Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring hormones found in plant foods which can weakly mimic the female hormone, oestrogen. However, they only do this when the females own oestrogen levels fall due to the menopause. As well as possibly helping to reducing some menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, they may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Although much weaker than HRT, they are believed to not increase the risk of breast or endometrial cancer.
Currently there is much research being done on phytoestrogens and what’s coming out is not always clear cut! If you do want to give them a go, Phytoestrogens seem to work best coming from the diet rather than supplements and they may work more efficiently if eaten with a diet high in fish oils and seeds which contain the omega 3 fatty acids. So don’t forget to get some oily fish in your diet every week.
Phytoestrogens are found on many fruits, vegetables, seeds and beans, but are found in the highest concentrations in soya products, including tofu and soya milk, chick peas, linseeds and wheat bran.
Making sure you are the right weight for height can also minimise menopausal symptoms
During the menopause, the bone looses calcium at an accelerated rate, so anything that helps to alleviate this is important. As well as maintaining weight bearing exercise, the diet can play a big part. Calcium contributes about 1kg to the average woman’s body. As well as being vital in bone strength, it aids blood in clotting, helps the nerves transmit signals, prevents muscle cramps and skin problems, can help insomnia, depression and cognitive impairment. To provide the body with essential calcium, you should eat a wide range of calcium rich foods which include, milk, cheese and yogurts, fortified soya milk, beans, tofu, sardines, dried fruit, beans and some peas and seeds. In order to absorb calcium, you need to eat vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin found in oily fish, eggs and butter or margarine. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables has also been shown to protect the bones, and phytoestrogens may be protective too. To much salt and alcohol in the diet however are detrimental to bone health.
Increased risk of heart disease is also a result of the menopause. Certainly, as women age, they catch up with men in the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are several ways of decreasing the risk of heart disease and strokes:
It is important to watch the weight as you get older. It tends to be harder to lose weight as we age and easier to pile it on. Excess weight after the menopause can contribute to increased cholesterol levels and other harmful blood fats, raised blood pressure, and increased risk of several cancers, worsening joint problems and diabetes. Eating nutritious food and avoiding the junk will help.
Some oils are better for us than others because of their balance of essential fatty acids (the omega 3 oils and omega 6 oils) and because they have less saturated fat (see above). However all fats and oils, unless labelled reduces fat have the same number of calories which is roughly 900 calories per 100g or 45 calories per teaspoon! So it is important to try and keep total fat intake down when watching our weight as fats are so calorie dense, but the fats and oils we do choose should be the healthier variety. Also, don’t forget we need to be active- you will be able to enjoy the recipes in this book even more if you are good and hungry for your next meal!
However, we should not aim to be too thin: The body continues to produce some oestrogen after the menopause, but it is manufactured in the adipose (fat) tissue rather than in the ovaries. That is why it is not good to be too thin after the menopause as you miss out and producing some of our own natural oestrogen which may help to offset some of the menopausal symptoms. Being too thin is also another risk factor for osteoporosis.
All soya foods. Linseed
Watch spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol
Lose weight if overweight
Mood Swings, Anxiety & Irritability
Regular eating, try and include a starchy food with each meal
Foods high in magnesium such as brown rice, whole wheat, whole rye, beans, lentils and peas and green vegetables
Watch caffeine, sugary foods and alcohol
Avoid caffeine too late at night
Avoid eating a big meal late in the evening but try a bedtime snack which contains some milk or yogurt and something starchy such as natural yoghurt and a banana or a rye crispbread with cottage cheese or just some hot milk and a couple of low fat biscuits.
Replace the lost iron with an iron rich diet, such as red meat, green vegetables, beans and sardines
Soya products such as tofu or soya milk or linseed may help this as it replaces lost oestrogen
Calcium rich foods and foods rich in Vitamin D. Weight bearing exercise. Phytoestrogens rich foods may also help.
Phytoestrogen rich foods as night sweats are also due to lack of oestrogen.
Lose weight if overweight
An anti-oxidant rich diet containing plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and seeds.
All foods high in Vitamin E such as nuts, avocados, seeds and oily fish.
Essential fatty acids such as those found in vegetable oil, nuts and fish oils.
A diet containing plenty of oily fish.
If you drink a lot of alcohol, then make sure you have a diet rich in B vitamins, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese and wholegrain cereals.
Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, the oil found in oily fish (omega 3 fat) is believed to help alleviate joint pains.
Low oestrogen levels can bring on joint pains too, so foods rich in phytoestrogens
Lose weight to minimise strain on jpoints if overweight
Reduce the salt in the diet by not adding at the table, cooking with less and avoiding too many processed foods, especially cheaper ‘junky’ ones. Keep the kidneys working efficiently by drinking plenty of fluid, especially plain water.
Constipation and IBS
Eat plenty of soluble fibre which is derived from beans, other pulses, oats, fruit and vegetables.
Drink around 2 litres of fluid a day and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.
Try some foods enriched with probiotics.
Eat a wide variety of foods. This will ensure the body get a mixture of all the nutrients it needs. To maximise flavour and nutritional content, you should also try and eat food which has been made from really fresh ingredients- this will also negate the need to enhance the flavour with salt.
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and use ingredients based on wholegrains and foods which have not had their fibre rich outer layers removed. This ensures we get the maximum nutritional value from the food and the fibre too!
Eat a little starch with every meal, e.g. brown rice, pasta, wholegrain bread or breakfast cereals. The combination of a good quality starch regulates blood sugar effectively. Each main meal should also contain some protein and lots of vegetables or salad. A diet containing plenty of phytoestrogens may help to combat many menopausal symptoms.