Recipes for a Better Menopause by Dr Federica Amati and Jane Baxter – Interview & Book Review
Recipes for a Better Menopause is a new book from award-winning chef, Jane Baxter working together with nutrition expert Dr Federica Amati, who is head nutritionist at ZOE. Taking scientific research and combining with super-tasty, nourishing recipes, the two women have produced a book that will help to harness the power of food to optimise your health. Our co-founder Mecca Ibrahim spoke to Jane Baxter at the tail end of 2023 before she made an appearance on Saturday Kitchen to cook a recipe from the book.
The book received a great reception from gut health expert Tim Spector who said ‘Your diet during the menopause is the most important choice you make, so read this book.’ Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett agreed and called it an ‘incredible book, full of brilliant recipes from Jane.’
Jane Baxter and Dr Federica Amati – photo by Kate Whitaker
“This is a book for all women and those who love them” wrote Dr Federica Amati in the foreword. “The universal reality of menopause is that all women will go through it – whether premature, natural, surgical or later than average. History shows that it has been under-researched and mistreated in medicine. Now we have enough momentum, research and interest for a more positive outlook.
The good news is that by incorporating new scientific learnings into our diet, women can reduce the unfavourable health impacts of menopause during the transitionary period and beyond, either directly by reducing inflammation and excessive blood sugar spikes or indirectly by alternating the gut microbiome. The recipes in this book taste delicious and draw on the latest research, introducing you to small dietary changes that will make a big difference to your health.”
Onto the interview with Jane Baxter
Why did you decide to choose this as a subject?
Well, it chose me. I’ll be perfectly honest. We went to some publishers and gave some ideas and it was Octopus Books who said, how do you feel about menopause? They already worked with Federica, and they thought that pulling us together would be a really good idea.
So you didn’t know Frederica before then?
No, I had never met her. We’re all massive Tim Spector fans in our kitchen at Wild Artichokes. It’s all mainly women and most of us are over 50. So menopause is a topic of conversation constantly.
What would you say it is about Tim Spector that you find inspiring?
For me and for I think all the other girls in here, it’s his different approach to diet. Federica works very closely with him. I have a bit of a scientific background because I did a degree in Agricultural Science. We think Tim’s a bit of a rebel and we just love the work that he does.
We take our diet a lot more seriously than we used to, mainly because of his research. When you have a busy restaurant role, you’ve got to keep going and you want to feel good. You don’t want to be doing this job and getting that afternoon dip, because you know you’ve got to get through service. So we eat a lot better in here than we used to.
In terms of where you started with the book, what would you say was what came first? Was it really that the food had to specifically taste great, or it had to have more of the healthy options?
I was guided by Federica with what I should be using, and she gave me a sort of crash course on what we should be eating. A lot of it is common sense. But views on fibre were eye opening. I thought thar brown rice was fine, but it’s not really fine, you know, not regularly.
It’s garlic that we should be eating more of, everybody it’s not just menopause women it’s everybody we’re not getting enough fibre. But first off I’m a chef so it has to taste good obviously or there’s no point.
I also just wanted to get away from the book being really worthy but fresh and modern. We looked at cultures that use a lot of fermented foods and saw how we could make interesting recipes.
For example we did a fundraiser for Ukraine. I’d made Olia Hercules, marinated lamb in Kofi. So I thought, right, let’s give it a go with chicken and it worked really well.
It’s all about working with other people’s experience and trying to adapt it to recipes that would work well with the guidelines that I had from Federica.
What other ingredients would you say were quite important?
Well definitely pulses, definitely seeds, nuts, and then lots of vegetables and fruits that have high polyphenols. I think the jury’s a bit out on tofu. We used it a bit. I did have a really good kimchi miso vegan mayo which has got tofu in, so I put that in because it’s really good.
Plus say you’re going to have a pizza. Or you’re going to have a heavy carb meal. If you actually eat before you have it, a rocket and a Rolo Rosso salad with some roll ups and parmesan or something like that, with a good dressing on, it would really help the digestion. It would really help the way it affects you. Great. So if you have a salad like that before you have the carbs.
The book looks beautiful, who did the photography and the styling? How much were you involved in that?
Kate Whitaker did the photography and Annie Rigg did the styling. I went along as well, which was a bit weird for me, because when I worked on the Riverford books I just did everything. Annie and Kate have worked together on lots of books, they’re really good friends. We went up to North Cornwall and we just got on with it. As you say it looks amazing. Kate’s incredible. Annie’s done so many books and she’s written lots of books herself so has a huge amount of experience. She’s very no-nonsense too , it was quite refreshing.
One final question, research shows that the Mediterranean diet in general is really good for everyone’s health. What would you say is particularly good about it for women or menopause women?
I always look at the diet in Puglia which is where I love to visit. Their diet is high in vegetables, high in olive oil and low in dairy. But also low in processed foods, they eat a lot of seafood. We don’t get enough seafood here. The mussels at the moment are just incredible. They’re huge, they’re beautiful. All of those ingredients are good.
Here’s what others have said about Recipes for a Better Menopause
‘Nutrition is a hugely important part of menopause. Backed by science, this book has delicious ways of supporting our bodies when we really need it.’ Davina McCall
‘Fabulously informative with exceptionally good recipes. A great addition to the menopause cause.’ Liz Earle MBE