Worst foods & drinks for menopause

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

20 January 2020

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about the seven worst foods and drinks for the menopause.

For the last two weeks, I've been talking about good food - foods that contain plenty of nutrients that will help to support our body as we go through the menopause.

The trouble is, there are those foods that do the complete opposite. These are ones that can trigger menopause symptoms, or make the symptoms that you have worse. So, what I thought I would do today is go through these.

You know, most of us know what's bad for us. But, with all the best intentions in the world, we are busy people and, very often, we tend to forget, we let things slide and, suddenly, our diet starts to deteriorate. And I'm as guilty as anybody in this. So, this is a good one for me to do some revision as well.

So, I thought I would look over these seven groups of foods and just remind you of them.

1. Sugar & sweeteners

So, number one is sugary foods and foods containing artificial sweeteners. The problem with these types of foods is they shoot your blood sugar levels up.

That makes you feel really hungry. You then eat more to try and calm everything down. And it can become a real vicious circle very, very quickly. The more sweet foods you eat, the more sweet foods that you end up craving.

They can also cause things like palpitations, headaches, irritability, panic attacks even. And they will also contribute to weight gain. This is something a lot of us fight during the menopause as well.

So, we're looking at foods such as, obviously, your biscuits and cakes, your chocolates, and your sweets. But sugar can be hidden in all sorts of foods, even things like tinned soup, or tinned vegetables.

When I'm out shopping, if I have time, I do like to read the ingredients list just to see what's in the food that I'm buying. And I was really surprised not long ago because I was looking for some cooked salmon, and when I read the list, there was sugar nearly at the top of the ingredients list. And I'm thinking, "Why on earth is there sugar in cooked salmon?".

So, really be aware of the sugar that's hidden in foods because, on a daily basis, that can add up to be quite a lot that you've added into your diet, unbeknownst to you.

Also, be aware of artificial sweeteners. I really would try and avoid them if you can. They can stress the liver anf they can cause problems with your blood sugar control as well.

So, these are ones where, I'd say, don't just cut down but try to avoid them as much as you can.

If you're looking for alternatives here, if you've got a little bit of a sweet tooth, then a couple of Medjool dates, they're absolutely fabulous. And the great thing is, because they're very nutritionally dense, they pack a big punch for such a little bit of food, then you really can't overeat with them.

A couple is usually enough because they're really nice and sweet.

Look at dark chocolate in moderation, just a little bit, if you need to. You can also look at natural sweeteners. There's loads down your local health food shops, so go and have a look. If you do a lot of cooking or baking, you can substitute these from ordinary sugar. Look at fruits as well, but just have those in moderation.

2. High-saturated fat

So, here we're looking at saturated fats. A lot of these in your diet will contribute to weight gain but could also make you more vulnerable to heart disease. And, unfortunately, because of low oestrogen, women going through and after the menopause are much more vulnerable to heart disease and heart attack, so this is something you really need to be careful of.

So, we're looking at high-fat meats. These tend to be your processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, pies, full-fat dairy products, and a lot of other processed foods that contain high fat.

For alternatives here, you'd be looking at lean meats, and I would cut down on dairy products if you like the high-fat variety. Otherwise, for things like milk, you can go with almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk.

3. Caffeine

This is practically the number one enemy of the menopause. It causes so many problems. Caffeine spikes your blood sugar and it stimulates your nervous system. So, caffeine can give you headaches, palpitations and panic attacks. It can also start this whole sweet craving process going all over again.
So, really try to cut this one down. I had one lady and all she did was cut out her after-dinner cup of coffee. And she found that her night sweats practically decreased completely.

So, for this one I would say, if you want to have coffee, have it before 12pm. Because, even that mid afternoon coffee can rev up your nervous system enough to still have an effect when you're wanting to go to bed.

Caffeine is also in other drinks, so it's not just coffee. It's your fizzy drinks, it's your energy drinks. It's in tea, and there's a little bit in chocolate as well.
So, you're looking at alternatives here, which would be things like your herb teas. We do a lovely coffee substitute called Bambu, which you can drink in exactly the same way as your cup of coffee.

You can also look at green teas. Now, they do contain a little bit of caffeine but not as much as your normal tea and coffee.

4. Salty foods

Believe it or not, high-salt foods can have exactly the same effect on you as high-sugar foods.

They can rev up your nervous system, and they can cause things like palpitations. They can cause your headaches, anxiety, panic attacks, your hot flushes and night sweats.

So, this is one to really try and cut down as much as you possibly can. The other thing is, if you eat a lot of salt, that's going to dehydrate you. And for those of you who've been with me for a long time, you'll know that dehydration is behind a whole raft of menopause symptoms, so really keep your salt intake down.
Foods that are high in salt, obviously, tend to be your processed foods, your processed meats, things like your bacon and your sausages. But again, like sugar, it can be hidden. I was really surprised to see that some of these boxed breakfast cereals are really quite high in salt as well as sugar.

So, again, if you're not sure if salt is in something, read the label. If it's near the top of the list, then you know the amount per serving is going to be quite high.
If you're looking for alternatives, we do a lovely low-salt seasoning. It's called Herbamare Low-Salt. You could just try putting less in food and using less salt when cooking. A lot of people put salt in dishes as they're cooking them, so maybe leave until the end, until you're serving, and then just put a little bit on as you're having your dinner to eat.

5. Spicy foods

Now, spicy foods, again, can rev your nervous system up. They can cause things like flushes and hot sweats. So, again, for those of you who are sensitive to these sorts of things, they're really just best avoided.

You can't really have a spicy food substitute here. So, it's learning the signals. If you go out and you have a spicy meal and you end up with a flush, or a sweat, or palpitations, then this is something you need to maybe avoid in the future.

6. Refined carbohydrates

These are things like your white-flour foods. So that would be white bread, your biscuits, your pastries, white rice, white spaghetti, and white pasta.

Also, it can be in things like your boxed breakfast cereals. And, honestly, boxed breakfast cereals are probably one of the worst foods that you can have for breakfast because the carbohydrates in them break down very quickly. They will spike your blood sugars and they tend to be high in sugar and salt. And, very often, you will find that you get hungry really, really quickly afterwards.

So, if you're looking for some kind of good cereal for breakfast in the morning, the best is porridge. Now, this is not the oats you get in packets that are full of sugars and flavourings, but this is proper porridge oats.

These can be really sustaining. And, if you cook them with something like almond milk and then sprinkle a little portion of nuts and seeds on the top, you've got a really super-combined breakfast that's going to keep your blood sugars stable and is going to last you a lot longer during the day.

For alternatives, you're looking at wholemeal foods. So, it's wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta. Obviously, still try and keep the cakes and biscuits, and things like that down as well.

7. Alcohol

It's amazing how many women tell me that, since they started going through the menopause, they can't tolerate alcohol.

Or they find that, even just after a couple of glasses, they end up with a tremendous headache or hangover the next day. And some people can feel really quite ill. Very often, it's due to the fact that your liver's stressed going through the menopause. And it literally just can't cope with any extra pressure that you're giving it from the alcohol.
It can also be due to the fact that alcohol can sometimes, depending on what you're drinking, affect blood sugar levels, too. So that can give you the flushes and the palpitations.

The problem here is there isn't really a substitute for alcohol. If you're going on a night out, low-alcohol drinks are really not worth it. They tend to be full of chemicals anyway.

Your fizzy drinks are going to have the caffeine and sugar or artificial sweeteners in them. And fruit juices are high in sugars. So, here, it can be a bit boring, but you could try carbonated mineral water with a little squeeze of lemon, or lime, or something like that, just to give it a nice little bit of taste here.

If you want alcohol, if you can cope with a little bit, then it's really important to try and have organic alcohol because, very often, it's not the alcohol itself that's causing the problem. A lot of the cheaper bottles of wine have lots of chemicals in them, and it's basically your body just reacting to these chemicals, rather than to the alcohol itself. That's something maybe worth trying if you want to see if you can tolerate organic alcohol.

So, those are the seven worst foods and drinks that can really affect us during the menopause.

Other troublesome foods

Just an added little section here. As I mentioned before, you can become much more sensitive to everything during the menopause, and some women find that they start to react to wheat and dairy products.

Wheat, especially, can bloat you. It can cause constipation, it can cause cramping and it can cause wind.

So, if you think that you're getting a bit more sensitive to these foods, keep a diary for a week or so. And look at the foods that you've eaten, whether they're wheat or dairy products, and just make a note of how you feel. And that might give you a clue as to whether this is something that you might have to look into just that little bit further.

What happens if you're in a situation where you can't avoid these foods and drinks?

My rule is, when I'm out, if I'm going out for a meal or going out with some friends, if you have to have something bad, make sure it's the best of the bad. So, if you're out for a meal, just have as many vegetables as you can and try to avoid the really fatty foods, if at all possible. Try, again, with the organic alcohol, if possible.

If you are looking for sweets, if you're looking for coffee, just remember that cocoa and coffee are probably two of the most sprayed crops on the planet. So, we don't know but the cheaper versions may be contaminated with some of these chemicals.

So, if you want a little cup of coffee or if you want some chocolate, again, go for organic. And then you know that at least you're not taking things that are quite as bad.

So, I hope this has given you a little reminder. As I said before, I have to watch everything I eat too because things can slide at the end of the day. So this is a good one for me too to go over just for myself.

If any of you out there have any tips or any advice on any of these food groups, then we would love to hear from you.

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