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Creating long-lasting food habits for better health

On this week’s podcast Dr Louise is joined by Dr Rupy Aujla, founder of The Doctor’s Kitchen, which aims to inspire and educate about the joy of food and the medicinal effects of eating well.

Dr Rupy shares his thoughts on how to best enjoy a healthy and fulfilling diet and looks at some of the challenges food can bring during the perimenopause and menopause, but also how it can be a time to rethink and set new nutrition habits.

While the new year is often a time to set goals or resolutions, Dr Rupy believes that consistency is the key to success and it can come through small steps, such as simply adding on vegetable to every single meal.

Finally, Dr Rupy shares his three top tips for healthy eating:

  1. Master one meal that you’re proud of and make it a solid base to then adapt, add twists with different vegetables, flavour bases, herbs, etc.
  2. If you have a child who doesn’t like a particular ingredient, don’t force it because that will introduce animosity towards that ingredient. When they’re older, they may have developed different taste buds that allow them to appreciate it better.
  3. Aim for 90/10 because you probably will get to 80/20. And if you do have a cheeky take out, indulge, allow yourself to indulge without any guilt, particularly as it pertains to food, and thenmake yourself a pact to get back on it the following day.

Follow Dr Rupy on socials @doctors_kitchen

Click here for more on Newson Health


Dr Louise Newson: [00:00:11] Hello. I’m Dr Louise Newson. I’m a GP and menopause specialist, and I’m also the founder of the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre here in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m also the founder of the free balance app. Each week on my podcast, join me and my special guests where we discuss all things perimenopause and menopause. We talk about the latest research, bust myths on menopause symptoms and treatments, and often share moving and always inspirational personal stories. This podcast is brought to you by the Newson Health Group, which has clinics across the UK dedicated to providing individualised perimenopause and menopause care for all women. So here we are in your very smart studio. I feel very honoured that I’m actually here doing my podcast in your space with your amazing team. It’s really grown up. So I’m not going to really introduce you because people know who you are. You’ve been on my podcast before and I think when I last did you on the podcast, I said, I really want to have you back. Now you’re here. I don’t think, I hope, this isn’t going to be the last time. [00:01:27][76.2]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:01:27] Oh, no, I hope not, I’m sure it won’t be. [00:01:28][1.2]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:01:29] And we’ve known each other for a little while now, and it’s really inspirational, all the work you’re doing. And I just love seeing what you do and how you do. And you’re still so happy, which is wonderful. I’m here in London and you’ve given me, like, just a lovely lunch, no one ever cooks me lunch, no one understands… [00:01:46][17.1]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:01:46] No one cooks you lunch? Even at home? [00:01:46][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:01:51] No, my husband doesn’t cook. [00:01:52][0.4]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:01:53] Well, like I said to you, on my pod, any time you’re in London, come down. We’ve always got some grub. [00:01:56][3.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:01:57] It always tastes nicer when other people do it, it really does. So, yeah, but the power of food has been underestimated for far too long, and people are now talking about it. But with so much confusion and there’s all this sort of competitiveness over there that you have to have this diet or that diet and read this book or that book. And what I really like about your laidback approach is just enjoy it and be happy. But it’s not just the eating of the food. And actually, one of the reasons I quite like cooking, is it’s part of my phone-free time. [00:02:29][31.5]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:02:29] Yeah. [00:02:29][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:02:30] Does that make sense? So if you’ve ever said to me, Louise, you’re so busy, you should get somebody to cook for you. And it’s like, there are two reasons I enjoy cooking. Firstly, I can often talk to my children because they’re often milling around the kitchen and I’m there. And secondly, it is a bit of a meditation for me. I quite enjoy it. So it’s not just the eating, is it? [00:02:49][18.9]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:02:49] Absolutely. I am so glad we’re talking about this because I think there’s a bit of a sort of productivity hustle culture these days of trying to optimise every element of our life. And one of those things that a lot of people have an issue with is the need or the chore of having to cook for themselves. And I see it through a completely different light. And granted, I’m privileged in that my mum taught me how to cook before I went to medical school, and I’m an explorative cook and I love food. And, you know, I’m a true, true foodie. But I also use it as part of my sort of wellbeing lifestyle medicine package because just like you said, phone-free time, music on, spices at the ready, you know, just sort of getting into my flow, not really thinking about the day. I don’t think about my to-do list when I’m cooking and if I really think about like the reason why I cook, yes, it’s to nourish and yes, there are functional benefits, but it’s that sort of emotional connection that I have with the ingredients that I’m using and the sort of historical and the sort of cultural basis for the food that not just is something that is passed down from my family, but is something that I can actually have an influence on with my own family going forward as well. Like I love the act of cooking for other people. I’m like a typical like, you know, we just did lunch for you guys, did lunch for the crew. Like, I love that. I love it. Yeah. It’s so strange. [00:04:13][83.6]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:04:14] I’m not very sociable because I work a lot, but I often invite people to my house because I like the privacy of being able to say anything. Obviously that’s really good and nice, but also I like to have to share different foods. But actually cooking isn’t that difficult. I don’t mean to be… [00:04:29][15.7]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:04:30] No, no, no, no, it’s not. [00:04:31][0.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:04:31] But it a lot of people seem really scared and often very basic things, but you just add a bit of colour or some herbs. But, oh my goodness, but you’ve been working all day. Yeah, but I prepared it last night. So it cooks itself. It’s not sometimes it’s not difficult is it. But it’s so easy now to on an app just deliver something or to order something. But it tastes different when you’ve prepared it somehow. So I think there’s so much about eating is really important. We’ll talk about what things to eat. But I do think we shouldn’t, I mean, I’m really up for life hacks. I’m really up for maximising my productivity. You know, I’m really happy for someone else to do my washing. I’m really happy for someone else to do the ironing. Someone else can clean the toilets. That’s fine. And that’s not going to make me a better person. But actually, some people do like that whole ritual of cleaning, so that’s fine if they do. But I actually personally would prefer to to write some papers and do something else. But but actually cooking is really important because I actually I want to know what’s in my food. I really want to know because I don’t want to have any additives. I don’t want to have anything that’s going to trigger migraines. So I have that as my, as I’ve said to you before, I’m lucky, but I’m not lucky, having migraines because they control my life. But I love not having a headache. So I’ll do anything, including eat really healthily to not have a headache. So it’s not just because I want to feel good or look good or whatever, it’s because I really don’t want to be filled with migraines. [00:05:59][87.6]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:05:59] Yeah, Yeah. [00:06:00][0.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:06:00] So I’m obsessive. I don’t want to have chemicals that I don’t need. But actually, it’s really joyful to be able to cook. And we have a veggie box delivered because, again, one of my hacks is I don’t like going shopping because I don’t have much time, but I want to eat really healthily. And I know veggie box are expensive, but I don’t have any waste. But I also like the mystery. I never look and see what’s going. And so it came on Wednesday. My husband was at home and I came back on Wednesday night, a bit excited because, like, what am I going to cook? And he said, Oh, it didn’t come this morning, so what do you mean it hasn’t come? Anyway, he put it all away, which he doesn’t often. So I was like open the fridge and it’s like opening a sweetie cupboard And I thought, oh this is really exciting actually, because it’s all in season. [00:06:43][43.2]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:06:44] Totally. [00:06:44][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:06:45] And that makes a real difference, and it’s really sad. Like if I’d met you ten years ago, I could not talk with excitement about a veggie box. [00:06:51][6.8]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:06:52] Yeah. Yeah. [00:06:52][0.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:06:52] Actually eating in season is cheaper as well, isn’t it? And it just makes it easier. [00:06:57][4.2]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:06:57] Totally. Yeah. And it’s so funny that you’re saying that because I think part of the excitement that I have around cooking is actually, what am I going to cook? I’m not one of these people, even though I’ve got like, you know, recipe books and people love recipes and following the instructions and all the rest of it. I get that. I’m a really sort of intuitive cook. So kind of like you, open up the store cupboard or go into the pantry or look into my fridge and figure out what to make. So what I made you earlier today, I didn’t know that I was going to make that. So it literally, I was using odd bits of what we’d made in recipes earlier this week. So there’s a bit of grated courgette. There was leftover white beans, everything was in date, don’t worry. [00:07:35][37.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:07:38] Thanks for that. I’m glad you made an effort for your guest. [00:07:38][0.4]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:07:38] We had some a big mix of herbs. I used some frozen peas and frozen spinach, which are my two life hacks I think, really, really, really good items to always have in your freezer and then some veg stock and a whole bunch of spices that you know, won’t go off as long as, you know, you haven’t got them in your pantry for like years and you smell them and they smell aromatic or they smell fresh and they’ve got that sort of odour, the pungency that they should have, then you can still use them and they confer lots of benefits. That’s sort of like how I made that meal. So I put everything into one pan. I blended up the spinach and the peas with a little bit of hot water and veg stock to create that like green, glorious looking, silky sauce. Added that to the ingredients, added the protein. So we added a bit of halloumi, but it could be pan fried tofu instead as your plant based protein. Some beans, you could add lentils, if you have leftover chicken if you like, and that is a meal in one pan. And so there’s minimal washing up. You can serve people and it tastes delicious. So when you know the sort of basics of flavour and it doesn’t need to be, you don’t need to be a Jamie Oliver to be able to do this, just learn some basics and you’d be surprised at how enjoyable is and how flavourful it can be and the functional benefits as well. [00:08:52][73.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:08:53] Yeah. And I also like, you’re the same as me. You cook more because then you can open your fridge when you’re hungry and there’s something there for you to eat. And that’s really important. [00:09:00][7.6]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:09:01] And you spend less, you absolutely spend less. We did this exercise actually with BBC Food that people can look at right now, you just type in BBC Food Budget Meals Doctor’s Kitchen, and we did this project where we looked at, it was at the height of the cost of living crisis, it was November last year, something like that. And we looked at all the different supermarkets and it’s just like a big spreadsheet of all the different common ingredients that you find. Things like mushrooms, they’re quite expensive actually. Beans. What if the veggies were in season? I was tasked to get a £1 per serving meal that was healthy and delicious and flavourful and easy to cook. And we managed to do it, £1 per serving, and it’s three portions of three veg, three proper portions of vegetables in every serving of these meals. And we got it down to a meal plan as well that you again you can get on the BBC website, or the Doctor’s Kitchen website, where we spend about £20 per week. And the hacks, the reasons why you’re able to achieve that is if you have 12 key spices and very simple things, cumin, paprika, chilli flakes. Think it was some Mediterranean herbs and spices in there, like oregano. If you’ve got those 12 and you got some olive oil, chef’s knife, chopping board, a decent pan, you’re on your way. You’re on your way. And I think those kind of exercises challenge me to really think about, okay, if I am in dire straits, if I do only have £20 per week to feed myself and another person, can I do it? Yes. Yes, it is possible. But it does require that sort of culinary creativity, the ingenuity and the effort needed to produce those kind of meals. [00:10:38][97.7]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:10:39] Yeah, I mean, my oldest two children are at university and I batch cooked a whole bolognese for them. Split it up and gave it to them recently when I just met them and I was so excited. But I had put loads of vegetables and lentils in it. But if I gave my, my middle daughter a bowl of lentils, there’s no way on earth she’d eat it. But she was sharing it with her friends, she goes oh there’s something, was it peas in there? So I said no, it’s lentils Sophie. But it makes it cheaper, it spreads the meat, you know, and it’s really healthy still as well. So I think modifying things is really important, knowing that it’s cheaper. But also, I didn’t drink alcohol cause of migraines. My daughter doesn’t, because of migraines, she’s a student, so sometimes she will go and buy a nicer piece of meat or something that’s slightly more expensive because it’s cheaper than going and buying a pint of beer. And so I think we have to sort of rethink about our budgets. It’s like, do I get more pleasure from a glass of wine or do I get it from a… And when you eat really good food, it will make you happy. It does improve your serotonin levels, doesn’t it? [00:11:41][62.1]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:11:41] Absolutely, yeah. When you’re eating better food, you’re getting more diversity of ingredients. We know that that’s going to be supporting your microbes. And it’s simple things like spices that have a higher antioxidant score. You have simple diversity of different types of fibres as well. It could be some simple things like celery or radicchio, or radishes or endive, whatever you can find. And I’ve just said some bouji ingredients there. But, you know, kale.. [00:12:05][24.4]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:12:07] But celery… [00:12:07][0.6]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:12:09] I mean celery’s not that bouji. [00:12:09][0.1]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:12:10] No actually not, people think, what’s the point? It’s just water. But it is really good isn’t it. [00:12:13][3.0]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:12:13] You know, it’s interesting. So we did, I used to think the same thing about celery. It’s mainly water, there’s nothing in it. So we do know it’s got some prebiotic fibres in there. [00:12:21][8.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:12:21] So just explain what prebiotic because lots of people get confused don’t they. [00:12:24][3.0]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:12:25] Totally. Yeah. And that’s really important. So you got different types of fibres in your diet. You know, we get them from a variety of different sources. Largely you find them in plants. And the different types of fibres are prebiotic and you’ve got other sort of just regular fibres as well and different types of starches. Prebiotic fibres are unique in that they can improve how your microbes in your gut thrive and essentially uniquely improves that gut flora that you find mainly in the large intestine. So the types of fibres that we think of with regards to wholefood ingredients that have these unique fibres are asparagus, chicory, things like garlic as well, brassica vegetables, these are all really, really interesting sorts of fibres. But within the sort of category of prebiotic fibres are hundreds of different subtypes as well, many of which have long names like oligosaccharides, for example. And it is a fascinating world when you go into it. And the best thing about it is that they are a lot cheaper than some of the gut health supplements that you find on supermarket shelves. And prebiotics is actually where we need to put a lot more of our attention rather than just probiotics. Probiotics are fantastic. I love fermenting. I love like adding, you know, sauerkraut and cheese, all those like wonderful live microbes to your food. But prebiotics is probably where we’re lacking a bit more. [00:13:45][79.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:13:45] Yeah. So it’s important to know the difference, isn’t it? Because they’re both really important for us and I think for many years we haven’t, we still don’t understand enough about the gut microbes, but we are realising more and more how important they are. So that whole thing of eating the rainbow. [00:14:01][15.9]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:14:02] Yeah. [00:14:02][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:14:02] It’s actually really important, isn’t it? Variety’s the spice of life, isn’t it? And I sort of think back about my meat and two veg existence in the 70s. Actually, it was going to the butchers for the meat. It was actually eating in season, so it was a lot better than meat and two veg now because food’s changed over the years hasn’t it. And so, you know, my mum sometimes says oh but it didn’t harm you having that why are you’re getting so, doing this for the children, because food is different and the soil that the vegetables are grown in is quite different as well, isn’t it? [00:14:36][33.8]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:14:36] There’s a lot of differences and we did a deep dive into this actually on the podcast with regards to organic versus conventional food. And I don’t want to worry anyone but that the two senses like if you can go organic, great. Does it mean that you’re going to be protecting yourself from all pesticides? No. Does it mean that there is a potential benefit to longevity, the quality of the polyphenols, the increase in the amount of these different plant chemicals that confer benefits. Potentially yes, actually. So if you can grow. But am I going to lose sleep over it if I go out and I am eating conventional vegetables, no I’m not. And the variety I think is really important as well, because I think there’s a there’s a difference between surviving and thriving. And I think when you get that rainbow, you are thriving. You are really pushing the boat out in terms of improving your health, improving your wellbeing, improving your mental wellbeing, improving the function of those gut microbes. So that sort of element I think is really important when when we discuss food. Going back to celery. So prebiotic fibres. Yes, it’s like large rewards if you want to think about it in that way. But it also has a surprising high amount of nitrates. So nitrates are really interesting because they are constituents in plants that we absorb from the soil. So if you remember back to your sort of school chemistry days, you’ve got the nitrogen cycle, it’s absorbed into plants and then it’s converted into nitrates, which is NO3- I think, and that is only absorbable from the plants that we consume. It’s added as an additive to things like processed meats, which is where nitrites get a bad rep. But when it’s nitrates in plants, the bind. Yeah. With those polyphenols, vitamin C, vitamin E, that’s where it can be better converted into nitric oxide. And that nitric oxide is what vasodilators our blood vessels, so brings the blood pressure down, improves blood flow through the brain as well. Cardiovascular benefits, as I mentioned, with blood pressure and also metabolic effects as well, strangely enough. So celery is actually one of those things that we should be getting, as well as kale and other cruciferous vegetables are quite high in nitrates and beetroots, which is the classic nitrate-rich food. [00:16:43][126.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:16:43] Yes, isn’t that interesting. And you know what else also affects nitric oxide production, of course, is oestrogen. [00:16:48][4.4]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:16:48] Yeah, yeah, yeah. [00:16:49][0.7]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:16:49] And so when you think about cardiovascular health, you know anything that we can do that keep the lining of the vessels open and reduce atheroma is really important, isn’t it? So thinking about food as medicine, but not medicine to treat disease but prevent disease, is really important. And I’m going to put this podcast out in January. So it’s New Year, new you. We’re all thinking about New Year’s resolutions and it’s always about what am I going to stop? I’m going to, you know, reduce…. But actually, I’d like some tips about what can I add? What will I add to my foods? That even if I don’t change my diet, what would you say would be really important to think of over the year to just add, to improve health? [00:17:33][44.0]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:17:34] Yeah, definitely. So I think the first thing, just taking one step back, is New Year, new you, is that always that sort of difficult time of year where people are jumping on to a particular trend or, you know, with the purist and righteousness of intentions is like, this is the year I’m going to do better and I get it. I completely get it. But I think if I could welcome people to just take a step back and just think of the key metric that will enable you to live and thrive for life, it’s consistency. It is pure consistency. So if you can think about food through the lens of can I add just one more fruit, vegetable, nut or seed at every mealtime, that’s a really good way of introducing a tiny habit that has vast implications. [00:18:17][43.4]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:18:18] So just like a handful of seeds. [00:18:19][1.2]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:18:20] Handful of seeds. [00:18:20][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:18:21] Doesn’t matter what nuts? [00:18:21][0.5]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:18:21] Doesn’t really matter. I mean, I have a personal favourite, which is hazelnuts. I think they’re like really easy. You can use them in savoury, you can use them in sweet. They’re beautiful toasted, blanched, whatever. [00:18:33][11.3]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:18:33] And they’re quite cheap actually. Because nuts are really expensive. You buy a small bag and you’re like, Oh my goodness. But actually, hazelnuts. And I was cooking your aubergine. There’s an aubergine [recipe] and you said, oh you can use hazelnuts. Gosh, hazelnuts with aubergine. That’s a bit weird, but it’s great. And actually, it’s a really quick way, isn’t it of transforming like you say sweet or savory. So, yes, so seeds, nuts, spices, herbs. But they don’t all have to be fresh do they? [00:19:01][27.5]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:19:01] They don’t always have to be fresh. Actually, I think dried herbs are particularly interesting because they’re dehydrated. You’re getting a lot more bang for your buck and they actually preserve quite a lot of the nutrients as well. You get a different flavour profile. So like with fresh tarragon that’s finely chopped over, I don’t know, some eggs or scrambled tofu or whatever. It’s going to taste completely different to dry tarragon, which has a more intense sort of pungent flavour. But you are introducing like a quarter plant point. You’re introducing more antioxidants and you’re having a higher diversity of those antioxidants as well in your food, which is really really important. So wherever possible, I always say experiment with spices, experiment with herbs. It’s really, really interesting, particularly when you look at it through the lens of what the diversity of those different ingredients are adding to your microbes. I always like to tell people to think of their microbes is like bored children on a summer holiday. You need to feed them interesting bits of information in the medium of food to keep them activated to keep them thriving so they can do all those wonderful things. So yeah, bored kids in summer holidays, give them loads of interesting things to… [00:20:10][68.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:20:10] That’s why I think it’s really important when I said about adding because I’ve seen so many patients who said, Yeah, I’m really not eating much at all. And then you hear what they’re eating, you’re like, Oh my goodness, that’s not only really dull but you’re just starving yourself actually. And they’re counting the calories and the calories, yeah might add up to whatever. But it’s not really about calories. It’s about the enjoyment. And actually, these people often feel hungry all day, so all they’re doing is thinking about food. It’s like once you say you’re on a diet, the only thing you think of is food. So I think we should be looking at food in a different way, isn’t it? [00:20:48][37.6]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:20:48] Yeah, I think like the calorie side of things is really interesting because we know that energy balance yes, is important. We know, yes that if you were to maintain a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. But what I’m thinking of is the consistency. And this isn’t just a plan for January to March. It’s a plan for life. And is calorie counting a good exercise for most people? I would say no, it doesn’t. Is it effective for weight loss, is it great for bodybuilders, is it great for people who have the need to do it, athletes, etc. Yeah, great. [00:21:23][34.6]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:21:24] That’s very different, isn’t it? [00:21:25][0.9]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:21:25] Very different for a real world sort of scenario for people who are just looking to feel better in themselves, improve their mental clarity, improve sort of other aspects of their life. It’s not all about calories. So that’s sort of like my 2 cents in calories. And I think I’m glad we’re talking about what you can add to food, because I have this sort of idea of like what are 60-second hacks that everyone can do to improve the nutrient density of their food. So one is, yes, adding nuts and seeds to each meal, chopping up some sort of dark, leafy green and adding that to either your breakfast, lunch or dinner. Good from the nitrate point of view, great from the anti-inflammatory point of view as well. Adding any sort of spice in addition to your spice. If you’re using fennel, use cumin. If you are adding cinnamon, add chilli. There’s a really interesting sort of spice wheel that you can just get a PDF of, just type in spice wheel, and it will give you pairings of different spices that you can use. So if you’ve got a recipe and it calls for oregano, look at the spice wheel and say, okay, what else can I add to that? Can I add a fennel seed, can I add a cumin to that? Can I add a sumac? You know, does that give me sort of like a reason to pick another spice bottle up from the supermarket? You’re always going to be adding some antioxidant to it, and it’s a really, really nice one. [00:22:42][77.1]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:22:42] I like that. Yeah. [00:22:42][0.7]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:22:43] And the other thing I would say in terms of additions is even if you’ve got a spag bol, like you’re saying, your daughter’s, you know, can you add lentils to it? Can you add pre-cooked chickpeas? Can you add some sort of legume to your diet that’s going to be increasing fibre? Because where there appears to be some sort of marketing hype around protein and ensuring that we are protein replete, which most of us are, I would say, we’re really fibre deficient. Because a lot of our diet is refined and a lot of the the husks around our rice, the wholeness nature of our grains has been polished down. And so actually we need to be thinking about where we can add fibre. So legumes, lentils, pulses is a great way to add not necessarily removing the meat if you don’t want to, but certainly adding it to it. Again, adding to your diversity score and adding to your plant points as well. [00:23:35][52.3]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:23:36] I think that’s really important, isn’t it? I think, it’s so easy just to strip things back and punish ourselves, which we really shouldn’t. But obviously we’ve got to talk about perimenopause and menopause. You can’t come onto a menopause podcast and not talk about that. But people find that their diets do change in the perimenopause and menopause. But some of it, I think, is an age related rather than a hormone related. So I’m a menopausal woman, obviously, and I take hormones, but actually I can’t eat the same as I ate when I was 20. That’s not because I’m menopausal. That’s just because my metabolism is different. And sometimes it’s really easy to sort of almost blame the menopause or there’s so many people that try and eat their way out of the menopause. And then I feel sorry for these people because how can you eat to replace a missing hormone? You can’t. But of course you can eat to feel better. And I think we have to be really clear that it is a different thing, isn’t it? So I think there have been studies showing that if you reduce spicy food, you can have less hot flushes. Now is hot flushes more important than spicy food. Do you know what I mean? That’s where it comes back to choice. Like I might say, do you know what, I want to have a flush because I want to eat this food. But actually, more importantly, why am I having a flush? What can I do about that? [00:24:59][83.8]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:25:00] Yeah. [00:25:00][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:25:01] But even more importantly than that, as a menopausal woman, regardless of my hormonal status, how am I going to try and eat the best for my metabolism? And is my metabolism different because I’m menopausal, or is it different because of my age, or is it different because I exercise differently? Like how do we know when you’re deciding what to eat? [00:25:19][18.2]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:25:19] Totally. Yeah. And it’s interesting because we were talking about this, because I asked you the same question about weight and stuff, and we were talking about how, you know, when you are menopausal, not to get too depressed about it, it’s your fat cells are going to be bloated and they’re going to increase them because of the oestrogen content of those, which is that low dose sort of oestrogen analog, which is why you get that middle aged spread. The testosterone level is going to be low so you’re going to potentially be at worse risk of sarcopenia, which is that breakdown of the muscle and a high amount of fat, both visceral and subcutaneous. And then you’re going to have cognitive issues, which means you’re going to be less motivated to go to the gym. So that could also lead to… so there’s all these other things. So like we were talking about, it’s taking a step back and just appreciating that your body is in a state of flux and it’s a different ballgame. That being said, last time we were on the pod together, I told you about the app and the health goals that we had and you were like, Do you have a menopausal health goal? And I was like, No, we don’t. But we’ve been working on it. We’re working on it a lot. So we did a deep dive into the dietary patterns that are associated with better menopausal health outcomes from a symptom point of view. And we also looked at particular ingredients as well, which I think are interesting, but not necessarily universal for everyone because there’s a study regarding prunes and it apparently improved vasomotor symptoms in 80 women. In an RCT [randomised controlled trial] that was done in Iran. And you know… [00:26:43][84.1]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:26:44] I saw that. [00:26:44][0.4]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:26:44] Yeah, it’s just, it’s prunes and it you know it’s got a lot of sugar, they’re usually dried. It’s not going to be for everyone. There’s only so much you can take from that. So when we look at the studies, we blend sort of the bigger ones. The biggest one I think is the most important, is the DII. So it’s the dietary inflammatory index, which again is another health goal, inflammation reducing. And the things that move the needle on the DII, which is this validated food score, are things that we’ve just been talking about. So spices, which have the highest antioxidant score as measured by something called the ORAC. Lentils and pulses and those colorful vegetables as well. So if you’re packing your diet full of those, you’re reducing your inflammation index. And that potentially is going to reflect better on typical symptoms of menopause, whether it’s vasomotor, whether it’s also osteoporosis as well. There are some really interesting studies looking at that. Generally, like I said, right at the start, it comes down to consistency because a lot of people, we were talking about this earlier weren’t we, about how, you know, for you it’s kind of like a blessing and a curse that you have migraines and it’s related to processed food. It means that on a Friday, you know… [00:27:55][70.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:27:56] I can’t slip up. [00:27:56][0.4]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:27:56] You can’t slip up. You can’t just order that takeaway pizza. You can’t just have a Maccy D’s or whatever. And you’ve got to be strict because there’s a stick, you know. A lot of people don’t have that. And, you know, I think it’s a good thing that people can indulge in junk food, but it really comes down to the consistency. Can you consistently, can you go for that 80/20? Or, like I say, 90/10, because if you aim for 90/10… You’ll probably get to 80/20. So that’s super important. What do all these diets really mean? It’s basically having a lot more fibre in our diets, mainly from things like legumes, pulses and those dark green leafy vegetables, having lots of different herbs and spices. Again, lowering those inflammation, the inflammation index and having a predominantly plant-based diet as well. Doesn’t mean that you need to be vegan or vegetarian, but the more plants in your diet, the better. There was also an interesting study looking at protein. We talked a bit about protein before. So there appears to be somewhat of a protective effect of plant-based proteins on menopausal symptoms, not so much animal-based proteins. There doesn’t appear to be any effect at all. And does that mean that we all need to start eating tofu or tempeh? Not necessarily, because not everyone likes tofu or tempeh, and it doesn’t necessarily meet… because nutritionally, as we were saying, it’s very, very complicated. There’s so many issues… [00:29:14][78.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:29:14] Course it is. [00:29:14][0.0]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:29:15] With the quality of the research, but certainly having more hemp seeds in your diet that’s a very good source of plant-based protein, having a lot more nuts and seeds, again, very good sources of plant-based protein. Raw cacao actually is one of my favourites, really high in a plant-based protein and is one of those that has all nonessential amino acids, which is quite rare for a plant-based protein. And I was going to say tempeh again, it’s actually one of my favourites. I think having tempeh in your diet is actually quite good. [00:29:42][27.2]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:29:43] And it’s interesting because you say about all of these will help reduce inflammation. So that is also showing it’s not just about symptoms because I think when we’re looking at menopause, it’s long term because it is, it’s associated with inflammation. So whether we take hormones or not, we want to reduce inflammation because we want to reduce disease. So it’s interesting that these foods that you’re talking about, so whether someone’s listening and they have one symptom or 21 symptoms or 51 or none, it’s irrelevant, actually, because it’s thinking about inflammation. [00:30:14][30.3]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:30:14] It’s a really good point. Yeah. And I’m glad you’re doing a deep dive into inflamm-ageing because I think that should become a lot more sort of wide, widely known because it is something that will affect everyone because, as you, as you grow older and sarcopenia being a big issue and very much related to that and, you know, just getting some sort of practical tips into people’s head, what does this look like? What does a DII friendly diet look like? What is a Mediterranean friendly diet look like? It can be as simple as like a sweet potato, lentil, feta and pomegranate diversity bowl. It can be a plant-based sort of take on a chicken masala with like airfried, and I’m a big fan of air frying, and I know I’m going to convince you because I know you’ve got an Aga. But like air-fred tempeh or air-fried tofu and adding that into the base of a rich sort of tomato sauce that’s got loads of those different spices in, you know, and adding spinach to that. It’s like the lunch that I made you earlier, the spinach and pea green sort of silky sauce that you can throw anything into it. We threw beans in it, lentils in it, and we added some halloumi that we just lightly fried. So getting really exploratative about your food and actually enjoying this phase of where you’re experimenting with all these different elements that we know reduce inflammation, improve your gut wellbeing and improve your likelihood of thriving into old age. [00:31:33][78.8]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:31:34] Which is so important. So before we finish, there’s always three- take home tips. [00:31:38][4.0]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:31:38] Okay. [00:31:38][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:31:39] So New Year, new you. Reduce inflammation, increase fibre. What are the three things not just for people who are menopausal, but for whole families? Because I strongly feel we shouldn’t be eating different things to others because we’re hormonal or menopausal or whatever. We should be converting everybody around us. So family, friends, whoever steps in our houses should be looking at our cupboards and fridges and learning. So what are the three things that you think we should all be proud of that we’ve changed this year? [00:32:09][29.8]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:32:10] I think, it’s not always food related in my mind, but I think everyone should master like one meal that they can sort of add on different sort of journeys to, you know, choose your own adventure sort of meals. So having a really solid base, it might be like your favorite meal, like a spag bol, and then adding twists to it with different vegetables, different types of legumes, different sort of other sort of flavour bases, different types of, you know, the actual pasta itself. There’s loads of really good sort of edamame-based pastas, for example, that I think are great. So I think mastering one meal and being proud of that and actually getting everyone involved in that. I think particularly if you have kids, I get asked this a lot, if a child, particularly in their formative years, doesn’t like a particular ingredient, don’t force it because that will introduce animosity towards that ingredient. And naturally, there’s a lot of evidence to show that kids will be averse to certain bitter flavours as a sort of evolutionary protective measure. So when you come back to it, when they’re older, they may have developed different taste buds that allow them to appreciate it better. I always hated mushrooms until I was a teenager and I started having mushrooms again and it was delicious. And luckily, my parents didn’t force mushrooms on me, so like when you’ve got kids, I’d always like, just be a little more gentle about it. And I would say, if you can go for that 90/10, go for 90/10, because you probably will get to 80/20. And I think that’s worth just harbouring again, because a lot of people feel that you have to be 100% strict. And if you do have a cheeky take out, or you do have that sort of can’t be arsed feeling, you know, at the end of the week, indulge, allow yourself to indulge without any guilt, particularly as it pertains to food, and then make yourself a contract, make yourself a pact to get back on it the following day. And, you know, it could be, you know, whatever meal you like, as long as it’s packing it with those high-fibre ingredients, lots of variety and hopefully getting some spice and herbs in there. [00:34:10][120.4]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:34:11] Great advice. Thank you ever so much. And thanks ever so much for your time and the loan of your studio. [00:34:17][5.3]

Dr Rupy Aujla: [00:34:17] My pleasure. I can’t wait to the next time. [00:34:19][1.6]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:34:19] Me too thanks. You can find out more about Newson Health Group by visiting and you can download the free balance app on the App Store or Google Play. [00:34:19][0.0]


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