Let's Eat

Eat Israeli for happier hormones

The Mediterranean-style diet can help smooth out symptoms of perimenopause


When you think of the menopause, an Israeli diet might not be your first thought — but it should be. Research has shown that the food you consume during the perimenopause (up to ten years before the anniversary of your last period) can impact the severity of your symptoms, and influence when menopause actually occurs.

Many typical Israeli foods support female hormone balance so I always encourage my female clients in the 40 plus age group to consume them in adundance.

The four food groups I focus on for hormone support are good fats, protein, fibre and phytoestrogens, all of which are prevalent in the Israeli diet.

Essential fats can be found in oily fish, tahina, hummus, olive oil, nuts and seeds. They are necessary to provide the body with the building blocks to manufacture our female hormones. These fats help to produce cholesterol, which is in turn is required to synthesise our sex hormones — progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone.

Many women ditch fat in their diet thinking it will help with weight loss, but in fact eating a diet high in these supportive foods can actually help reduce perimenopausal symptoms, as well as support weight maintenance. So make sure you’re enjoying full fat hummus, using extra virgin olive oil on your salad, and consuming oily fish twice a week. You’ll feel better for it as good fats support our mood, blood sugar and increase satiety.

Israelis also delight in their dairy foods, which are full of protein — another essential building block in the body. As oestrogen production declines, we lose its protective benefits so our bone density and muscle mass can suffer. A helping of labneh, yoghurt or cheese will enable the body to ‘re-build’. Make sure you eat a good quality protein source with every meal, such as like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses.

Not all protein is created equal when it comes to hormone health. When obtained from animal sources it’s easily utilised by the body, but studies do show that women with a vegetarian diet suffer fewer menopause symptoms. So try and restrict meat (chicken, beef, lamb) to Friday nights or Shabbat lunch, and during the rest of the week choose eggs, fish and vegetable proteins like chickpeas, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.

Israelis famously accompany every meal — even breakfast —with a salad. Those herb and vegetable-packed salatim, popularised far and wide by chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi are also vital for hormonal health as they provide plenty of fibre. The 1970s and 1980s staple is back in favour in the nutrition world, with government guidelines now to consume 30 grams a day. Fibre is also key to hormonal health, supporting our gut bacteria which have an important role in getting rid of old hormones. If our microbiome can’t do this efficiently then those ageing hormones get reabsorbed, which can lead to hormonal symptoms. All plant matter is good, so make sure you pile your plate with fruits and vegetables for every meal.

Another ingredient favoured by Ottolenghi and worth getting into your diet is the pomegranate. Not just a pretty garnish — those crunchy, pink seeds are high in phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that have an effect on our body that is mildly oestrogenic. These are important when our own oestrogen production is waning, as it means there are still some protective oestrogenic effects on the body. Other foods you’ll find these in in the Israeli diet are barley, beans, lentils, sesame, rice and spinach. Piling your plate with falafel and hummus is an easy way to get a daily dose.

The menopause happens to all women and it’s natural and normal. Symptoms will vary from woman to woman, but by adding in beneficial, Israeli-style foods in the preceding years, it’s possible for symptoms to be reduced and long term health supported.


Laura will be holding her next Hormone Health for Women Workshop on March 5. More info at


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