Designing Your Diet to Best Nourish Your Post-Menopausal Self

As mature women, our nutritional needs vary slightly from those of our children or male family members. These differences are exaggerated at the point of menopause. We start to notice our caloric needs drop as our metabolism slows, but the types and amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients we get from our food become even more valuable to protect our health against common ailments as we age.

The following recipe has been designed specifically to nourish the post-menopausal body. It is a healthful, comforting meal for the whole family to enjoy, but contains many of the nutrients that a woman’s body needs, craves, and thrives upon after menopause.

Beef and Broccoli over Brown Rice: A Comforting Recipe for Good Health

Beef and broccoli is a classic, approachable stir-fry meal with an Asian twist. But, rather than following in the footsteps of take-out with high fructose corn syrup and highly-processed peanut oil, this recipe is sweetened with only coconut aminos and fried in extra-virgin olive oil, a much healthier fat. All of the ingredients are fresh, diet friendly, and can be easily substituted to protect your allergies, intolerances, or aversions.

What Makes This Meal Good For Post Menopausal Health?

Let’s start from the bottom of the bowl. By pairing this stir fry with brown rice instead of white, you will be replacing a simple carbohydrate with a whole grain that is high in fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Brown rice is generally considered better for your health than white rice because brown rice still has the nutrient-rich germ and fiber-packed bran left intact. Whole grains like brown rice have been linked to improved heart health, as they help to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol balance [1]. Brown rice is also a source of antioxidants, which fight and repair cellular damage caused by toxins and aging [1]. If you are cooking while undergoing a Restorative Cleanse™, or following a paleo diet, brown rice can be replaced with riced cauliflower as an alternative bed for the stirfry.  

Beef sometimes gets a bad rap because of the saturated fat it contains. However, if you select a lean cut (preferably grass-fed and organic), beef can be a highly nutritious choice of protein. High-quality protein is incredibly important as we age. Many older adults suffer from age-related muscle wasting due to a lack of protein in their diet, and a condition called sarcopenia [2]. Beef contains more iron than other animal proteins, and iron is a mineral that is also often lacking in the diet of older adults. Better still, the iron found in beef is mostly heme iron, which is very efficiently absorbed after consumption [3]. Beef also contains zinc and several B vitamins, which are necessary for a number of functions related to the heart, brain, blood, nervous system, and energy metabolism [4].

If you are vegetarian or averse to beef, try substituting beef with extra firm tofu. Tofu is also a source of high-quality protein for the protection of your muscles. There may also be a hormonal benefit to eating a high soy diet after menopause. Soy naturally contains relatively high levels of estrogen-like chemicals called phytoestrogens. Some researchers suggest that soy phytoestrogens may contribute to easing menopausal symptoms [5].

Broccoli is an underrated superfood. Not only does it also contain an unusually high amount of protein for a non-starchy vegetable, but it is also high in fiber, very high in vitamin C, and contains potassium, vitamin B-6, and vitamin A [6]. Broccoli is also full of phytochemicals and antioxidants, which are especially relevant to our health as we age. Phytochemicals in broccoli are good for the immune system [6]. They include glucobrassicin; carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin and beta-carotene; and kaempferol, a flavonoid. Zeaxanthin, specifically, is one of the carotenoids that accumulate in the eye lens and macular region of the retina. Consuming sufficient levels of this nutrient is associated with reduced cataract development and reduced age-related macular degeneration [7]. Vitamin A (beta-carotene) is yet another member of the carotenoids that is converted to retinol, an essential nutrient for vision. It is also a strong antioxidant.

Antioxidants are our defenders against oxidative stress and its byproduct, free radicals, which are responsible for a lot of cellular damage that can lead to disease and age-related maladies. Some of this is natural as we age, but the damage is made worse by things like acute stress, environmental toxins, and unhealthful lifestyle choices. Adding more antioxidant-containing foods and supplements to our diet can help fight, prevent, and even reverse some of this oxidative damage [8].

When it comes to cooking your vegetables, it is true that the technique can affect the nutritional value of what you ingest. Although maximum nutrition usually comes from raw vegetables, some varieties, like broccoli, are difficult to digest, causing bloating and uncomfortable gas. Boiling broccoli has been shown to remove a significant portion of the nutritional benefits, however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying will all lead to an easier-to-digest food than raw broccoli, without significantly diminishing its nutritional benefit [6].

Hopefully, the information above makes clear why and how the main ingredients in the dish will benefit you as a mature woman. Obviously, the benefits described will apply to anyone, but many nutrients are of special importance to the post-menopausal body. Below are the ingredients and directions for the preparation of the dish.

Ingredients and Preparation (serves 3-4)

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 1lb. lean steak (such as sirloin) thinly sliced
  • 1lb. broccoli cut into florets
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch (replace with arrowroot if cleansing or paleo)
  • ⅓ cup coconut aminos
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger root
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (or as desired)
  • 1/4–1/2 cup water, as needed
  • olive oil for cooking

Start by making a marinade for the beef that will double as your sauce. Mince or grate ginger and garlic, put them in a medium-sized bowl, and whisk in apple cider vinegar and coconut aminos. Vinegar will give your sauce a lovely tang, while the coconut aminos provide a light sweetness and a salty, savory, soy sauce-like flavor without gluten (or soy if you are cleansing or soy-free). Let the bite-size strips of beef marinate in the sauce for 15-60 mins before cooking.

While the beef rests in the marinade, prepare your brown rice. Bring 2 ¼ cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and set a timer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes you will turn off the heat, but leave the pot covered for another 15 before fluffing with a fork. It’s a great idea to start the stir fry when you have turned off the heat, so you know the rice will be ready to fluff in 15 minutes, right as the beef and broccoli are also finishing.

When you remove beef strips from the marinade, put them on a plate or small bowl, but reserve the marinade. Sprinkle the beef strips with cornstarch and toss with your fingers until evenly coated. Whisk ¼ cup water into the marinade.

Bring about 2 Tbsp of olive oil to medium-high heat in a large pan or wok. Add broccoli florets, toss them around the pan until they are evenly oiled and stir occasionally until broccoli has turned bright green on all sides (about 5 minutes). Remove broccoli from the pan with a slotted spoon and put to the side for later.

Put the beef into the hot pan and stir until lightly browned on all sides (about 3 minutes). Pour in the marinade with water added. Stir for about a minute. Your sauce should start to bubble and thicken. If the sauce looks too thick, gently add more water until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. Add back the cooked broccoli florets and stir, reheating broccoli and coating it in the sauce for another minute or so. Add sesame seeds, stir to evenly distribute, and turn off the heat.

Serve warm over fluffed brown rice. Option to sprinkle with more sesame seeds.