If you’ve been following my newsletter posts over the past year, then you will know that menopause is a time of our life, when getting the right food into us, matters more than ever. This includes during festivities. No matter what your traditional meal is, then how about you put something on the table to suit your needs during menopause?
Our menopause transition is a challenging time for many, but for others it is not. I used to be curious about this and throughout my studies I was always looking for the ‘common thread’ in the lifestyle literature. This thread always led me towards the role of inflammation during and after menopause and fortunately, numerous studies now attest to the fact that ‘ageing’ itself is inflammatory and menopause is the gateway to worsening inflammatory changes as oestrogen levels begin to decline.
Menopausal women have very low circulating levels of oestrogens and progesterone but significantly elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels – these are your master pituitary hormones. Because various types of oestrogen have effects around the body, this may set women up for health changes as oestrogen and progesterone levels decline – especially as they transition from peri-menopause to menopause, when periods end.
This is why a change to our lifestyle is important during and after this transition. From a nutritional perspective, it means that women need to focus on foods that help their cardiovascular system.
Vascular or Arterial Stiffness is a known phenomenon in menopausal and post-menopausal women, contributing to high blood pressure (hypertension), increased hot flushes, abnormal blood clotting, tingling and weakness in arms and legs and just, general fatigue.
The good news is that there is accumulating evidence demonstrating that diet and nutrition may favorably modulate these arterial functions with ageing and this is a focus of mine, in helping women understand how to change their dietary needs during and after menopause to improve their symptoms and their health as they age.
Factors that have been studied for their potential to reduce arterial stiffness and improve endothelial (blood vessel) function with age, include the emphasis on:
1) enhancing the mechanisms which help blood vessels to dilate and maintain their elasticity as women age,
2) exploring research on nutrition and arterial ageing that may hold promise for preventing age-related Cardio and Cerebro Vascular Disease.
This means that what we eat is important and it’s why, when it comes to the MyMT programmes, there aren’t any fancy, diets, but instead, an emphasis on nutrient-rich foods that have a purpose for us.
These foods are often found in the Mediterranean Dietary approach. Numerous studies now confirm that this is one of the best diets for women (and men) as they age. But guess what? It’s also good for the younger generation of females too – they still have oestrogen and progesterone and need all the delicious nutrients that they can get too.
Last Sunday, my daughter and her friends set out to help you to help yourself. Daughters helping mothers – I love that! They are all Kiwis living in London and they were meeting for a Christmas festive get-together. So, they took up my challenge with the menu!
I set them all the task of having a Mediterranean focus for the meal, so that they knew how to help their mothers and they were becoming educated on peri-menopause and menopause. Whilst they are a long way off this stage of life obviously, they all had great conversations about ‘WHY’ certain nutrients were helpful to their menstrual health.
Every single one of them made a Mediterranean dish and learnt about the nutrients in it to help reduce symptoms of menopause and to help their own hormonal health too. Here they all are sitting around the Christmas table in Islington, London!
One of the recipes that they shared was the one below and I hope you can make it during your own festivities and put it on the Christmas table. It’s a Simple Christmas Tomato Salad, adapted from Ottolenghi.
When it comes to looking after our cardiovascular health, the lycopene in tomatoes (fresh, canned, cooked or in tomato paste) matters to our health. Tomatoes are a fruit and the Italian word, Pomodoro, means golden apple, so the first tomatoes seen in Europe may have been yellow-orange.
Far from being a poisonous fruit, world-renowned blood vessel expert, Dr William Li (2019) says that tomatoes contain important bioactive compounds, especially carotenoids such as lycopene, which is important to “potently inhibit angiogenesis” (pg. 108) – the term angiogenesis refers to the process by which blood vessels are formed.
As we move through menopause and age, inflammatory changes can cause abnormalities in blood vessels as well as causing abnormal blood vessels to grow. This can happen during and after menopause and it’s why, changing our diet and adding in Tomatoes may help to prevent abnormal (re)growth of blood vessels, which may lead to thickened, less elastic blood vessels and higher blood pressure. (Li, 2019; Collins et al, 2022).
The potential health benefits of tomatoes include anticancer properties of lycopene in relation to its anti-angiogenic properties, the reduction in insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in blood, and the modulation of cellular pathways that lead to cancer.
Tomatoes and some of the products made from Tomatoes (not Ketchup sorry which is high in sugar!) may also help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, with studies showing associations between tomato consumption and a reduction in hypertension and the risk of atherosclerosis.
As we head towards another year and whether you are still moving through menopause or you are already in your post-menopause years, then I hope you can make this delicious salad – the wonderful girls in London all enjoyed it too.
Simple Christmas Tomato Salad
I know how busy Christmas day is, and sometimes you completely run out of time for the cooking. Make this recipe your go to when this happens. This tomato salad is delicious in its simplest version. If you want to add anything else, you could try courgettes, green beans or just some rocket.
- 5 garlic cloves
- 35g fresh ginger
- 100ml olive oil
- 2 – 3 limes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- A handful of fresh coriander
- 5 medium tomatoes
- A packet of cherry tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- Put the ginger, garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt into a small pan and place it on a low heat. Cook gently for 25 mins until the solids are lightly golden. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Then whisk together the lime juice, lime zest, fish sauce and coriander into the ginger/garlic oil.
- Chop up the larger tomatoes, and place them into a serving bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing on top and serve.
[Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi]
Collins EJ, Bowyer C, Tsouza A, Chopra M. Tomatoes: An Extensive Review of the Associated Health Impacts of Tomatoes and Factors That Can Affect Their Cultivation. Biology (Basel). 2022 Feb 4;11(2):239. doi: 10.3390/biology11020239.
Li, W. (2019). Eat to beat disease. London, UK: Penguin, Random House.
Moriya J, Minamino T. Angiogenesis, Cancer, and Vascular Aging. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2017 Oct 24;4:65. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2017.00065.