Although life north of forty and fifty plus has changed in a more positive way for us as women, many of us still struggle with the changes our bodies go through in the three stages of menopause. According to Johnson Memorial Health, the three stages are:
- Perimenopause– The earliest stage of menopause usually happens 3 to 5 years before full menopause occurs. During this time, estrogen, and progesterone levels drop.
- Menopause– The technical definition of menopause is not having your period for 12 months or more without having other health issues like illness, surgery, or pregnancy. At this time, the ovaries cease to make estrogen and progesterone.
- Post-menopause– When a full year has passed after your last period, you are officially in post-menopause. Over a period of years, your shifting hormones will settle into a more stable balance. Hot flashes and other menopause symptoms will likely reduce significantly.
Besides hot flashes, many women find themselves battling weight issues. For some women, hormone fluctuations make it harder to lose weight, and it can feel like you’ve lost control over your weight regardless of what you eat. There is always something shiny and new when it comes to the world of dieting and diet fads. At one time the grapefruit diet and cabbage diet were the rages. Then there was the Scarsdale diet that focused on protein and the villainization of carbohydrates, which resulted in weight loss but raised cholesterol levels and caused gout in some people. Here in the US, we have the proliferation of diet plans from Nutrisystem and Jennie Craig, diets where you buy the food you eat, and then there’s WW formerly known as Weight Watchers. WW uses a system of points for each food. Servings of food are assigned points based on four criteria: calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. Every Weight Watchers member gets assigned a daily and weekly point goal based on their height, weight, age, and gender. One of the latest entries for weight loss is Noom, which uses psychology to design a program to change eating habits. Members are coached virtually by psychologists whose goal is to help unlearn bad habits to form a healthy relationship with food. Dieting in America is a multi-billion dollar industry. Where it doesn’t seem to be a billion-dollar industry is in Europe.
People in countries like France, Italy, and Spain consume a lot of butter, pasta, cheese, and more, but they also have lower cases of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, just to name a few issues that are very common in the US. What is their secret? Well, there really is no secret. Europeans eat an abundance of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, bread, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. They also eat beef, lamb, game, and pork. What is most notable is the smaller portion sizes, and if they do snack, they don’t go for a bag of chips, choosing fresh bread, cheese, fruit, or nuts.
Since there’s so much going on in our lives, one of that the best ways to address this issue is to make a change gradually. Our bodies have been evolving since we were in utero, if we embrace this as something that happens incrementally, it can help with our health goals. We’ll share recipes that touch on facets of the Mediterranean diet (Italy, Spain, Greece), and the French diet full-fat cheese and yogurt, butter, bread, fresh fruits, and vegetables (often grilled or sautéed), small portions of meat (fish or chicken than red meat), wine, and dark chocolate.
Naturally, before beginning any lifestyle diet change, check with your doctor so the two of you can work together for a healthier you.
We begin with Baba Ganoush which is usually served as an appetizer. It’s a spread made chiefly of eggplant, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. There are a lot of variations of this eggplant spread. This recipe comes from the Mediterranean Dish Blog by Suzy, who has a number of wonderful recipes to try. The link to her site and social media platforms is below the recipe.
Baba Ganoush by Mediterranean Dish
2 pounds Italian eggplants (about 2 small-to-medium eggplants*)
2 medium cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more if necessary
¼ cup tahini
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the eggplant and garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
¾ teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of smoked paprika, for garnish
Serving suggestions: warmed or toasted pita wedges, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, etc.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the pan. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil. Place them in the prepared pan with the halved sides down.
Roast the eggplant until the interior is very tender throughout and the skin is collapsing, about 35 to 40 minutes (this might take longer if you are using 1 large eggplant). Set the eggplant aside to cool for a few minutes. Flip the eggplants over and scoop out the flesh with a large spoon, leaving the skin behind.
Place a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, then transfer the flesh to the strainer and discard the skins. Pick out any stray bits of eggplant skin and discard them. You want to remove as much moisture from the eggplant here as possible, so let the eggplant rest for a few minutes and shake/stir the eggplant to release some more moisture.
Discard all of the eggplant drippings, drain and wipe out the bowl, and dump the eggplant into the bowl. Add the garlic and lemon juice to the eggplant and stir vigorously with a fork until the eggplant breaks down. Add the tahini to the bowl and stir until it’s incorporated. While stirring, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue stirring until the mixture is pale and creamy, and use your fork to break up any particularly long strings of eggplant.
Stir in the parsley, salt, and cumin. Season to taste with more salt (I usually add another ¼ teaspoon) and more lemon juice, if you’d like a more tart flavor.
Transfer the baba ganoush to a serving bowl and lightly drizzle olive oil on top. Lastly, sprinkle parsley and smoked paprika on top. Serve.
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