Look good and feel your best after 40

Updated 16 January 2013

Look good and feel your best after 40

Women after forty are constantly fighting excess weight resulting from menopause; statistics say that roughly 90 percent of all women between the ages of 40 and 55 struggle to lose extra body fat. It is much easier for women in their 20s and 30s to loose weight by simply dieting and exercising, while it takes a lot more than that for women in menopause.
“Middle-aged women often complain that no amount of dieting or exercising can eliminate their stomach fat despite all the effort and time they spend trying,” said nutritionist Dr. Najlaa Saber. “Some bodies transform from a pear shape to an apple shape and the secret behind that is their hormones,” she added.
Mid-life weight gain is often associated with hormonal shifts that begin as women approach the age of 40 because the ovaries produce less estrogen. “Estrogen energizes many life-sustaining functions and when you produce less, the body looks for other places to generate the needed hormones,” said Saber. “Since fat cells can produce estrogen, the body reprograms itself to transform calories into fat to meet the needed hormone levels,” she added.
To make this short Saber said that the mechanism of menopause weight gain cannot be addressed without discussing first the important issue of hormone imbalance. “If your hormones are not balanced, your weight problem will continue no matter how little food you eat and how much you exercise,” she said. “Weight gain during menopause is mostly focused around the waist and stomach areas, which are the least favorable areas to store fat. Moreover, other than the health factor, gaining weight is adverse for women’s self-esteem,” she added.
Women after forty should seriously give a second thought about that chocolate cake they want to have after dinner according to Saber. “Try as much as you can to avoid snacking on food that is filled with sugar because it raises your blood glucose level, and then creates a sharp dip, leaving you feeling tired and weak,” she said.
Make exercise a lifestyle choice recommends Saber. “Make sure you eat well and never skip a meal. If you love snaking, munch on a piece of fruit or six to eight almonds,” she said. “Never snack on cheese, cakes or ice-cream as these could damage everything you worked hard on for a moment’s pleasure,” she added.
The diet should contain high amounts of calcium through skim milk and low fat yoghurt intake, which helps reduce the risks of osteoporosis; women after 40 are prone to suffer from.
Saber suggests women should avoid coffee to help them deal with hot flushes. She also stressed the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, as well as lean meat as a basic component in the main meals, along with dried fruits and nuts for snacks in between meals. All these recommended foods contain vitamins and minerals that are important in reducing menopausal symptoms. In addition, they are also a good base for a healthy diet, weight loss and management for all ages.
The following are foods strongly recommended in the diets of women in menopause by Saber:
Oily fish such as salmon because it contains omega 3
Nuts such as almonds and seeds such as sesame seeds because they contain omega 3 and calcium.
Vegetables especially dark leafy greens, yams and bean sprout because they all contain calcium, vitamin C and minerals.
White fish because it contains calcium.
Fruit because it is rich in potassium.
Legumes such as soya beans, lentils and chickpeas because they contain vitamin B and isoflavones.
Whole grains in pasta, bread and rice because they contain vitamin B.
Lead red meat because it contains vitamin B.
Low fat yoghurt because it is rich in calcium.
Saber suggests that women should try their best to eat healthy, and make sure to ask their doctor about whether or not they should take supplements. “Some of the supplements doctors might prescribe are pills that contain calcium, hydrochloric acid, ribose, folate, strontium and probiotics. Women should make sure not to take any supplements without a doctor approval because even vitamins can have side effects,” she said.

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Ramadan recipes: My Egyptian grandmother’s old school kunafa

Updated 27 May 2018

Ramadan recipes: My Egyptian grandmother’s old school kunafa

CAIRO: Believed to have originated in the Levant, kunafa is said to have been introduced to what is now known as Egypt during the era of the Fatimids.

However, if you spent any time at all in my grandmother’s household, you would think that she herself invented the deliciously crunchy dessert, she is such an expert.

She often tells me of how, when growing up in Cairo, she would purchase the dough from a street-side man swirling the batter round and round on a drum-like furnace made of clay.

My generation has revamped the age-old favorite and a range of outlandish fillings — from mangoes, to Nutella and avocados — are now available across Egypt and the wider Middle East.

Ramadan is the perfect time to try this popular dessert and while it is easy as pie to pop to your local bakery, there is nothing quite like making it at home.

The original gangster of the kunafa world will always reign supreme, in my humble, well-fed opinion. So read on and give it a go for iftar today.


• Katafi (shredded phyllo dough).
• One-and-a-half cups of granulated sugar.
• One cup of water.
• One juiced lemon.
• One teaspoon of rose water.
• 1/3 cup of finely chopped pistachios.
• Ghee as needed.


Grease an oven dish with melted ghee then place the shredded katafi pastry in a bowl and mix it with ghee. You can cut the already shredded pastry further if needed.

Take the mixture and layer it into the greased pan by pressing lightly with your hand.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350F.

On the side, prepare the sugary syrup by adding one cup of water, the granulated sugar and lemon juice to a pan. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Let the liquid simmer until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat, let it cool and add the rosewater (or even a few drops of vanilla essence).

Let the shredded pastry cool and drizzle over with the syrup, before you add a sprinkling of the finely chopped pistachios.

If you're looking for something a little different, bear in mind that Ramadan is kunafa season in Egypt and every year, the shredded wheat dessert gets tens of creative makeovers as bakers across the country — and indeed across the Middle East —buck tradition with their innovative fillings.

Why not try one of these delicious variants of the kunafa?


When Ramadan began coinciding with the summer season, mango kunafa emerged as a tradition-breaker. The sweet fruit became a popular filling, replacing longtime favorites, such as nuts, cheese and cream. It combines spun-shredded wheat with whipped cream in a dish that is topped with chopped mangoes. 


This recipe proved irresistible to many when it first caused a storm on social media. The kunafa is filled with hazelnut chocolate filling and is served in various forms, such as chocolate kunafa cones or the molten volcano kunafa. Some bakers even add a layer of peanut butter on top to seal the deal.

Red velvet

This type of kunafa emerged during the recent red velvet craze that swept Egypt.  The creation combines a layer of red velvet cake with shredded wheat and whipped cream.   


This one’s sure to please avocado-loving millennials. Last year, a small bakery in Egypt became the talk of the town when it began using avocado as a kunafa filling. It may not be as popular as various other fillings, but it definitely got tongues wagging.


Oreo cookies are being used to update the humble kunafa this year. Delectably crunchy Lotus biscuits are also being used to create achingly sweet kunafa treats.


Yes, you read that right! Another seasonal fruit has just joined the club. It remains unclear if the trend will endure, however, as the idea of combining watermelon with shredded wheat is quite unusual. It is ideal for the soaring temperatures this summer, but will it win over dessert lovers? Only time, and empty plates, will tell.