ‘partnership’ with another hormone and progesterone is the hormone that works with oestrogen.
There has been a lot of research undertaken when it comes to progesterone, but this has generally been in relation to pregnancy. During pregnancy, progesterone levels increase, allowing for normal pregnancy establishment and maintenance. [McGlade et al, 2022].
Researchers now better understand that the dysregulation or imbalance of progesterone, can lead to inflammation, which in turn may lead to poor pregnancy outcomes. When I began to explore the decline of all the reproductive hormones, the role of progesterone in relation to inflammatory changes around the body, is important for menopausa and post-menopausal women to consider. This is because progesterone signalling regulates the inflammatory response and when progesterone is naturally declining, this becomes one of the ‘triggers’ for inflammatory changes in the body as we age.
In female athletes, high stress levels, over-training syndrome and inadequate energy intake or low body fat, is well known to impact the production of progesterone, causing it to decline in production, especially if they are amennorheic (cessation of periods). Those female athletes with low progesterone levels typically experience feelings of anxiety and poor moods, irregular periods, decreased fertility, poor sleep, less adaptation to training, sore joints and poor muscular development. [Castanier et al, 2021].
If you think any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, then you are right! Progesterone as a hormone medication is often given to women experiencing these symptoms in peri-menopause, but what about food choices that give us natural progesterone and help to reduce inflammation?
Positioning our menopause transition into women’s healthy ageing research changed my life and it’s now changing thousands of other women’s lives too. The fog has cleared literally, on what we must eat to ‘age healthily’.
One of these ‘must-eat’ foods, unless we are allergic, is walnuts.
That’s why, on the weekend of King Charle’s Coronation, I would like to thank all the thousands of NHS nurses throughout the UK, who participated in this study which explored the effect of nut consumption, especially walnuts, on certain markers of healthy ageing.
Women consuming nuts at midlife have a greater likelihood of overall health and well-being at older ages. According to researchers undertaking a large study of nut consumption in mid-life women, eating walnuts may represent a simple intervention to explore and promote healthy aging.
In the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), researchers reported that better diet quality and a greater dietary flavonoid intake at midlife were related to a greater likelihood of overall health and well-being in women as they age.
In over 33,000 middle-aged NHS nurses, researchers observed a significant association between consumption of nuts at midlife and healthy aging. This was broadly defined across four domains – chronic diseases, mental health, and cognitive and physical function. When analyzing several specific types of nuts, walnut consumption appeared to have the strongest relation with healthy ageing.
Walnuts feature in the list of anti-inflammatory foods in my comporehensive Food Guide that women receive as part of my 12 week programmes. Walnuts contain good fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Good fats are not only important for our immune and cardiovascular health, but these fats help to transport fat-soluble vitamins around our body.
These vitamins are A, D, E and K – many of which can be low in women as they transition menopause, especially if women already have health concerns as they enter their mid-life transition.
Walnuts are also a valuable vegetarian source of the essential fatty acid omega-3. They contain iron, selenium, calcium, zinc, vitamin E and some B vitamins – all of which contribute to our energy levels as we transition through menopause. If you look closely at menopause supplements, many of these nutrients are added into the supplements too, but tend to be highly processed.
There is so much confusion about food choices these days isn’t there? And that’s why I decided to put some research into how much food, what type of food and when we should be eating, so that we all enter into our years beyond menopause as healthy as we deserve to feel.
If you are confused by your symptoms and never want to go on another ‘diet’ ever again, then please join me for 12 weeks when you can. I will allay your confusion because I have positioned the MyMT™ programmes in women’s healthy ageing research.
Walnuts are on the menu as are peanuts (also high in progesterone), if you aren’t allergic to them.
As I often mention in my live-events, the future for all of us is to focus on our health as we age, especially if we already have some health changes that our menopause transition has bought to the fore. How to do this is what you learn in my 12 week programmes,
Castanier C, Bougault V, Teulier C, Jaffré C, Schiano-Lomoriello S, Vibarel-Rebot N, Villemain A, Rieth N, Le-Scanff C, Buisson C, Collomp K. The Specificities of Elite Female Athletes: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Life (Basel). 2021 Jun 26;11(7):622.
Freitas-Simoes, T., Wagner M., et. al. (2020). Consumption of nuts at mid-life and healthy aging in women. J. of Aging Research, Volume 2020, Article ID 5651737, pp. 1-7.
Hardman WE, Primerano DA, Legenza MT, Morgan J, Fan J, Denvir J. Dietary walnut altered gene expressions related to tumor growth, survival, and metastasis in breast cancer patients: a pilot clinical trial. Nutr Res. 2019 Jun;66:82-94.
Herrera AY, Nielsen SE, Mather M. Stress-induced increases in progesterone and cortisol in naturally cycling women. Neurobiol Stress. 2016 Feb 11;3:96-104.
McCarthy M, Raval AP. The peri-menopause in a woman’s life: a systemic inflammatory phase that enables later neurodegenerative disease. J Neuroinflammation. 2020 Oct 23;17(1):317.
McGlade EA, Miyamoto A, Winuthayanon W. Progesterone and inflammatory response in the oviduct during physiological and pathological Conditions. Cells. 2022 Mar 23;11(7):1075.
Steck, S., Shivappa, N. et al. (2014). The Dietary Inflammatory Index: a new tool for assessing dietary quality based on inflammatory potential. The Digest, Vol. 49, July, 2014.