When you drive over the beautiful Crown Range, a high country pass in New Zealand linking Wanaka and Queenstown, you look down on the farm of celebrity chef, Nadia Lim and her family. I thought of her the other day as I drove down the winding road towaards the airport. I was on my way up north to do a big day of filming for my website – one of the challenging and more stressful parts of my life, trying to link to you lovely women around the world.
As I moved into menopause, I didn’t realise how stressed I was with all that I had going on in my life. Busy teenage kids and a busy household, an ailing mother, a career, (almost) daily higher intensity exercise and of course, Masters and Doctoral studies crammed into what hours were left in my week. What a shame that only a few years ago, there wasn’t the knowledge from health science research identifying the link between stress, menopause hormonal changes, changing mental health, and our changing gut health. It’s a perfect storm.
Humans and their gut bacteria have evolved multiple ways to communicate with and regulate one another. As such, psychological stress and depression in menopause are linked because stress and depression can reshape the gut bacteria’s composition through stress hormones, inflammation, and nervous system alterations. Because of this, our gut bacteria changes and can release toxins, metabolites, and hormones, that can alter our eating behaviour and mood. (Madison & Kiecolt-Glaser, 2019).
That’s why I was thinking about New Zealand chef, Nadia Lim as I passed her gate. It triggered my thoughts that because I had a stressful few days coming up during the week, I needed to buy some slightly green bananas and make her delicious Banana, Date and Almond Smoothie. Having the odd smoothie when you feel under-the-pump with your workload is a good thing.
Not only because, when we feel stressed, this disrupts the nervous supply to the gut and therefore, can cause digestion problems, but because when we are busy, our brain is using up around 25% of our total energy – we need to give our brain some food!
I have the MyMT™ GUT HEALTH GUIDE in my coaching programmes. In this I talk about resistant starch which has been evidenced to help to restore our gut microbiome, helping to heal leaky gut syndrome which often arrives during our menopause transition.
The realization that low–glycemic index diets were formulated using resistant starch has led to more than a decade of research on the health effects of resistant starch. Adding foods that are higher in resistant starch to our diet has shown many health benefits, including increased fermentation leading to improved gut health, reduced adiposity, and an improvement in insulin sensitivity. [Keenan, Zhou et al, 2015].
Slightly under-ripe, greenish bananas are higher in resistant starch. The trick is to choose bananas that are on the greener side and eat them while they are still firm, before they become yellow and brown spots begin to develop.
Slightly green bananas are safe to eat, although you may wish to avoid the entirely green ones due to their bitter taste and texture. Some people may also find that the high fibre content affects their digestion.
Dates also benefit our health as we age. Known as a ‘fucntional food’, dates are an essential food in the Mediterranean diet and their beneficial nutritional values have long been claimed for human health. The date palm fruit contains numerous anti-inflammatory properties and the traditional medicinal uses of dates include treatment of bronchial problems, constipation and anxiety. [Preedy & Watson, 2020, Cahp. 22]. As many of us know, these are relevant concerns for women in menopause!
Bananas and dates also make a great mid-morning snack for women on the run. The bananas, whilst still partly green, also travel well. That’s why I picked up a couple at the airport lounge and tucked them into my bag. You can add them to your muesli, eat them whole, or make this delicious smoothie by Kiwi chef, Nadia Lim.
Banana, Date and Almond Milk Smoothie (Serves 2)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 minute
- 2 large greenish bananas pre-frozen
- 6-8 medjool dates stones removed and roughly chopped
- ½ cup blanched almonds roughly chopped
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 2 cups almond milk (preferably organic)
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.
Keenan, M. J., Zhou, J., Hegsted, M., Pelkman, C., Durham, H. A., Coulon, D. B., & Martin, R. J. (2015). Role of resistant starch in improving gut health, adiposity, and insulin resistance. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 6(2), 198–205.