Recipes for a Dreamy Restful sleep during Menopause and Perimenopause
Many women lately are coming to see us for relief from menopause and peri-menopause symptoms. These symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, dry mouth and throat, joint pain, and insomnia. Women experiencing these symptoms often have difficulty with sleep, frequently waking up at night and unable to go back to sleep. It can feel very frustrating experiencing these symptoms when we still have to work and we still have our responsibilities! We need restful sleep every night for our health and for us to function well.
If you are finding yourself waking up a lot at night, it could be b/c your blood sugar is low. Often, having a light meal before bed consisting of protein and resistant starch can be helpful to go to sleep and stay asleep through the night. Here are some simple recipes that are easy to put together that have both protein and resistant starch. I’ve also included some foods that are helpful to relieve symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes.
What is Resistant Starch (RS)?
Resistant starch is a type of starch that passes through your digestive tract unchanged. It is similar in function to soluble fiber. There are three types of resistant starch and they come with a lot of benefits.
The benefits of resistant starch include improving insulin sensitivity, balancing blood sugar levels, and reducing appetite by maintaining satiety. Resistant starch is also beneficial for women going through menopause, resistant starch is important b/c it feeds beneficial gut bacteria and contributing to a healthy gut microbiome.
There are a few types of resistant starch, but we will focus on the first three. Type 1 resistant starch is found in grains, seeds and legumes. Type 2 resistant starch is found in potatoes and green (unripe) bananas. Type 3 resistant starch includes potatoes, rice, and pasta when cooked and then allowed to cool overnight. The cooling process converts many of the digestible starches into resistant starches through a process called retrogration.
WHY IS RS important for SLEEP
If you are able to go to sleep but have difficulty staying asleep, often times this is due to a drop in blood sugar. This is closely related to our cortisol / melatonin cycles and circadian rhythms. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands while we are sleeping to maintain blood sugar levels while they drop. Cortisol is normally low while sleeping and high when first waking up in the morning. If your blood sugar levels are too low at night, your body may produce too much cortisol to bring your blood sugar levels back up. This may cause you to wake up early and frequently, often with anxiety and racing thoughts. High cortisol levels will also prevent you from being able to go back to sleep and have a restful nights sleep. Often, this is due to unstable blood sugar and cortisol levels while we are sleeping. Resistant starch keeps your blood sugar levels stable at night so that you don’t experience these sudden swings. RS will not help you go to sleep, but it will keep your blood sugar from dropping for 7-9 hours so you can sleep soundly throughout the night.
It’s important to note that many popular diets are lacking in RS. These include Paleo, Ketogenic Diet, and the Whole 30 diet. While these diets have benefits for other conditions, I wouldn’t recommend these diets for women going through menopause, especially those with the sleep patterns described. I would only recommend doing these diets under the care of a qualified health care practitioner.
WHY is PROTEIN important for Menopause?
Protein is important for human health, in general. But it is especially important for going through menopause b/c the drops in hormone levels can cause bone mineral loss and lean body mass. Protein is essential for all cellular functions, liver function, and tissue regeneration. To get optimal amounts of protein, we need b/w 35-65% of our body weight (in lbs) in grams. For example, if you are a 140 lb woman, you will need 50-90 grams of protein a day. If you are going through menopause, I recommend the higher end of this number (65%).
Protein also stabilizes our blood sugar without raising our insulin levels too sharply. Protein also provides essential amino acids to keep your liver fueled without spiking insulin levels, cortisol levels, or triglycerides. This will keep you asleep at night.
I like this product b/c it contains pea protein and pea starch, both excellent sources of plant based protein and resistant starch. I like pea protein b/c it is easy to incorporate, it is plant-based so it is a good source for vegans and vegetarians, it’s gluten free for those with allergies or sensitive GI tracts, it contains resistant starches, and it is more alkalizing than animal meats and doesn’t contribute to creating an acidic burden in the body.
If you don’t like to cook – a simple thing you can do is add some water, pea protein, and stir. This simple recipe an help mitigate menopause symptoms and insomnia.
Below are some recipes you can try if you are experiencing frequent waking, hot flashes or night sweats. If you find yourself waking up a lot at night, eat one serving of these recipes once a night before bed. One serving would be equivalent to about the size of a fist – that’s all. You don’t want to over-eat – just enough for a snack size is appropriate. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages within 3 hours of bedtime, and if your sleep doesn’t improve – avoid these altogether for at least one month.
You can also prepare these for dinner and have a small amount before bed.
It is best to prepare these recipes by dividing them into small quantities and keep them in the refrigerator as needed.
- Rosemary Boiled Potatoes with Turkey Slices
- Maca Smoothie with Black Sesame Seeds
- Cherry, Schisandra and Maca Smoothie
- Date, Licorice and Wheat Berry Porridge
Rosemary Boiled Potatoes with Turkey Slices
- 6-8 new potatoes
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Olive Oil or Butter – 1 tbsp
- Celtic Sea Salt
- Organic, Free Range Turkey Breast – 2 slices
- Rye sourdough bread – optional – 1 slice
Heat a pot of water until boiling and generously season with Celtic salt. Score the potatoes in the middle to make a small slice through just the skin of the potato around the entire potato (this will make them easier to peel). Place the potatoes into the pot of water and boil until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and add the butter or olive oil into the pot. Remove the peels from the potatoes, they should come off easily. Chop the rosemary until finely minced and combine with the potatoes. Season to taste.
Serve with two slices of organic, free range turkey breast on some warm, toasted rye bread
*Note – the longer the potatoes are left to sit in the refrigerator, the more resistant starch will build up. It might be helpful to make another recipe this and another recipe and serve this the following night.
If you have a gluten allergy, avoid rye bread. Avoid gluten free breads though b/c those can be depleting to our nutrients.
Maca Smoothie with Black Sesame Seeds
- Gelatinized Maca Powder – 2 tbsp
- Pea Protein – 2 scoops
- Pea Milk – 2 cups
- Black sesame seeds – soaked overnight – 2 tbsp
- Green Banana Flour – 1 tbsp OR 1 green (unripe) banana
- Raw Honey – optional – 1 tbsp
- Lavender flowers – optional – 1/2 tsp
Combine all into a blender and blend until smooth. Add raw honey to taste.
Cherry and Schisandra Berry Maca Smoothie with Green Banana Flour and Pea Protein
- Cherries – 1/2 cup – preferably tart cherries!
- Tart or sour cherry juice – 1 tbsp
- Schisandra berry powder – 1/2 tsp
- Gelatinized maca root – 2 tbsp
- Green Banana Flour – 1 tbsp OR 1 green (unripe) banana
- Pea Protein – 2 scoops
Combine all into a blender and blend until smooth.
Date, Licorice and Wheat Berry Porridge
- Dates – preferably red, jujube dates – 2
- Licorice powder – 1/2 tsp
- Wheat berries – 1 tbsp
- Oats – 1/2 cup
- Almond Butter – optional – 1 tbsp
- Pea protein powder – 2 scoops
- Gelatinized maca – optional – 1 tbsp
This is like having oatmeal before bed instead of in the morning. Think of it like sleepy oatmeal!
This concept may be difficult to get accustomed to, but try it!
Boil 1 cup of water and cook dates for 1 minute, then add oats. Cook gently over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until oats are cooked. Gently sprinkle in pea protein flour and maca, you can use a sifter or sieve and this will avoid clumps. Add wheat berries and mix until combined. Add licorice powder to taste, and add almond butter until dissolved. Serve warm!
*Note – if you have high blood pressure, substitute raw honey or maple syrup for licorice powder. If you have an allergy to gluten or if you have celiac disease – omit wheat berries and use gluten free oats with black sesame seeds.
More resistant starch recipes for restful sleep during menopause coming your way in our next newsletter!
Emily Edmonds, L.Ac.
Tao to Wellness