Dr Hazel Wallace’s recipes for women

At last, a way to eat designed specifically for women. These recipes and tips by nutritionist Dr Hazel Wallace focus on what we need to live well – at any age.

Dr Hazel Wallace
Olivia Beasley

As the founder of The Food Medic blog, website and podcast, nutrition will always be my biggest passion. And for the past three years I’ve dedicated most of my time to researching how diet helps women live healthier, happier lives.

There is little research on the specific dietary needs of women beyond the usual calorie requirements, what foods to avoid when pregnant or breastfeeding and which nutrients support fertility – but we have needs that go way beyond this.

Across the menstrual cycle, for example, we have different calorie and nutrient needs due to fluctuations in sex hormones. We burn up to 300 calories more in the second half of our cycle after ovulation, when progesterone and oestrogen are high. We often see a natural increase in food intake at this stage, and cravings for foods high in carbohydrate and fat are common.

I don’t sign up to the notion of using food as medicine. Instead, I want to reframe food as fuel. The recipes here are rich in protein, iron or fibre – or a combination of all three. These, along with my guidelines (below), will ensure that you can function at your best at every stage of life…

How to eat to beat PMS symptoms

  • Limit caffeine and salt to reduce bloating and water retention.
  • Increase magnesium by eating foods such as nuts, spinach and whole grains.
  • Eat more non-haem (plant-based) iron, found in beans, pulses, soya products, nuts and seeds, as well as omega-rich foods such as oily fish, flaxseed and walnuts.
  • Opt for complex carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables) over foods high in sugar (cakes, sweets, chocolate), to support mood and energy levels and reduce cravings.
  • Up your intake of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Get the right B vitamins, especially B1 (thiamine – found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, peas, pork and liver) and B2 (riboflavin – found in dairy, eggs, mushrooms, meat, seafood). These have been linked to lower rates of PMS.

Support your body through menopause

Think about heart health. After menopause, blood vessels become stiffer and narrower, increasing the risk of heart disease. Here’s how you can help with heart health and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke…

  • Swap foods high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids (butter, coconut oil, pastries, fried food) for foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds).
  • Reduce red meat intake and include at least one portion of oily fish per week.
  • Aim for three or more 30g servings a day of whole grains (wholemeal bread, cereals, oats, barley, brown rice, spelt and rye).
  • Eat more fibre (fruit and vegetables, pulses, grains and cereals, nuts, seeds) and beta glucan, found in oats and barley.
  • Add soya-based foods (tofu, edamame beans, soya-based milk/yogurt), which can reduce blood cholesterol by three to four per cent.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than two to three units a day.
  • Watch your salt intake, by not adding salt to meals, checking food labels (low salt equals less than 0.3g of salt per 100g).

Make bone health a priority. Women are at increased risk of osteoporosis after the menopause when levels of oestrogen decline. There are a number of key nutrients that work together for strong and healthy bones – in particular calcium, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K. Sufficient calories are necessary for maintaining and building healthy bones, as inadequate calorie intake often goes hand in hand with lower intakes of key nutrients such as calcium. This is important for women at all stages of life.

  • Increase your calcium intake to 1,000mg a day. Find it in dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), plant-based milk alternatives, calcium-fortified cereals, tinned fish with bones and orange juice, nuts and seeds, tofu and kale.
  • Eat a source of protein at each meal (greek yogurt, cottage cheese, edamame beans, nuts).
  • Good sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables (chard, kale, spinach), broccoli and soya beans.
  • Find magnesium in nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia), spinach, soya beans, black beans, potatoes, whole grains and dark chocolate.
  • Phosphorus is found in a variety of sources, such as dairy, meat and poultry, fish, nuts, beans and whole grains.
  • Sources of potassium include bananas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, nuts and seeds, pulses, fish and shellfish, and meat and poultry.

Help tackle hot flushes

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, which can make the severity of a flush worse in some women (they are also known to disrupt sleep, which is another problem many women going through menopause suffer with).
  • Add phytoestrogens (oestrogen-like compounds that are found in many plants) to your diet. Foods that naturally contain them include soya beans and soya-based products, chickpeas, peanuts, flaxseeds, barley, grapes, berries, plums and green and black tea. These could be sufficient to help relieve mild menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flushes.

For nutritional advice and much more, visit thefoodmedic.co.uk.

The recipes

Crispy cod tacos

This is one of my go-to dinner-party dishes because everyone can build their own tacos and add their favourite fillings. For veggies or vegans you could use tofu or cauliflower, and for a meat option chicken works really well too.

crispy cod tacos
Lizzie Mayson

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Mushroom, tomato, kidney bean & feta-stuffed peppers

This looks impressive but it’s incredibly easy and versatile. While this combo works a treat, feel free to make this dish your own; the kidney beans can be swapped for another bean or chickpeas, or change the feta for halloumi cubes or vegan cheese.

stuffed peppers
Lizzie Mayson

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Egg, potato & cashew pesto salad

This is quite a balanced meal, with protein from the egg, healthy fats from the pesto dressing and complex carbohydrates from the potatoes. If asparagus is not in season or unavailable when you’re making this dish, courgettes, peas or green beans would be fab too.

egg, potato & cashew pesto salad
Lizzie Mayson

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Chicken biryani

Comforting and bursting with aromatic spices, try this easy biryani for a weekday meal that’s ready in no time.

chicken biryani
Lizzie Mayson

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Miso-glazed aubergine with broccoli & yogurt

This recipe will convert people who have yet to find a love of aubergine – trust me. The sticky and sweet miso topping and the yogurt combo is like dinner and dessert wrapped up in one.

miso-glazed aubergine
Lizzie Mayson

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Sheet pancakes

These are pancakes but not as you’ve known them. Perfect when cooking for a crowd or for mornings when you need a pancake fix but don’t want all the hands-on time. Divide them up and serve straight away or pack into lunchboxes for a special breakfast on the go.

sheet pancakes
Lizzie Mayson

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Now buy the book

the female factor
The Female Factor
by Dr Hazel Wallace will be published by Yellow kite on 7 July, priced £22. to pre-order a copy for £18.70 until 16 July go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.