Christmas has crept up pretty quickly this year, which is either a sign of my ageing, or how busy I’ve been during this extraordinary year. From the time I rushed home to New Zealand from my United Kingdom seminars in March, until now, it’s been one thing after another. Christmas has been the last thing I’ve been thinking of. Is it the same for you as well?
As we’ve all learnt to change things up a bit this year, I’ve had to as well. My Masterclass on Menopause is now online and without the travel, I’ve been busy in my coaching group and updating my 12 week programmes with revised and updated material. It’s such a privilege to have seen women join me from around the world and I love how they often share their food images and recipes. There’s often a discussion about ingredients that are found in different countries or how recipes in the MyMT™ Food Guide can be adapted to meet cultural differences. I’m currently updating the Food Guide as we speak in readiness for a brand new 2021 for us all. I’ve added more recipes that’s meet the scientific evidence on the nutrients that we need in our menopause transition as well as the foods that are better suited to women’s health as we age. If you come on board in 2021 I can’t wait to share it with you.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that when I mention food that helps to reduce hot flushes and improve our mood, I get the most reaction out of them.
If you’ve been following my newsletter for a while now, then you’ll hopefully have been reading my posts over the past year and taking information from these in ways that can help you. I hope so. That’s why I write them!
Christmas is always a challenging time when we are in our menopause transition, let alone in a year where studies are beginning to indicate that women have had to juggle their lives the most to accommodate all the changes going on. If you have had children studying from home and you are working from home as is your partner, then you’ll know what I mean. As women, often the success of the day relies on all that we do but when our energy is low and we having lots of hot flushes and haven’t slept well, then maintaining our enthusiasm and joy de vivre can be very difficult. If you do get some time to yourself over the holiday break and haven’t watched my online Masterclass on Menopause then please try to. There is a small charge for it, but it’s 2 hours long and you can pause it anytime you like. Here is the LINK for you to read about it.
No matter how you might celebrate the festive season, it’s just around the corner, so in this newsletter, I wanted to share some foodie-tips which I’ve researched specifically for you. If you watch the Masterclass, I talk about our hot flushes and why these occur. I also talk to you about low glycemic index foods so that we don’t overload our ageing pancreas or our ageing liver, with excess glucose.
Eating the right food helps to achieve this. As does (re) learning to sleep all night as this helps to control our blood sugar levels and hot flushes well. Your goal? – To eat as many low glycemic index foods as you can. These are the types of foods that don’t spike your blood sugar levels, but instead, they help to boost your mood and help you to manage your blood pressure.
When blood sugar levels are high, then your pancreas is produces more insulin – this hormone regulates glucose in the blood. Higher levels of insulin increase your heart rate and temperature and you get a re-bound drop in blood sugar which then makes your moods go all over the place too. This chaos can lead to hot flush chaos at Christmas.
Hot flushes can drive us crazy, especially when the weather heats up down-under in the Southern Hemisphere. So, as my Christmas gift to you, if you are in the kitchen on Christmas Day, then make sure that you have these foods on your menu. They’ll be on mine as well. If you’re in charge of the food going on your table this Christmas, then here are my top 4 foods to help you beat the heat. Forget the Christmas menu’s of celebrity chefs who don’t understand the powerful link between hot flushes, high blood pressure and moody moods in menopause!
Choose the TURKEY not the HAM:
Changing oestrogen levels in menopause changes the levels of our mood hormones, serotonin and dopamine. When our moods are down, this affects our blood pressure and temperature regulation too. The building block for our mood hormones is the amino acid (protein), tyrosine. We need this protein in our diet and turkey contains Tyrosine (but processed ham doesn’t). However, just remember that the absorption and utilisation of this protein depends on optimal gut health. Tyrosine is absorbed in the small intestine, so if your gut health isn’t great and has changed during menopause, then your moods and hot flushes can become worse. Research shows that this happens to 1 in 4 women during menopause which is why I have developed a brand new MyMT™ GUT HEALTH module for you. This can now be purchased on its own but is also in my 12 week programmes.
2. Add sweet potato to the meal:
I’m definitely throwing sweet potatoes into the roasting pan. Packed full of anti-oxidant goodness (antioxidant-rich foods contain powerful nutrients that have been researched to heal already damaged cells and help to prevent further damage), the sweet potato is also full of fibre to help you feel full. But there’s more to this too. Sweet potato, despite their name (I prefer the New Zealand name of Kumara), don’t taste sweet at all. I have a beautiful Kiwi-Kumara salad in my Food Guide, which is delicious.
Sweet Potato are on the list of low to moderate glycemic index [GI] foods, which means that when you choose sweet potatoes over ordinary potatoes, your insulin response remains low. On the island of Okinawa, where some of the world’s longest living healthy women live, their age and good health is partly attributed to the sweet potato. Over 70% of their weekly diet is this wonderful vegetable. This is why, with menopause being the gateway to our biological ageing, sweet potato gets my tick for not only providing us with sustainable energy, but also because of it’s lower GI compared with the more common white potato.
3. Steam and serve broccoli:
When I was spending so much money on endless supplements when my symptoms were over-whelming me, I sat up and took notice when I discovered through my studies that there are women around the world who don’t take supplements in menopause. Nor do they experience the symptoms that many western women do. That’s when I became curious about the types of food we need to eat in menopause rather than always relying on the endless supplements that are marketed to us.
I’ve talked a lot about broccoli on my coaching groups this year. I also love that my oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer girls know to add moderate amounts of broccoli to their diet. Broccoli contains powerful compounds that help to clear oestrogen from our fat cells and liver ducts. Although evidence has been mounting that broccoli is great for cancer prevention, for women in menopause and post-menopause, equal evidence suggests that the nutrients in broccoli help to protect against heart disease. With most health research tending to focus on the sulforaphane in broccoli which helps to block cancer-producing enzymes, I also prefer broccoli for women in menopause, because it is also high in beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is a powerful nutrient that’s converted to Vitamin A and helps to prevent heart disease as well as helping to heal a lifetime of damaged cells and tissues. Very important for those of you who do lots of exercise! Cauliflower shouldn’t miss out on the attention either because it is full of healthy nutrients as well, but the problem with cauliflower compared to broccoli, is that it has greater amounts of purines in it. These are amino acids that break down to uric acid in the body. As any of you with sore joints and gout know, you need to be careful of your purine consumption. Many women on the MyMT™ programmes have sore joints when they start out, so being careful about purine consumption is something that you will find in the MyMT™ nutritional information as well as in my ‘Restore your Joyful Joints’ module too. Both these wonderful vegetables get my vote and I will be having them at the Christmas lunch, but they will be carefully steamed, not raw and more broccoli than cauli will be on my plate!
4. Who likes Christmas dessert?
Silly question I know. As much as I love a good steamed pudding full of delicious raisins and covered in hot custard, for women who don’t tolerate wheat or sugar very well, steamed pudding is hot-flush hell. For those with poor gut health, with the glutens in wheat-flour, then it can cause those of you who are gluten intolerant a bit of grief. Whilst one could argue that the pavlova (a traditional summer dessert in New Zealand), is higher in sugar and will also give you a sugar-rush and therefore, increase insulin and hot flushes, the pavlova wins for me. This is because it is higher in protein as it’s made from amino-acid rich egg whites. Protein helps to off-set the insulin response from the sugar (you could also use less sugar and I now use an organic brand).
I always buy Cowell’s Pavlova here in New Zealand. The late Mrs Cowell, who founded the pavlova company with her husband, used to live across the road from me when I lived in Dunedin. I still remember her bringing over beautiful pavlova slices to celebrate my daughter’s birth. So maybe I’m a bit biased when it comes to pavlova versus steamed pudding, but when served with fresh berries you also have a good dose of a compound called ellagic acid. This powerful compound is another one of nature’s anti-oxidants and for women in menopause, it helps to fight inflammation and harmful free radicals.
My own joints and muscles felt sore and don’t even mention ‘restless leg syndrome’ [this is so common for women who are exercising and I talk about it in my programmes, especially for women who exercise daily], so I looked into what was really going on. Our joints, muscles and nerves all contain oestrogen receptors, so going into a low oestrogen hormonal environment affects these structures too. Hence, why we need lovely anti-inflammatory berries to help heal and prevent further damage caused by free radicals. Fortunately, here in New Zealand, raspberries and blueberries are in-season, but if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, then frozen is fine (preferably organic).
As I often explain to women both on my programmes and in my Masterclass on Menopause, mid-life is the transition into our biological ageing. My doctoral studies explored women’s healthy ageing and exercise, and with my own symptoms over-whelming me, I began to investigate why we get all these symptoms that prevent us from living our lives in the way that we’ve always done. If you have time over the festive break, then go to the website and read some of the Success Stories from women just like you.
I hope you all have a lovely Christmas break and festive season and I want to say thank you for being part of the MyMT™ community. With over 3000 women from 35 countries, having gone through either of the MyMT™ programmes, I know that menopause matters! As we move into the New Year, my Transform Me programme is now on sale with an incredible bonus deal to also get my Rebuild My Fitness programme. If you are determined to make your mid-life health your priority after Christmas then you can read more about it in the link below.
Merry Christmas to you where-ever you are in the world and if you are a health worker, then a special shout-out to you and thank you.
Dr Wendy Sweet, (PhD)/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine.
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Lidder, S. & Webb, A. (2013). Vascular effects of dietary nitrates as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot. J. Clin. Pharmacology, 75(3), 677-696.
Robson, D. (2019). From: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190116-a-high-carb-diet-may-explain-why-okinawans-live-so-long