Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be looking at six more good foods for the menopause. So, this is week two of my month on food for the menopause. Last week, we looked at oestrogen-rich foods or plant oestrogen rich-foods that can help during the menopause. And, today, I'm going to look at six more good food groups for the menopause.
Why diet is so important during menopause
So, why do we need a good diet in the menopause? Why can't we just carry on the way we've always done?
The problem is, as the hormones start to change, this puts a huge amount of pressure on your body, so your nutritional needs go up. And, if you're low in the good stuff, then your body is going to be more vulnerable to unwanted symptoms, and it's going to find it harder to make its way right through the menopause.
The second thing that happens is the majority of us end up stressed during the menopause, both from the hormonal changes but, also, life in general as we get to menopausal age. And stress strips us of a lot of nutrients that we need, which can affect our sleep and especially our moods.
It's really important to make sure that we're giving our body everything that it needs to help us sail through the menopause. So, let's have a little look at these food groups now.
1. Foods rich omega-3
First, we're looking at foods that are rich in omega-3. This is known as an essential fatty acid because our body needs it, and we cannot make it for ourselves.
But, why do we need omega-3? It's very important for your joints, it's very important for your skin, and it's very important for your memory as well. So, it's one that we all need during the menopause.
The foods we're looking at for this one, if you eat meat, are things like oily fish – so salmon, tuna, and mackerel. You can also look at seeds: flaxseed oil, chia seeds and sesame seeds are all good. Look at your nuts and also tofu. If you're vegetarian or vegan, you can certainly look at some of the soy foods. And good healthy fats in the menopause would be your organic, extra virgin olive oil and your coconut oil as well.
My favourite omega-3 food would be baked salmon sprinkled with a little bit of lemon or lime juice, some sea salt, and a little piece of organic butter.
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2. Calcium-rich foods
The second group is your calcium-rich foods. Why do we need these? Because our bones become more vulnerable to osteopenia and osteoporosis during menopause, so it's very important to make sure we get enough calcium-rich foods during our diet.
The problem here is, when we talk about calcium, everybody thinks of dairy. But there are two problems with dairy. First, it's high in saturated fat, which we don't want a lot of. Secondly, you could be saying, "Well, I use skimmed milk or I use semi-skimmed milk." But, if you go for low-fat dairy products, they become higher in milk sugars. This means they end up adding excess sugar to your diet.
So, for those of you who have dairy in your diet, have it very sparingly. Try to go with the whole fat rather than the low fat because a lot of the low-fat products also tend to have sugar or artificial flavourings in them, which is not good either.
So, a little bit of dairy, things like your cottage cheese and yoghurts tend to be really good. But go for organic, if you can. It's much better than the ordinary stuff.
Other things that you can look at, if you don't have dairy, you can look at your dark green leafy vegetables. You can look at things like kale, and your nuts and seeds as well, which seem to come into absolutely everything here.
My favourite calcium food, believe it or not, is whole oats. They are really good for your calcium, the top part of the grains. I like proper oats, not the ones in a packet with sugar in them but the real, unadulterated ones with a couple of dessert spoonfuls of nuts and seeds and some almond milk.
Now, you might be thinking, "Why is that good for calcium?" That whole dish will give you about 300 to 400 milligrams of calcium, which is an absolutely great chunk out of your daily requirements. So, if you're wanting something good for breakfast, this is one of my favourite ones.
3. Magnesium-rich foods
Group three is your magnesium-rich foods. For those of you who have been with me for a while, you will know just how important magnesium is. It's very important for our mood, sleep and, like calcium, it's very important for your bones. Magnesium is the bus that takes calcium to your bones!
This means, if you're low in magnesium (even if you're high in calcium), that can still have some effect on your bones. So, magnesium is really important. We call it our happy mineral, and that just tells you why it is needed so much.
Magnesium-rich foods include your nuts and seeds, avocados, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and lentils, your pulses, tofu, dark chocolate, and whole grains.
And, you know, nature is wonderful because so many of the calcium-rich foods also have plenty of magnesium in them. So, you're getting an added benefit from just one set of particular foods.
My favourite magnesium-rich foods would probably be a tie between avocados and dark chocolate cocoa powder. So, if you can get dark, organic cocoa powder, it's only about 10 calories a teaspoon, and you can put it in so many different things.
I love it in yoghurt. If I'm grinding up nuts and seeds, I will put it in that, too. It's a lovely way to get a chocolatey taste into your diet, without the fat and the high calories. As for the dark chocolate, you're getting a lovely little hit of magnesium, which is a lovely way to do it.
4. Complex carbohydrates
Group number four is complex carbohydrates. We need a small amount of these in our diet as they help to stabilise our blood sugars. This is useful because, in the menopause, our blood sugars can go all over the place, which can lead to severe cravings.
We also need complex carbohydrates because they produce fibre. And fibre is needed to keep your bowels working well. Very often in the menopause, our digestive processes slow down. And many women can suffer from sluggish bowels or constipation.
So, for complex carbohydrates we're looking at things like whole grains. These would be your wholemeal brown bread, your brown pasta, and your brown rice.
What you want to avoid is foods made with white refined flour because they will interfere with your blood sugar levels, and they won't really give you any kind of benefits at all.
My favourite complex carbohydrate would be soba noodles. These are made from buckwheat, so there's no wheat in them, which is especially good for those of you who are on a wheat-free diet. They're very satisfying and they only take about four or five minutes to cook. I sometimes put them in soup, or you can add them to your main dishes. They're really nice, just with a sprinkling of soy sauce on the top and, sometimes, if I'm really hungry and craving carbohydrates, then I'll just make myself a little dish of these, and that usually sets everything to right.
5. Protein-rich foods
Group number five is your protein. This is really important, too, and it's one that a lot of women miss out on. There are not only hormonal changes going on in the menopause; there are physical changes, too, and our body needs plenty of protein in order to make these changes happen. In theory, you should have a little bit of protein with each meal, if you possibly can.
One of the really simple ways to tell if you're not getting enough protein is if your hair starts to deteriorate, because our body sees our hair, nails and skin as not being important. So, if we're low in nutrients internally, the body will just say, "We don't have enough for the hair, don't have enough for the nails." So, if you find that your hair and your nails are not as good as they were, then that's very often a good indication that you're just needing a bit more protein.
Protein is also needed for muscle mass. As we get older (regardless of the menopause, this is just to do with ageing), our muscle mass can decrease. And that can have a huge impact on our metabolism and for helping to support our joints as well.
So, protein is really, really important here. You're looking at eggs, you're looking at good quality meat, fish and a little bit of dairy as I said before. If you're vegetarian or vegan, then it's about upping your intake of nuts, seeds, pulses and your beans.
The only thing I would say here is, you know, there's only so many beans, pulses, nuts and seeds that you can eat. So, if you feel that your protein needs are decreasing or you want more, then what I would suggest is a plant-based protein powder. You can have that in a shake once a day, just to top up your protein. Your local health food shop will have loads of them – they'll have all different flavours. So, this is a really nice thing that you can add in to your daily diet, without getting too bored with everything else that you're already eating.
I love all sorts of protein. But I think, for me, eggs are probably my favourite, purely because they're so versatile. I love making omelettes for breakfast because I can put loads of different vegetables in them, so I can have something completely different every day.
Sometimes, I also like to make a little bit of egg mayonnaise, just for a snack. It's a nice one to have in between meals if I've got a really busy or physical day going on. And that will keep me going until my next meal.
6. Foods rich in Vitamin B
The last group is your B vitamins, which are really important for energy. They're energising and they're really important for brain function. And they're very important to help extract nutrients from food.
So, at a time when we need all the vitamins and minerals that we can get, making sure you've got plenty of B vits in your diet is a really good idea. Your B vitamins will come from your whole grains, they can come from meat and eggs, things like your beans, and your nuts and seeds as well.
My favourite, I think, is just a basic mix of nuts and seeds, as I've mentioned before and in other video blogs on food. These are great to add in to everything. You can get mixes already in one packet. I tend to buy all the seeds separately because it seems to work out more economical and I just mix them together. They can be sprinkled on your salads or soups. You can grind them up and put them in yoghurt and with cereals as well. So, they are a really versatile food.
And, again, even just adding in one portion of nuts and seeds a day, that is going to help with your omega-3, it's going to help with your calcium, it's going to help with your magnesium, it's going to help with your protein, and it's going to help with your B vits. So, these are a really super staple food for going through the menopause!
Other menopause diet tips
Now, it's really important that you're getting loads of veg and a little bit of fruit.
We're reckoning on at least five portions a day to give you absolutely everything that you need. Just make sure you get enough fibre to help your digestive tract. And remember the water, which is really important on a daily basis for absolutely everything.
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I hope you found this helpful. It's been quite a session this week because it is quite a complex subject. If any of you have any questions on this, please do get in touch, and I will be happy to help. Next week, it's going to be the worst foods and drinks for the menopause.
What you said
We recently ran a poll to find out how many portions of fruit and vegetables you are managing to eat each day. We've crunched the numbers and here are the results.
Results: How many portions of fruit and veg do you eat each day?
Most of you are managing to eat a good amount of fruit and vegetables each day, with 53.9% eating 3 to 5 portions and 21.3% managing 6 or more portions. That's fantastic! For the other 25%, you could easily up your fruit and vegetable intake with homemade smoothies and soups.