Could Menopause Change Your Taste and Smell?

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When it comes to the menopause, we are advocating for opening up conversations around this topic to normalise discussing a stage of life that affects so many of us. So, what’s the link between menopause and Pink Lady® apples?

How does menopause affect our diets?

From hot flushes and sleep difficulties to mood swings, the menopause (and the symptoms associated with it) is such a huge part of life for women to navigate. That’s why, here at Pink Lady®, we are advocating for opening up conversations around this topic to normalise discussing a transition that has for so long been overlooked, yet affects so many of us.

We set out to discover more about the connection between our senses and the menopause, exploring how our senses of taste and smell can shift during this life stage, and what this means for our diets.

Teaming up with nutritionist and women’s health expert Emma Bardwell, we surveyed more than 2,000 women who had experienced perimenopause or menopause to explore the impact sensory changes in menopause can have on what we eat.

Our research found that more than 1 in 3 women experience sensory changes during the menopause transition, a fact which 91 percent of women are unaware of. 46 percent of those surveyed had a change in smell, while 42 percent noticed a change in taste.

So, what does this mean for our diets?

While most women might not be aware of this overlooked symptom, it could in fact be good news for our diets.

Our research suggests that the sensory changes experienced during the menopause transition could have an impact on the foods we crave. With many women experiencing the sensation of “dry mouth”, one of the lesser-known menopause symptoms*, sweet (54 percent), refreshing (40 percent) and juicy (33 percent) were amongst the top tastes and sensations those surveyed looked for when it came to choosing a snack.

While for some this means finding ways to satisfy sweet cravings, for many these sensory changes can lead to cravings for healthier, fresher food. 54 percent of women surveyed reported that they desired more fresh and juicy food, whilst 37 percent were craving more crunchy food such as raw vegetables or apples.

But the impact doesn’t stop at what we crave. Our study also found that women in menopause often make significant, healthy changes to their diet. A total of 51 percent of women said they now eat a more varied diet since entering the menopause transition, with 65 percent adopting a healthier diet.

Find out some tips from Emma that can help you to taste better
What symptoms have you been dealing with? Join in with our conversation about the Menopause

The science explained…

Women’s health specialist and nutritionist Emma Bardwell said: “The research shows that many menopausal women are often seeking out fresh, juicy and crunchy food.

“It’s likely that this is linked to dry mouth, a symptom of menopause that’s caused by a dip in oestrogen, which is responsible for the production of saliva.

“This symptom is strongly linked to changes to our sense of taste and smell, as saliva is vital for stimulating taste buds, meaning that having a dry mouth can affect our enjoyment of certain foods – or impact what we are craving.”

Emma added: “It’s very encouraging to see that this lesser-known symptom, although potentially challenging to deal with, could be having a positive impact on the kinds of food women are reaching for.

“My advice is always to listen to your body: and to try adhering to a diet that’s high in whole foods with adequate protein, some healthy fats and minimal ultra processed foods. Think about eating the rainbow and focusing on natural, plant-based food; this kind of variety is great for heightening your sensory response to food.”

However, there is a caution – 75 percent of women said that they struggle to find foods to satisfy their sweet tooth which are also healthy.

Emma said: “Often sweet cravings can be our downfall, as for many of us, sweet snacking can be synonymous with processed food, artificial ingredients and high saturated fat. My advice would be to seek out naturally sweet foods which not only satisfy a craving for something sweet but have additional nutritional benefits too. It’s an added bonus if they’re crunchy and juicy too for those experiencing dry mouth.

“A Pink Lady® apple is the perfect example: the sugar in fruit, is bound up in the cells of the fruit and comes with fibre which slows down the rate of absorption into your bloodstream. Apples also contain phytoestrogens, naturally occurring plant compounds that are structurally and functionally similar to oestrogen and therefore may help manage symptoms linked to lack of oestrogen. Eating foods high in phytoestrogens may be beneficial for some menopause symptom sufferers.**

“The juicy, crunchy sweetness is also a perfect combination for those experiencing reduced production of saliva and shifting cravings.”

Emma’s top tips for supercharging your diet in menopause

  1. Spice it up: Add herbs and spices to meals to make them more aromatic and stimulate the senses. Fresh or dried both work well – think cinnamon and nutmeg on porridge, chives and sumac on eggs, and soups topped with parsley, sage and coriander.
  2. Make it mouthwatering: Lower levels of saliva in menopause can result in reduced or changed taste sensations. Tart or acidic flavours are known to stimulate saliva production*** so working these into meals can kick-start your sense of taste. A squeeze of lemon juice or glug of balsamic vinegar on a salad will go a long way.
  3. Eat with your eyes: Make sure you pick a rainbow of colourful foods and present them to look visually appealing – we eat first with our eyes. Not only does this keep mealtimes interesting, but your gut microbes will also benefit too.
  4. Texture is key: If you have a weakened sense of taste or smell, the texture of food becomes even more important in enjoying the foods you eat. Think as much about the flavour of ingredients as their texture: try crisp slices of Pink Lady® apple with almond butter and a sprinkle of hemp seeds for the ultimate crunchy snack.
  5. Variety is the spice of life: I believe in adding to your diet, not taking away from it. More plants, more colour, more texture, more fibre, more protein, more nutrients. Menopause is a time to nourish your body, not deprive it; the same approach applies to giving our sense of taste and smell a boost.

*Menopause symptom of dry mouth:

**Source, Nutrition advice for menopause: how to get the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals

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