Christmas has crept up pretty quickly this year, which is either a sign of my ageing, or how busy I’ve been this year! Of all the hundreds of coaching posts that I’ve written for women who join me in the private MyMT communities for my three different 12 week programmes – [Circuit Breaker, Transform Me & my new Re-Build My Fitness community], 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. I know this only too well. 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.
That’s why it’s been such a privilege to help hundreds of women throughout 2019, understand how to adjust their lifestyle to suit their changing hormones and get back to how they used to feel before menopause hormonal changes arrived. This email from Karen came in this week. I feel so privileged to be able to help women understand that it’s not ‘menopause’ that is the problem – this is a natural event, just like puberty. The ‘problem’ is that nobody has been teaching us how to change and adapt our daily habits and lifestyle at this stage of life – we’ve been forgotten about when it comes to this life-stage and when I felt this way too, I was determined to use my knowledge and experience to discover how we need to live our lives and turn around our symptoms and our weight as we move through menopause. That’s why I created MyMT™ for women around the world.
I remember only too well how difficult my own menopause transition was. But because many of you haven’t joined me yet [don’t forget my JANUARY SALE starts this weekend, so please watch your email box to access your promo code] and because Christmas is only a few days away, then I just wanted to share some foodie-tips which I’ve researched specifically for you at this time of year.
What to eat when you’re feeling beat:
Fatigue for mid-life women is near epidemic proportions. Not sleeping, feeling tired all the time, the incredible change in health with post-menopause obesity, metabolic syndrome and hypertension – the post -menopausal health stats in many western countries including Australia, New Zealand, America and the United Kingdom don’t lie. Whilst a lot of this health chaos is to do with the way our sleep hormones change as we go through menopause, much of our mid-life fatigue is also about our diet. When you’re feeling beat, your diet matters. But what matters even more, is that you are eating for your menopause hormonal changes – not eating food that is better suited to athletes, males or kids!
Numerous studies have shown that changes in the levels of nerve transmitters in the brain (neuro-transmitters), such as dopamine and nor-epinephrine, can dramatically affect your energy levels as you go through menopause.
These brain chemicals can decline during menopause alongside our changing oestrogen levels, especially when we don’t sleep. When we have lots of these chemicals however, then we feel more alert and energetic, so the goal is always to keep these powerful brain transmitters as high as you can to offset the changes associated with menopause.
Eating the right food helps to achieve this, as does learning to sleep all night and doing the right exercise to help our brain hormones.
This is why women love the food and recipes I have in the MyMT™ programmes. I’ve done the nutrition research and every bit of food advice is geared up for us in menopause, which is the gateway to our ageing. So, with Christmas just around the corner, I want to share some of this information with you too. 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 too. They’ll be on mine as 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 thrown into producing more insulin – and when insulin is high, then your hot flushes are worse, making your heart rate and blood pressure soar. If you aren’t sleeping, then over time, inflammation builds up in your cells and tissues. What you may feel is more hot flush chaos at Christmas.
If you’re in charge of the food going on your table this Christmas, then here are my Top 4 foods to help you. Forget the Christmas menu’s of celebrity chefs who don’t understand the powerful link between hot flushes, high blood pressure and mood in menopause!
Choose the TURKEY not the HAM:
The building block for our mood hormones, dopamine and nor-epinephrine, is the amino acid (protein), tyrosine. This protein is elevated when you do two things:
- Have good gut health. Tyrosine is absorbed in the small intestine (which is why I have a gut-health guide in the MyMT programmes) and,
- When you eat tyrosine-rich protein. It’s why on the Christmas menu, I will have the Turkey and pass on the processed ham which doesn’t have the tyrosine levels of turkey.
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 that women love to make in my Menopause Food Guide.
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 my oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer girls to be on it. 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 and for those with poor gut health, with the wheat from flour, then it can cause those of you who are gluten intolerant a bit of grief.
Whilst one could argue that the pavlova 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.
I always explain to women in my seminars that menopause is the transition into our biological ageing, so as my PhD was on women’s healthy ageing and exercise, I began to investigate all the influences that may have caused inflammatory changes in the body from decades of exercising. My own joints and muscles felt sore and achey 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).
I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and I want to say thank you for being part of the MyMT™ community. With over 2000 women from 17 countries, having gone through either of the MyMT™ programmes, I know that menopause matters!
It can be a crazy time of life, so I want to reassure you that the programmes and plans that I have for you are all focused on this age and stage of life. It’s so important to turn around our sleep, hot flushes, blood pressure, weight and sore joints so we feel vibrant and healthy again ready for the next stage of our lives. I can’t wait to help you too.
Please come and join me for 12 weeks (or longer as there is no pressure to get through the programme in 12 weeks). Make 2020 the year that you get back in control of your menopause symptoms and/ or your health and weight, through whichever of the MyMT™ programmes that I’ve designed for you. Changing our lifestyle to suit our changing hormonal environment is the most powerful thing you can do. And it’s not just about food, it’s about sleep, joint health, exercise specific to mid-life, stress management and more …. You won’t find a more comprehensive course around. I know this, because I tried to find one too.
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
Siervo M., Lara J. et al. (2013). Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J. Nutrition. 143(6): 818-826.