One of the most important messages that I reiterate to women on my coaching programmes, is that the type of carbohydrate that you eat, matters for your heart health in menopause.
Many women go “low-carb”, which concerns me – firstly, because fruit and vegetables are carbohydrates and secondly, because our ageing heart which is losing oestrogen, needs whole grains in order to help it to do its job. Hence, what women really mean when they say they are going ‘low-carb’ is that (hopefully), they are only going low processed carbohydrates … believe me, for our heart and gut health as well as our hot flushes, this is important.
There’s a reason I’m reminding you of this. The PURE study is a large prospective cohort study conducted in countries across the regions of North America and Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia, and China. PURE stands for ‘The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology Study’ and it has the distinct advantage of examining diets from diverse populations in low, middle, and high income countries in multiple regions across the world.
This extensive study set out to evaluate the association of the intake of refined grains (white flour products), whole grains, and white rice with total mortality, major cardiovascular disease events, blood pressure, and blood lipids (fats). Subjects ranged in age between 35-70years and both genders. [Swaminathan, Dehghan et al., 2021].
For women in menopause and post-menopause, the results were interesting. We all know that with the onset of mass food production techniques, the quality of our flour has changed over our lifetime. White processed flour does not contain the intact grain, so the PURE study set out to compare the effect of white processed flour products on cardiovascular health against wholegrain products and white rice.
The whole grains group contained two types of grains. The first was whole grain flours such as those made from wheat, rye, triticale, oats, barley, maize, finger and pearl millet, sorghum, or buckwheat. These flours ideally contain all the components of the intact grain (whole meal). White refined flour doesn’t. Most whole grains also contain biologically active compounds, such as dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other plant compounds such as lignans and phytosterols, which are removed during processing.
This study showed that wholegrains matter to our heart health. Compared to the processed grains analysis, there were “non-significant associations between intake of whole grains and risk of mortality or cardiovascular events in the fully adjusted models”. White rice is fine to have too when measured against cardiac health variables.
But not so for refined grains. These are the grains that have the goodness processed out of them. The authors of the PURE study noted that “high intake of refined grains was associated with higher risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events. Globally, lower consumption of refined grains should be considered.”
Changing the way we eat during our menopause transition matters to our heart health, energy levels and weight maintenance. It also matters to our hormonal balance. Whilst low-carb diets can help you lose weight, we musn’t forget that not all carbohydrates are equal. Carbohydrates are a macro-nutrients that your body needs, and wholegrains provide you with numerous health benefits. That’s why in this week’s menu, this delicious easy-to-make breakfast is on the table.
Toasted Muesli (Granola)
This toasted Muesli (or Granola as it’s called in the US and Canada) uses a base of oats with lots of nice nuts, grains and dried fruit added to it for additional flavour. My husband hates cooking, and this recipe is the only thing my busy husband makes – so if it’s easy enough for him to make, it must be easy for you busy ladies too.
The quantity and type of additional nuts and seeds is not particularly important, they add lovely variety to the oats. Feel free to leave anything out that you don’t have in stock, that way it will be different next time.
MyMT™ Toasted Muesli (Granola)
- Oats – lots of them, lightly rolled oats probably works best
- Desiccated coconut
- Sliced brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Walnut pieces
- Sliced almonds
- Olive oil – a generous pour on top of the dry ingredients
- Honey – 2-4 tablespoons
Ingredients to add once the muesli cools:
- Diced apricot
- Other dried fruit
- Pre heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
- Mix all of the dry ingredients in the tray and add the olive oil and honey.
- Once in the oven, toss the ingredients every 6-7 minutes until everything is nicely brown. Be careful to turn your mix regularly – if the oven is too hot or you don’t turn everything regularly enough it will burn quickly.
- Once browned (usually after tossing about 4-5 times), take your muesli mix out and leave it to cool down. Turn it a couple of times as it cools to make sure you don’t get big lumps, and once cool, add the dried fruit.
Swaminathan S., Dehghan M., Raj J., … Iqbal R., Yusuf R., Yeates K., Teo K., & Yusuf S. (2021). Associations of cereal grains intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality across 21 countries in Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology study: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 3;372:m4948.