Mediterranean Vegetable May Help Menopause Symptoms
If you are suffering from troubling symptoms due to menopause, you may want to consider eating more of this fresh vegetable that is popular in the Mediterranean part of the world and part of the Mediterranean diet.
Menopause is an inevitable part of a women’s life and it may come naturally as a part of aging or suddenly due to surgery. Symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeplessness, and irritability are all a common part of the transition – and they can negatively impair quality of life.
Doctors for many years have treated menopausal symptoms with medication, but more and more women are looking for alternatives to avoid some of the risks associated with therapies such as added hormones.
Past research from the Netherlands identified that a plant-based diet has many health benefits for women, including potential relief from menopause side effects. New research has found one particular vegetable to be particularly helpful.
Fennel is a crunchy and slightly sweet plant that is popular in Mediterranean cuisine. Found as a white or pale green bulb, it is rich in many nutrients, including vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and other minerals such as molybdenum and manganese.
As with most plants, it is also rich in phytonutrients, including flavonoids like rutin and quercitin.
Fennel also contains essential oils with phytoestrogenic properties. These are estrogen-like chemicals in plants that are effective in treating menopause symptoms.
In the past, people thought they should steer clear of phytoestrogens as they thought it contributed to cancer growth. But this is not true. In fact, phytoestrogens in plants can help reduce cancer risk as they block estrogen receptors and therefore actually reduce the amount of circulating estrogen in the body – a risk factor for cancers such as breast cancer.
The most recent study, conducted on a small Iranian population, is just the beginning of research into the positive health benefits of fennel on menopausal women. But the results are very promising. In this study, for example, there was a significant decrease in the most bothersome symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep problems, joint and muscular discomfort, irritability, and anxiety/depression.
Good, quality fennel will have bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting or bruising. Fresh fennel should have a fragrant aroma, smelling slightly of licorice or anise. Fennel is usually available from autumn through early spring.
All three parts of the fennel plant – the base, stalks and leaves – can be used in cooking. Some suggestions:
• Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish.
• Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.
• Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.
• Consider adding sliced fennel to sandwiches in place of onion, in addition to other traditional toppings like lettuce and tomato.
• Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.
• Fennel is wonderful when served with salmon
Fatemeh Rahimikian, Roja Rahimi, Parvin Golzareh, Reza Bekhradi, Abbas Mehran. Effect of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (fennel) on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. Menopause, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000881
Heather B. Patisaul and Wendy Jefferson. The pros and cons of phytoestrogens. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Oct; 31(4): 400-419
World’s Healthiest Foods
National Institute on Aging
By Susan Slater - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons