Sometimes I buy the Roma Tomatoes – they are the low acid tomatoes. Sometimes I buy the vine-ripened tomatoes, rich in redness with the hint of their green stalk linking the fat, juicy tomatoes together.
But most of all, I love it when I can walk out of my back door in summer and pick them right off the small vine growing up the wooden trellis in my garden. It’s a continual reminder that my ageing heart and blood vessels need their red pigment, known as lycopene.
Lycopene is the pigment principally responsible for the characteristic deep-red colour of ripe tomato fruits and tomato products. It has attracted attention due to its biological and chemical properties, especially related to its effects as a natural antioxidant which helps to reduce inflammatory changes in the body. (Shi & Mauger, 2000). Whilst studies do differ on how much benefit lycopene confers on cancer prevention, depletion of lycopene in the body may be one of the first signs of low-grade inflammation. (Steenwijk, Bast et al, 2020).
And for those of us in post-menopause, it’s the effect of lycopene on our ageing cardiovascular system that gets my attention. Consuming at least 7 servings a week of lycopene-based products significantly decreased cardiovascular risk within seven years in postmenopausal women, free from prior cardiovascular disorders and cancer (Mozos et al., 2018).
But lycopene is more than just a heart-health protector. As we age, it helps in detoxification pathways in the liver as well. This is helpful to know for our management of weight as we move through menopause.
When I was desperate to lose my belly fat and reduce my overall feelings of fatigue, I used to make my Italian Tomato Sauce recipe which features in the MyMT™ Food Guide in my 12 week programmes. I added lots of red peppers. Sometimes I would add a bit of chilli, but my distinctly non-chilli taste buds, prefer the peppers that aren’t burning hot.
At the time, I didn’t realise that I was helping to turn the white-fat around my belly and under my diaphragm into healthier, highly metabolic brown fat.
Although I was swimming for exercise as well as following the evidenced strategies to maintain a cooler body temperature during menopause (I have these in my Hot Flush Management module in the programmes), in the early days, I wasn’t changing my food to help me burn belly-fat. Strategies which are evidenced to increase the body’s ability to burn calories and shed fat are due to a physiological process known as ‘Non-shivering Thermogenesis’. I talk about some of these strategies in my online Masterclasss on Menopause.
Non-shivering thermogenesis is the term given to how brown fat is able to increase our metabolism. I’ve written about this in past newsletters. If you missed it, then HERE it is for you. Very simply, brown fat helps to increase the body’s metabolism by increasing heat generation inside the body. The same principle as shivering does for heating up muscles, but this time it’s your fat tissue that is doing all the work. Brown fat that is, not white fat. And that’s where the beautiful pigments in peppers come into their own.
There are two ingredients in peppers that help with turning white fat to brown fat. These are Capsaicin and Capsinoids. These compounds are active in peppers.
Many of you will know about capsaicin which is an active ingredient of hot chilli peppers. This is the ingredient that is responsible for the pungency and heat sensation of chilli peppers. Capsinoids are in red peppers and this ingredient doesn’t have the pungency and heat of chilli peppers.
Both these compounds have elicited enormous interest in fat-loss supplements because of their role in enhancing fat oxidation (breaks down in the presence of oxygen) and increasing energy expenditure through moving white fat cells towards turning into brown fat cells.
Plant-based diets help to get your hormones into a healthier zone, but so too do foods which help you to increase your metabolism and help to reduce inflammation that accumulates in cells and tissues with ageing.
Peppers are one of these foods. So are tomatoes.
I don’t know about you, but over the years I was so caught up in the time-consuming exercise landscape, thinking that this was the daily dose of calorie burning that I needed. And yes, it certainly helped my mental health.
But what I WASN’T doing at the same time, was increasing my intake of vegetables and fruits and giving my body back the wonderful NUTRIENTS that it was craving.
So, why don’t you buy some peppers this week (chilli or not) and make the Italian Tomato Sauce recipe below and enjoy this over some vegies or a baked sweet potato and add this meal to your weekly repertoire. Enjoy your weekend everyone – give your body the power of the right foods that it needs as you transition menopause and don’t forget that my mid-year JULY Transform Me weight loss programme is ON SALE for you, so click through and listen to my video when you have time.