Pour yourself a Cosmo and put on your (vegan) Louboutin heels. It’s about to get hot-flashy in here.
What’s happened to Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte? Well, we can’t help but wonder, right?
And we won’t need to wonder for much longer: a spin-off series, ‘And Just Like That,’ is due to start filming in New York late this spring. Looking at how romance, career, and friendship are navigated in one’s fifties, it will star three of Sex and the City’s original cast members — Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis — in their original roles.
What we do know? That Kim Cattrall, as the irreverent, ballsy, and ribald Samantha, will not be joining them. You only need to scroll a few gossip columns to read about the fall-out between Cattrall and her co-stars — in particular, SJP. So let’s not go there. Things change. People change. Sex and cities, though? Not so much.
But what also changes, of course, is age. Rather than pondering their desire and ability to bear children, the now-threesome will be contemplating, or even experiencing, menopause. That’s not to say that a woman in her fifties can’t still dance all night. Nor does it mean that they can’t have great sex or wear an outfit that makes them feel fabulous. It simply means, biologically and physiologically, that times are different — and that needs are too.
Hear Me Raw?
One thing we do know is that the benefits of a vegan diet may help reduce some of the symptoms associated with menopause. Could this mean vegan brunch scenes filled with healthy high-fiber foods? Kombucha instead of Cosmos?
It’s not as if the original version of the show didn’t touch upon the joys, ahem, of a cruelty-free diet. After all, it was at vegan restaurant Raw that Samantha first clapped eyes on Smith, played by Jason Lewis. From early lust, he became her long-term partner, supporting her through cancer. He even shaved his head in solidarity when she lost her hair to chemotherapy.
Yet the benefits of a vegan diet, for an older woman, go far beyond eyeing up a handsome waiter. Research shows that a plant-based diet may help alleviate the symptoms of menopause more significantly than a meat-heavy one. Indeed, one much-touted fact is the absence of a word meaning ‘hot flash’ in the Japanese language; a fact that’s generally linked to a diet rich in soy and vegetables.
One, much-maligned, side effect of menopause and decreasing estrogen levels is a thickening waistline. Alcohol is one thing to avoid to lessen this. Another is meat. In terms of staving off hunger, complex carbohydrates — grains, brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta — are go-tos. Not only do they keep you feeling fuller for longer, but they are also mood-boosters, keeping those all-important ‘happy hormones’ balanced.
Often, another unwelcome effect of menopause is dry skin. However, foods rich in “good” fats act as internal emollients and help to keep your skin plump and hydrated. Examples include avocado, as well as nuts and seeds, such as almonds and sunflower seeds. Chickpeas and lentils also contain substantial levels of zinc, which is another boon for good skin.
And what about bone health? As estrogen diminishes with age, one of the consequences is reduced bone density. Red meat contains phosphorus, which accelerates this loss, as it encourages the depletion of calcium and magnesium from bone. Foods rich in magnesium and boron help to slow and even replace this reduction. As well as legumes and nuts, apples and — despite their high sugar content — dates, grapes, and raisins, are all rich in boron.
Part of the Process
A word of warning: many of the foods marketed as vegan may, although being 100% plant-based, be highly processed. While there’s nothing wrong with substitutes for cheese and so on, it’s worth bearing in mind that processed foods typically contain preservatives and lots of salt, both of which can make a menopausal night sweat, and the attendant broken sleep, more likely.
The answer? Stick to whole and unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. It’s best to swerve spicy foods and caffeine, too.
So we women — and the SATC gang — can hold diminishing estrogen levels to account for the changes. However, going back to the linguistic fact that’s often raised as proof of the benefits of a plant-based diet: there is no readily-translatable word, in the Japanese language, for ‘hot flash.’
The reason? Phytoestrogens. These plant-based compounds mimic the job of estrogen to some extent, so may lessen the impact as that hormone is depleted with age. They can aid balance and reduce symptoms. It’s not just soya products that contain these. Look also for various seeds, greens (especially beans and celery), as well as rhubarb, cranberries, and pomegranates.
In It Together
Perhaps, though, the most important part of food in the original SATC series was its sense of community. The way the friends would convene over their brunches and dissect their lives with honesty, humour, and compassion. Even when Samantha stays at Raw to seduce Smith, Miranda and Carrie, unimpressed by both food and waiter, leave and grab pizza slices. No, they’re not raw vegan converts, but they’re women, and they’re eating, and they’re together. And in that simple, carb-heavy, unglamorous communion, they’re really quite fabulous.
It’s been seventeen years since the last episode of Sex and the City aired. In this eagerly awaited next chapter, we’ve no doubt that Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda will be as fabulous as ever. It would great to see them eating fabulous, too. After all, so much of our awareness has changed since then. If the series were to be made now — even if it were still to focus on the lives of a group of 30-somethings — the cast and characters would be more inclusive. We would not only — or primarily — see people of other cultures in the role of serving meals. The body ideals would be more diverse. It’s highly unlikely that Carrie would be chain-smoking.
The new series will, of necessity, have to meet some of these requirements of what we now know and accept to be appropriate. It will be so, so welcomed if it is also meets what is ethical, sensible, and real.