Dietary controversy has followed women for decades, perhaps gaining greater momentum as the emergnece of the modern fitness industry and gym culture intersected with societal changes in weight gain. But many of these diets are usually short-term quick fixes. After working in and around the fitness industry for over 30 years, I can tell you that I’ve tried a few of them myself. But none were sustainable … especially when the family arrived and I was cooking for various needs.
When I arrived in menopause – overweight, not sleeping and experiencing worsening hot flushes, despite medications and supplements – I decided to follow the women’s healthy ageing science. Discovering that there were various cultures around the world whereby menopause symptoms did not define women nor did weight gain, was the game-changer. Then, doing my doctoral studies and positioning our menopause transition in women’s healthy ageing research was another game-changer. Suddenly what to eat without counting calories or worrying about dieting, made perfect sense.
The Meditteranean Diet has as one of it’s star vegetables, tomatoes. Yes, controversy follows this beautiful red delight as they contain lectins which may be inflammatory to the gut wall, however, research is limited on the role of tomato lectins in this process. Some women are also allergic to nightshade plants, so tomatoes may be off the list and for those with allergies, then also be careful with tomatoes. They contain chemicals called salicylates, which are active ingredients in aspirin.
But for those of you who want to move into your post-menopause years with the notion that ‘food is your medicine’, I want to remind you about the powerful effects of tomatoes on women’s heart health. While cooked tomatoes with a little bit of oil have the highest levels of lycopene, even raw tomatoes offer powerful protection.
That’s where my Mediterranean ‘Stew’ comes in. After placing the photo in my coaching group, there was such a response to this family-friendly dish, that I wanted to share it with you. It has the Italian Tomato Sauce recipe (below) as it’s base and I then added whatever vegetables I could find in the fridge. I’ve listed these below.
As I mentioned to my coaching group, “even the carnivore males in the house loved it”. We often think that we have to cater to the needs of others all the time, but what if they eat what we need to eat too? Try this one and see how you get on. But as it’s full of vegetables, you could always add some fish or a couple of lamp chops on the side too.
My Mediterranean Stew – Italian Tomato Sauce Filled with Vegetable Goodness
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 to 6 large cloves of garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 or 2 medium sized bell pepper, diced
1 1lb, 13oz can tomatoes or 6 chopped tomatoes (or a mix of both)
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 tsp honey (optional) – this recipe that I made had 1/2 can of pineapple pieces in it without the honey.
Black pepper to taste
4 small chopped potatoes
1 chopped parsnip
2 chopped celery stalks
1 medium zucchini chopped
1 can of Adzuki beans (drained and rinsed)
Method to Make the Italian Tomato Sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add onion, garlic bell pepper, herbs, and salt and sauté over medium heat until the onion is very soft (8 to 10 minutes).
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, honey and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Gently pulse to the consistency you would like it.
The sauce can be left for up to a week in the fridge, but I often freeze a batch and use it later as I did for this ‘Mediterranean Stew’. On reheating it I added all the chopped vegetables and left it to simmer for around 45 minutes until the vegetables were soft.