Diet plays a key role in the maintenance and optimal functioning of our health as we age and as our menopause transition is the biological gateway to the next phase of our life – our older years – then it makes sense to me that we learn how to adapt our lifestyle to accommodate our menopause transition and move into improved health as we age.
As such the Mediterranean dietary pattern is an example of a prudent choice of lifestyle and is now scientifically accepted to help preserve human health by protecting against major chronic and inflammatory diseases. [Mazzocchi et al. 2019]. One of the dietary approaches that shares similarities to the Mediterranean Diet, is the traditional diet in Okinawa.
The Okinawan diet is known for its emphasis on vegetables, especially root vegetables (principally sweet potatoes), green and yellow vegetables, soybean-based foods, and medicinal plants. Marine foods, lean meats, fruit, medicinal garnishes and spices, tea, alcohol are also moderately consumed. (Willcox et al. 2014).
Numerous varieties of sweet potatoes exist throughout the world and all varieties are known to be rich in vitamins, minerals such as potassium and magnesium and fibre. For women transitioning through menopause, one of the most important things to do in terms of diet, is to increase both potassium-rich foods and fibre. Not only are foods high in potassium and fibre needed for enhancing our stamina, but there is consistent evidence showing that menopause is a vulnerable time for changes to the gut microbiome. I’ve written about this HERE in this previous article so I hope you can read it sometime.
One way to increase fibre and potassium intake is to focus on sweet potatoes. The staple of the traditional Okinawan diet is the sweet potato, not only providing fibre and healthy nutrients, but also providing carbohydrates for energy.
These sweet potato falafels are a wonderful addition to your life and I’m sure the family will love them as well. For busy women with lots going on, you can also make “lots” and freeze them for those busy evenings when you are home late and can’t think what to have for dinner.
The MyMT™ KITCHEN: Sweet Potato Falafels
Make lots – these falafels may take a while but they are perfect to store in the freezer and then bring out when you haven’t had time to prepare lunch.
Total time: 1hr 15 minutes
This is the ‘base’ of the dish. You can modify the flavours in this dish by adding certain things e.g. sundried tomatoes, coriander, basil, tomato relish etc.
- Food processor needed for this recipe
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp cumin
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp dried coriander
- 2x medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- A large handful of parsley (or a different herb of your
- 1 tbsp flour (or Gluten Free flour)
- ½ lemon, juiced
- Plenty of salt and pepper
- Serving suggestions: Hummus, yoghurt dip (combine yoghurt, lemon juice and 1 tsp of cumin), salad, flat breads.
- Turn oven onto 180 degrees Celsius fan bake, and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Place the chopped sweet potato onto the baking tray. Then drizzle with the olive oil and cover with 1 tbsp of each of the dried herbs (cumin, paprika and coriander). Remember to save 1 tbsp of each herb for later. Place into the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes (or until the sweet potato is soft).
- When the sweet potato is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. You need to leave the oven on at this stage, and you will re-use the baking tray.
- Then, place the sweet potato, drained chickpeas, parsley, flour, remaining dried herbs, lemon juice and salt and pepper into a food processor. Whiz the mixture until all of the chickpeas are broken down and it resembles the consistency of mashed potato.
- Spoon out lumps of the mixture and roll it into a ball in your hands. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture. Place the falafel balls back onto the baking tray.
- Bake for a further 15 minutes (until the mixture has a crispy layer on top).
- Serve with a hummus or yoghurt dressing, and a salad of your choice or flatbreads.
[Recipe adapted from Deliciously Ella]
Willcox DC, Scapagnini G, Willcox BJ. Healthy aging diets other than the Mediterranean: a focus on the Okinawan diet. Mech Ageing Dev. 2014 Mar-Apr;136-137:148-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2014.01.002.