As part of a balanced diet, these are the food groups that work hardest to preserve healthy skin and bones, boost immunity and fight disease. Eat them raw in summer salads or lightly steamed to get the maximum power from your nutrients and lose weight too.
- These adaptogenic plant foods have balancing effect on hormones and reduce low oestrogen symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats during menopause. They can also can reduce the risk of breast cancer linked to excess oestrogen.
Sources: Fruit, vegetables, pulses, beans, grains, seeds, and some herbs & spices, like cinnamon, sage, red clover, fennel and parsley.
Star foods: Soya isoflavones lower cholesterol, protect against cancer and improve bone density. An excellent source of protein, eat soya as tofu (beancurd) or use soy milk instead of dairy which causes mucus build-up.
- Essential fatty acids. Omega 3 and 6 – the ‘good oils’ – balance hormones, insulate nerves, keep skin and arteries supple and help maintain body temperature. They also boost metabolism and aid weight maintenance.
Sources: Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in Omega 3. Nuts and seeds contain linoleic and alpha linolenic acids essential for healthy reproductive organs as well as hair, nails and skin.
Star foods: Anchovies are rich in Omega 3, plus nucleic acids RNA and DNA which keep cells healthy and may help prevent premature ageing. Linseed is an excellent source of both Omega 3 and 6 – sprinkle it on salads
- Vitamins and flavonoids that protect against oxidation – the free radical damage that degrades cells, and hastens ageing and degenerative illness, including cancer.
Sources: Fruit and vegetables, especially if they’re dark green, yellow red or orange. These colourful foods contain carotenoids, vitamin A precursors and powerful antioxidants which help keep eyes sharp and skin smooth and UV-resistant.
Star foods: Broccoli is high in vitamins C and A, plus sulphoraphane, which boosts anti-cancer and anti-ageing enzymes. Tomatoes are rich in highly potent lycopene which lowers the risk of heart disease. Grapes (especially black) contain at least 20 known antioxidants including oligomeric proanthocyanadin complexes (OPCs) which keep skin firm by promoting smooth collagen.
- Complex carbohydrates: Boost and maintain energy and serotonin levels – the mood-boosting hormone that also helps curb excessive appetite. Balance blood sugar, reduce stress and depression.
Sources: Wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, beans and pulses.
Star foods: Rye is more easily tolerated than wheat, too much of which can cause constipation and an irritable bowel.
- Fibre: Reduces bloating, wind, prevents colon cancer, lowers cholesterol, neutralises toxins and balances hormones.
Sources: Soluble fibre from oats, beans, rice and fruit. But avoid bran – it inhibits mineral absorption.
Star foods: Oats are very high in beta glucan, a ‘healthy heart’ soluble fibre that reduces cholesterol absorption and helps balance blood sugars. Banana – a great detox fruit rich in potassium, they balance sodium levels, reduce fluid retention and chelate and shift toxins.
- Fluids: Water carries nutrients to cells and maintains body temperature – v. important for hot flushes. Drink 6-8 glasses fluid daily inc water, tea and coffee.
Other sources: Fruit smoothies – try antioxidant redfruits like strawberry; infection-fighting vitamin C-rich cider vinegar (dilute with hot water and sweetend with honey); anti-viral cranberry juice which prevents and eases blader infections. Green tea (the longevity drink) is rich in polyphenols, quercetin and catechins – powerful antioxidants thought to help guard against heart disease and cancer.
- Refined carbohydrates cause blood sugar yo-yos. Plunging blood sugar triggers adrenalin release – irritability, weepiness, sweating, depression, tiredness, concentration and memory glitches are symptoms. Avoid cakes, processed foods, fizzy drinks and chocolates.
- Animal fats are linked to heart disease and stroke. Too much meat also means protein overload, which leaches calcium from bones and causes kidney stones.
- Stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine can all increase hot flushes by dilating blood vessels. Avoid spicy foods like curries, too.
- Sodium encourages blood pressure and water retention and is linked to cellulite formation. If you can’t do without it, sea salt has less chemicals.
Yo sushi! It’s the world’s healthiest fast food – a perfectly balanced, low-fat, bite-sized diet. As well as an exquisite feast for the eyes, traditional ingredients of Japanese cuisine are renowned for their healthy benefits. (Until the western diet arrived in Japan, heart disease and menopausal symptoms were virtually unknown!). Seaweed, rich in calcium, iron and iodine strengthens thyroid function and detoxes the system. Sesame oil and seeds and oily fish like salmon supply essential fatty acids, crisp, raw veg supply antioxidants and fibre, shiitake mushroom cleanses, boosts immunity and lowers cholesterol. Rice provides fibre and soya is rich in plant oestrogens.