Journal / Menopause

What is really on your plate?

4 Jun, 2023

Why we all need to think about UPFs in menopause.

The noise surrounding the impact of Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs) is growing. This week, Ultra Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food…and Why Can’t We Stop?’ by Chris van Tulleken topped the non-fiction charts, sitting alongside Henry Dimbleby’s book Ravenous, which looks at the impact our modern diet has on both our health and the planet. And the invaluable work of Tim Spector, the Zoe Team at Kings College and his latest book, Food for Life.

4 Jun, 2023

The statistics make for a sobering read:

  • Both van Tulleken and Dimbleby highlight that the UK diet has more highly processed food in it than any other European country
  • Each year, more people die in America from illnesses caused by a poor diet than were killed fighting in every war in US history combined
  • Dimbleby points to research that shows ‘a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet is correlated with a 21% increase in depressive symptoms’

All reference the significant body of evidence that higher UPF intake leads to weight gain, stroke, heart attacks, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty livers, IB diseases, dementia and a shortened lifespan

The headline take out?
Checking fat, sugar and salt is an incredibly limiting method of assessing whether food is good for us. It’s the ingredients that are hidden in pretty much every prepared food that are doing us real harm. The processing itself. And yes, that includes the ‘handmade’ sandwich from Pret which contains multiple unpronounceable additives to keep the bread soft and chewy because ‘that is what our customers want’. They are also disrupt our ability to feel full - leading to us consuming more calories than we need, convert food into energy and even extract vitamins and minerals present. Our gut biome becomes damaged, our immunity is impacted, and inflammation - the root cause of so many of today’s diseases - increases.

Paying attention to UPFs is critical for everyone’s health. But the menopause makes re-evaluation even more urgent.

Dr. Martins highlights our propensity for inflammation as a result of hormone fluctuations and the unsettling of our metabolic rate as just two reasons to commit to cooking from scratch and selecting truly fresh food on the go. But, as individuals, most of us will have felt a shift in our relationship with food in midlife. Whether that be new food intolerances, increased bloating, reflux or weight gain and an overall shift in where we ‘store’ fat.

I am a researcher by trade. The facts speak for themselves. Through my reading and additional research, I got to the point where ‘not acting’ on the evidence felt like self-sabotage.

So, for the last 4 weeks I’ve tried to eliminate UPFs from my diet. I have to confess, I thought my diet was pretty good. After all, I’m surrounded by very persuasive nutritionists, naturopaths and herbalists! And, I have made a lot of changes to my diet as a result of my own pretty bumpy menopause journey. I supplement smartly (with MPowder of course!). I try and adhere to the principles of a PFF diet (protein, good fat and fibre on every plate). And I’m 99% plant based.

I was wrong. And this experiment has been far from easy. But here is what I’ve learned.

  1. Treat your kitchen as a lab for the first 5 days: Who knew how much time genuinely cooking from scratch takes?! More shocking was the fact that I genuinely thought I was pretty good at doing that already. But previously I’d shop-brought my hummus, my falafels…my granola…all ‘healthy foods’ until you really scrutinise back of the pack! Also - who knew how bad I am at actually making things that are edible for people who care about taste?! But the minute I removed the pressure to feed the household and reduced recipe quantities for a single plate, I was able to test a range of complicated and super swift recipes and work out what would be a viable weekly dinner choice.

  2. It’s impossible to find ‘fast’ from-scratch lunches - even in the ‘natural’ stores or the places that make the sandwich or salad in front of you (yes, I have become the person in front of you in the queue asking about the ingredients in their bread!). I have to confess that, like Chris van Tulleken, I thought Pret would be a good option. The only food I could purchase that didn’t include additives was the açai and nut butter bowl. And I probably did my health as much damage feeling bitter about the price! I also assumed that a ‘consume today’ message meant it was ‘from scratch’ too. Turns out, it absolutely doesn’t.

  3. After about 5 days I found myself feeling fuller, quicker, and wanting ‘less’.

  4. After about 10 days, I stopped craving my afternoon sugar fix.

  5. After about 15 days, I had a sip of fizzy sugar-free cola without thinking and could not believe how sweet it was. As a former 3-cans a day girl, I was shocked that I couldn’t stomach the taste.

  6. After about 25 days, I’m settling into a rhythm. And this feels almost sustainable.

  7. And I’m enjoying cooking a mix of daily dishes and weekly batches. My falafels still don’t hold together properly but they taste delicious.

Crucially my menopausal body is sleeping better, I have more energy to exercise and think. I’m learning to listen in more. Eating has become more intuitive - rather than feeling a sense of deprivation, I feel nourished. I’m instinctively eating the balanced plate I had to consciously think about before. Which means I’m benefiting my life and health span.

This trial has changed how I take my MPowder Meno-Boost too. Perhaps because I have to make time to prepare to eat…I also make time to consume it! That means, my morning foundation layer has become more of a ritual. I take my shake (3 tablespoons, 150 ml of almond milk…check the back of the carton of these ‘healthy options’ too! - they are far from equal) as a moment for 5 minutes of stillness. Open eyed meditation. A pause before the busy-ness of the day begins.

I am not great with ‘rules’. I know that this experiment is too restrictive to follow 100% of the time. But that is ok. Sustained incremental change is a multiplier. A single swap out - from cereal in the morning to a protein, fibre and healthy fat focused breakfast that may require 5 minutes…or a batch blitz of MPowder protein balls in your blender on Sunday to sustain you through the week..could give your body that additional boost it needs to keep you feeling balanced and vital.

Why not give it a try? And let me know how you get on.

With love, Rebekah & The MPowder Team

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