Can't live with them, can't live without them - we're talking about hormones! These natural chemicals rule our lives, making us feel sexy one day and frazzled the next... Thankfully, Woman's Own diet guru Monica Grenfell is here with her top 6 wonder foods to calm things down.
Each month your hormones change to trigger your period, which can lead to a vicious cycle of blood sugar highs and lows. If left unchecked, it can lead to sleepless nights, heart palpitations and exhaustion.
1. You crave sugar, so you grab something sweet or starchy.
2. Your body releases insulin to store the sugar. But about two hours later your body has stored so much sugar that there is not enough left in the blood, and you begin to feel weak.
3. The body responds to this low-blood-sugar emergency by dumping adrenaline into the system and you eat more sugary foods for energy. And the whole cycle starts again.
Wonder food- Red grapes & red grape juice
When the cravings hit, reach for red grapes or a glass of red grape juice instead of the chocolate biscuits. Your body needs chromium to correct the hormone balance and red grapes and grape juice have the highest concentration.
Take 250ml at 3-hour intervals and snack on red grapes
It can happen in our 40s, often in our 50s, the menopause can bring on some nasty symptoms - headaches, joint pain and the most common being bloating.
1. You crave salty, spicy foods.
2. The extra salt makes your body hold extra water in the tissues - giving you water retention.
3. Now you feel fat, and more likely to indulge in comfort eating more salty foods, making the bloating and water retention worse.
Wonder food - Bananas
If your waistband feels tight, have for a banana. Bananas are a great source of potassium, which balances salt in the body and acts as a diuretic. Avoid food high in salt such as cheese, ham, bacon, bread and tinned soups and stick with fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry and fish.
Mashed banana with honey on crispbread is also a good light lunch and try a banana with plain yoghurt as a dessert.
Heavy, painful periods
1. During your period your uterus has to contract, which is triggered by the hormone prostaglandin.
2. If your body releases too much prostaglandin, it results in a heavy period, breast tenderness and cramping - the pain can be severe - leaving you physically and emotionally wrung out.
Wonder food - Milk & yogurt
A soothing glass of milk or pot of plain yogurt could ease the pain and anxiety. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E - found in milk and yoghurt - have all been shown to help relieve period pain. Also include wholemeal bread, grains and plenty of leafy vegetables in your diet to up your B vitamins - also good for cramps.
Every two hours as a hot drink with honey or 3 pots of plain yogurt per day while symptoms last.
We all know lots of stress is bad news, but does a stressful day also have you constantly snacking? It's because stress triggers the hormone Cortisol, and that plays mayhem with your appetite and can lead to diabetes.
1. Physical and mental stress makes your body release Cortisol - needed to allow the body's 'fight or flight' response to emergency situations.
2. Cortisol works with the brain to make us crave sugary and high-fat foods.
3. High levels of Cortisol cause fat stores to be deposited deep in the abdominal cavity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Wonder food- Oily fish
Make oily fish your lunchtime fave on stressful days. It's excellent for dampening appetite and keeping hunger pangs at bay. The omega 6 oils satisfy the brain's 'full' response and are calming too.
Eat 100g twice a day, either as a salad or poached with Mediterranean vegetables.
The dreaded sweats - often the first symptom of the menopause, they strike at the most inconvenient moments... But we just have to put up with them, right? Wrong!
2. Caused by the natural loss of the hormone oestrogen in your body that comes with menopause, they can be embarrassing as well as extremely uncomfortable.
3. The fear of hot flushes can start to affect
your confidence and mood and some women find them so distressing their
lives become restricted.
Wonder food - Yam & sweet potato
Swap your usual spuds for yams and sweet potatoes. They contain
oestrogen-like substances that will help redress your hormone imbalance
naturally. Many women also love soya as it does the same job. Caffeine
is known to trigger hot flushes so try to cut down on tea and coffee.
100g mashed sweet potato with your evening meal. You can also include 400ml bowls of sweet potato and butternut squash fresh soups (most
supermarkets do these) for lunch a couple of times a week.
Monthly mood swings
We're talking about the monthly blues that many women get just before their period. While it's all part of the 'time of the month', it can lead to tiredness, overeating, bad skin and weight gain. The good news is, you can stop it.
1 Levels of oestrogen drop naturally to spark a period - which also happens after a baby and during menopause.
2. It can cause a drop in the 'happy hormone' brain chemical Serotonin causing depression and sleeplessness.
3. A side effect is often over-eating of the wrong foods, leading to weight gain, poor skin and lacklustre hair, which only makes you feel worse.
Wonder food - Chicken breast
Feel like chicken tonight! Roast, stir-fry or in a salad,
the chicken breast is your friend. It contains an amino acid called
tryptophan that raises levels of Serotonin and regulates mood, helps you
to sleep and relieves anxiety. Other foods that will help (in order of
effectiveness) include yellow fin tuna, soya beans, milk, beef, lamb and shellfish.
Eat 168g/6oz chicken daily, possibly twice a day as a wholemeal sandwich, roast with vegetables or as a stir-fry.