By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: May 26, 2010
Foods heal the body, relax the soul and may be the key to living a longer, happier, healthier life. Even better, you may not need to look any farther from your kitchen for a prescription for better health. Your refrigerator may hold the secret to aging gracefully and the antidote to chronic illnesses. By simply choosing to eat the right foods, common symptoms of menopause, aching bones, mood swings and even chronic diseases can be avoided.
It is a fact that diet and nutrition are related to chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer and diabetes). According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases account for every 7 to 10 deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans. By the year 2020, chronic diseases will account for almost three quarters of all deaths worldwide. At least 80% of all cardiovascular disease and type 2 Diabetes and over 40% of cancer can be avoided through a healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco use.1 So, what exactly should make it into your shopping cart and what should be avoided?
People on the Mediterranean diet seem to have a good grocery list. Their diets are rich in fruits, vegetables and fish while low in red meat, dairy products and alcohol. Italian researchers recently found that the Mediterranean Diet can protect people against cancer, heart disease and other major chronic illnesses.2 Results were based on 12 international studies, including 1.5 million peoples’ eating habits and health for 3-18 years. Those who stuck closest to the Mediterranean Diet actually had a 9% decrease in death from heart disease, a 13% reduction in incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and a 6% decrease in cancer. Maybe we all need to move close to the Mediterranean to be healthier! As much as we wish this were possible, it’s hardly practical. So why not transform your diet into a healthy one right at home?
I try to support our local community and economy as much as I can. One way I accomplish this is by purchasing local, sustainably grown and harvested foods. They are usually tastier and fresher than what I can find in the grocery store anyway. Besides, I love the idea of knowing where my food is coming from. I am always surprised to find a plethora of diverse fruits, vegetables and meats at our local farmer’s market, roadside stands and community food co-op. Try using the Local Harvest website to find the best organic foods grown closest to you.
According to nutrition expert of NBC’s Today Show and Food Cures author Joy Bauer, your decisions at the grocery store matter to your health. According to Bauer, it’s always better to receive nutrients in the body through foods rather than supplements. As a rule of thumb, lean towards lots of whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables and always avoid fatty foods and refined sugars. For avoiding bad cholesterol, a burst of fiber may do the trick. Try some oatmeal (plain, long-cooking and steel cut is the best). Help regulate your blood pressure by eating some sweet potatoes that are loaded with potassium. For a healthy heart, Bauer recommends wild salmon loaded with omega-3s because they help thin blood and lower triglycerides.3
Sardines and anchovies are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that have proven to be greatly beneficial for neural development in children and cardiovascular protection for people of all ages. In addition, Tropicana is actually starting to sneak them into their Healthy Heart orange juice. Orange juice and sardines, you ask? Actually, it works out well; you can’t taste the fish and you reap the nutritional benefits of both foods from a single product.
A new field of supernutrition is quickly bringing functional foods (ones that have been modified to make them more nutritious) to the dining room table. Well-known companies like Kraft, Dannon, General Mills, Wonder and more are starting to slip food additives into everyday products (i.e., green tea extracts in ginger ale, yogurt bacteria in salsa, etc.) to popularize the new health benefits of functional foods. These days, you can even choose a different type of orange juice for each ailment (i.e., one for acid reflux, one for weight loss, another for bone loss).4 And, I thought calcium-fortified orange juice and vitamin-D enriched milk were revolutionary!
For your next grocery list, remember bones need calcium. It’s recommended that menopausal women take 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day after the age of 50. Try nonfat yogurt because it has more calcium than milk. Skim milk is low fat and always fortified with vitamin D so it helps the body absorb calcium. My doc is increasing my vitamin D intake to 50,000 IU once a month because I am deficient and need to go in for a bone scan. This is not the normal protocol and the average person should not take this amount. However, just a simple blood test will show you if you need an extra vitamin D boost. Ask your doctor if you need one.
Bottom-line, a good diet at menopause is really no different than a good diet at any other point in your life. Varieties of foods are important to maintain good nutrient levels. Evaluating your diet and nutrition is part of maintaining and enhancing your physical and mental wellbeing as you age. Many women have found certain foods useful for battling their menopause symptoms. Adding two servings of soy per day to your diet may help fight your flashes. Phytoestrogens found in plants (i.e., soybeans) and many other fruits and veggies act like a weak estrogen that may ease the symptoms of menopause. Read more about soy and its benefits.
Sometimes knowing your enemies is half the battle. At menopause, our enemies are the foods that can aggravate our symptoms. Avoid alcohol, butter, coffee, salts, spices, refined sugars, saturated fats and trans fats. As you age, talk to your doctor about whether you need more than the minimum doses of certain vitamins and minerals. Get the most nutrition out of your calories. Staying active and exercising is part of the supernutrition challenge. Find your personal balance between food and physical activity and remember, one size does not fit all. mypyramid.gov is a good resource for calculating the amount of each food group you should be consuming daily.
So are you ready to write your Menopause Grocery List? Need some inspiration from other people’s grocery lists? Take a peek at The Grocery List Collection. They even created a pre-formatted grocery list that you can download, print out and mark up before you go to the grocery store. Happy shopping! Here is my list:
- "Solving the Chronic Diseaes Problem." 2005. World Health Organization. 15 Sep 2008
- Kahn, Michael. "Strict Mediterranean Diet Offers Big Health Boosts." 08/09/2008 15 Sep 2008
- Bauer, Joy. Food Cures. 1. New York: Rodale Books, 2007.
- Moskin, Julia. "Superfood or Monster From the Deep?." The New York Times 09/16/2008 17 Sep 2008