7 foods to eat more of during the menopause
From turmeric to legumes and kimchi, the foods to fill your plate with
The impending spring often brings a zest to improve our health through diet. But this can sometimes focus on joyless rules with cutting out and reducing some foods.
So why not take a different approach with these seven items to add to your meals, from chef, clinical nutritionist and balance+ guru Emma Ellice-Flint?
These simple, delicious and affordable foods all offer a supercharged nutritional boost during in the perimenopause and menopause.
So sprinkle, add, eat and drink these goodies whenever you can.
This gorgeous sunshine-coloured spice should be on our menus all the time.
Turmeric is packed with polyphenols, which are compounds produced by plants that help support and feed all the vital microbiota in your gut. This is called a prebiotic effect.
Having a healthy gut microbiota, which is all the healthy microbes in your digestive system, has a vital anti-inflammatory effect on your body.
Supporting all these good bugs becomes particularly important in the perimenopause and beyond, as they can become disrupted by your changing hormones.
Estrogen and testosterone also have anti-inflammatory effects on your body, which reduces as levels of these hormones decline with age. This means boosting anti-inflammatory sources elsewhere is even more important.
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Tip: Stir a teaspoon of turmeric into warm milk or hot water for a nourishing drink, or mix into a marinade for fish, a vinaigrette or soup.
We should all be reaching more for seeds as they provide a powerhouse of nutrients in a more affordable form than nuts.
These miniature heroes not only bring lovely flavour and texture, but are also a great source of protein and are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health and reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body can increase the risk of inflammatory diseases occurring – including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, clinical depression and even some types of cancer.
Seeds also provide calcium and magnesium, which are both important for bone health and for mood and anxiety, which are all particularly important during your menopause.
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A range of seeds is best to get all the benefits, including the prebiotic fibre which feeds the important microbiota in your gut. Some to look out for include hemp seeds, which are particularly high in omega 3 and protein, and sesame and poppy, which give a great boost of calcium. Pumpkin seeds are highest in zinc and magnesium.
Tip: Sprinkle seeds liberally on your breakfast cereal, on vegetable dishes and over soup or make an extra-seedy flapjack.
Oily fish is a well-known component of a good diet, but fresh fish can be pricey and potentially unsustainable – so you can stock up on some tins of fish.
They are a perfect addition to any kitchen store cupboard as they are affordable, last for ages and come with an impressive host of health benefits.
Go for types that include edible bones for extra nutritional bonus, like sardines, pilchards, mackerel, anchovies and some brands of salmon.
The zinc and calcium these fish bones contain will boost your bones, which can start to become weaker during menopause, and the omega 3 fatty acids gives you anti-inflammatory properties and heart diseaseprotection.
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Their high protein content can help stabilise blood sugar levels and keep you feeling satisfied, which can potentially avoid weight gain.
Tip: enjoy tinned fish mashed up with lemon juice on a slice of toast for a satisfying lunch, or use them to top a salad.
Both the gnarled root of fresh ginger and the dry powered form can help move food through the gut, aiding your digestion.
Ginger is a prebiotic which, like some of the other foods on this list, feeds the healthy microbiota in the gut.
Research is increasingly finding that the wellbeing and range of microbiota in our gut has a major impact on many aspects of our health. By eating prebiotics found in ginger and plant food generally, this can help improve the anti-inflammatory effects of your gut microbes.
Your menopause can see a decline in digestive enzymes, as well as changes to the gut microbes, which can all have a potentially uncomfortable impact on your digestion.
Tip: add the warming flavour of ginger to porridge, cakes and flapjacks and steep slices of fresh root or some dried power with boiling water for a soothing drink.
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Despite being an island, seaweed, or sea vegetables as they are also known, are still not eaten enough in the UK.
They are again good for the gut microbiota as they are a valuable prebiotic and a good source of fibre. They also provide iodine, an important mineral for the thyroid gland, which produces the hormone thyroxine to support metabolism and energy.
Tip: sea vegetables are often brought dried and rehydrated by soaking in hot water for 10 minutes. Then they are easily mixed into vegetable dishes, soups, with plain yogurt for a delicious tzatziki, or added to a vinaigrette.
It’s hard to find something more cost effective and healthy than a bag or tin of lentils or beans.
They are so profoundly beneficial, providing a range of support for the gut microbiota, and the gut lining that supports those microbes, meaning plenty of anti-inflammatory benefits. They also provide protein and fibre, which gives bulk to move food through the gut.
Legumes also offer minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron.
Some, including soy and chickpeas, can be a source of phytoestrogens, which are compounds similar to your estrogen, which declines during the menopause. These can have a very gentle effect on your body to soften some of the effects of dropping estrogen, but please note, those effects are much weaker than HRT.
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From sauerkraut to kefir, and kimchi to the drink kombucha, there is an increasingly exciting range of live fermented food to choose from in our shops.
These are all incredible probiotics, working synergistically with our own gut microbiota, which can boost our health further.
Emma says she tries to eat fermented food every day, adding kefir with her breakfast, having kimchi and sauerkraut, which are both fermented vegetables, often including cabbage, with an open sandwich or a bowl of vegetables. They make tasty and exciting additions as a side of most meals.