For the next 20 years, an estimated 40 million North American baby boomer women will experience the joys of menopause–hot flashes, dry vagina, cystitis, heavy bleeding, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, depression, migraines, indigestion and memory lapses.
This cessation of the menses also means that estrogen and progesterone levels nosedive and heart disease, uterine cancer and bone loss rise. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) hinders these, but it also increases breast cancer risk.
Soy has been shown to reduce hot flashes, women’s heart disease, breast cancer risk and oxidation. Fermented soy products include soy sauce, tamari sauce, tempeh and miso soup. Cook tempeh (mashed soybeans) in sauces or combine with a fresh salad. Miso paste, often including barley or brown rice, comes packaged in an airtight plastic bag. Use miso as a soup base and add vegetables, seaweed and shiitake mushrooms. Tofu, or soybean curd, possesses high protein and low fat. Make tofu into a quiche, spread on bread, use in vegetable dips. Mixed with onion, curry, tahini and tamari sauce, tofu makes a delicious stir-fry. Tofu absorbs the flavors of its cooking companions.
Grains, Legumes, Fibre
Fibre, the indigestible plant part containing complex carbohydrates, has two forms: insoluble and soluble. Grain fibres such as rye, oats, millet, barley, buckwheat and flax seed also contain phytoestrogens and lignans, which lower the risk of breast cancer. A study of fermented soy also showed that fermented fava bean flour and oat flour (the highest) have antioxidant properties.
Insoluble fibre increases transit time through the gut, decreasing constipation and other bowel problems. Wheat or rice bran, kamut, spelt, psyllium and guar gum are good sources. Sprinkle oat bran on your fruit or cook oatmeal for breakfast.
Other legumes include lentils, which require no presoaking. Cook lentil stew with onions, thyme, black pepper, dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli and water for 45 minutes on the stove-top.
Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
Cruciferous vegetables such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, turnips and cabbage act against breast, lung and colon cancers. Chopping or chewing these vegetables releases the sulphur-containing glucosinates responsible.
Cruciferous and green leafy vegetables are a rich calcium source, and calcium is a factor in both osteoporosis and breast cancer.
Garlic, an allium family member, also contains sulphur compounds. Eat garlic cloves uncrushed, as crushing them releases sulphur compounds into the air instead of your body. Several population studies show that garlic lowers cancer occurrence.
Another allium, the onion, particularly the yellow and red varieties, contains quercetin, an anti-cancer flavonoid. A study showed onion extracts killed tumor cells in test tubes and stopped tumor growth in rats. Other quercetin sources include squash, broccoli and red grapes.
Onions and garlic also lower cholesterol and blood pressure (systolic pressure by 20 to 30 points and diastolic pressure by 10 to 20). A 1979 study of three vegetarian populations in India showed that those eating the most allium vegetables had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges, which contain flavonoids, vitamin C, gluthathione, folic acid and monoterpenes, halt cancer cells’ invasion and growth. Daily cranberry juice defeats cystitis.
Vegetables and fruits contain other antioxidants, beta-carotene (carrots, apricots, squash, leafy greens and cabbage) and vitamin E (cabbage, kale, leafy greens, asparagus and watercress), and diets high in vitamin E protect against heart attacks. Women with rheumatoid arthritis are low in vitamins E, C and beta-carotene.
These nutrients are more volatile in fresh vegetables and fruits–try snacking on broccoli flowerets or make a vegetable tray. Have a fresh grapefruit for breakfast and an orange for lunch. Eat five to nine servings of vegetables daily.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy heart. Research shows coronary death rate rare among Greenland Inuit who eat fish rich in omega-3. A 1990 Italian study of women ages 22 to 69 showed a lower rate of heart attacks when fish was consumed frequently.
Oily fish include mackerel, salmon, trout and sardines. If the smell offends, spice up your baked fish with dill. Or snack on walnuts and sprinkle flax seed on your vegetables.
Bits and Bites
Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts and sesame seeds, fight cancer by blocking protease enzymes. Protease moves tumor cells throughout the blood stream. Research shows that the protease inhibitors of nuts and seeds reduce breast cancer occurrence and tumor size.
Tahini spread (from sesame seed oil) mixed with tamari sauce, chopped onion, basil, garlic and water, makes a delicious sauce for a vegetable casserole. Cooking with sesame oil at a low heat halts cancer because frying sesame oil produces sesamol, a powerful antioxidant.
Oatstraw and sage, both rich in calcium, reduce anxiety and insomnia. Hawthorne slows heart palpitation. Studies show the phytochemical catechin in green tea lowers cancer and heart disease rate.