At menopause, when hormones are swinging wildly creating unstable moods and blood sugar, the last thing you need is to add to the angst by eating sugary foods that cause a rocket ship ride and crash landing. It’s a setup for depression, low energy and a host of inflammatory menopausal diseases, from diabetes to osteoporosis. Women who eat a lot of sugar typically experience more mood swings, as a result of eating sweet foods that cause dips in calming serotonin, the brain neurotransmitter responsible for controlling mood. By stark contrast, a menopausal healing diet filled with fiber-rich complex carbohydrates metabolizes slowly in your body and keeps you on an even keel.
1. We’re all addicted to sugar. According to the American Heart Association, Americans ate a whopping 22 teaspoons of sugar a day in 2009. Sugar is everywhere — from the crystals we spoon into drinks to cheap man-made sweeteners used in cheap processed fast foods and so-called “healthy foods,” such as commercial yogurts and breakfast cereals. Soft drinks alone account for an astonishing 21% of sugar in the US diet.
2. Don’t bring me down. Rapidly metabolized sugars and refined carbs cause an immediate spike in the levels of glucose and insulin, and affect tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for elevating mood. A study conducted by Baylor College of Medicine found a direct link between high sugar consumption and the incidence of depression.
3. Sugar’s helter-skelter ride. That famous sugar high doesn’t last long. Before you know it, you’re feeling weak, sleepy and depressed and reaching for sugary carbs to jumpstart energy. This is a setup for chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and inflammatory diseases, all of which start to show up more often in menopausal women, along with accompanying fatigue and depression.
A large study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that a steady diet of fast foods, which are packed with sugar and refined carbohydrates, increases depression by 58%. That’s pretty scary stuff.
4. Refined carbs and sugars lack beneficial fiber. A diet of low-fiber refined “white foods,” such as pasta, bread, cookies, pastries, cakes and processed foods, spikes blood sugar, with immediate impacts to your brain and well-being. High-fiber complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are low on the glycemic index (GI), help get things back on track. They slow digestion, ensuring a slow steady release of glucose and tryptophan, which then supplies adequate levels of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.
5. Sugar depletes essential B vitamins. Folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are necessary to synthesize mood-calming neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in your brain that allow brain cells to communicate clearly with one another. When neurological communication breaks down, depression takes over. Denatured sugars and refined carbs lack beneficial vitamins, minerals and nutrients and deplete B vitamins. Worse still, when you eat a poor diet, you are not replacing the B vitamins your body needs to run properly through a good diet. It’s a mental health disaster.
6. Hidden sugars pop up everywhere. Most of the sugar in processed foods, breakfast cereals and fat-free food products occurs in the form of fructose — specifically cheaply produced high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a byproduct of corn processing. Fructose is the main sugar in fruit, but once it is isolated the body has a hard time processing it. HFCS is dangerous because:
7. But what about the fructose in fruits? Fructose in whole fruits is a different story. Fruits also contain beneficial dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that keep your body and mind healthy, and they are healthy in moderation. Dried fruits like dried figs, apricots and raisins contain more fructose than ripe fruits because the drying process concentrates the sugar. Be very careful about eating dried fruits; it’s better to reconstitute them in water by stewing.
8. Avoid fructose-heavy fruit juice. Fructose is also highly concentrated in fruit juices, which in today’s supersized quantities is bad news. Fruit juice lacks the dietary fiber that slow down sugar metabolism in the body. As a result, sugar spikes immediately. Avoid fruit juices and sodas, and experiment with making your own refresher with unsweetened juice like cranberry topped up with sparkling mineral water and a twist of lime. And when it comes to fruit, choose the best organic fruit you can find. Many fruits are sprayed with pesticides these days (see our report on the Dirty Dozen).
9. Honey, use some moderation. Health food lovers may not realize that honey is 96% fructose, sucrose and glucose, all simple sugars. If you still need a hint of honey on occasion, select raw, organic honey, preferably local honey. And don’t be fooled by agave nectar, the new “natural” sugar being touted as the best thing since sliced bread. It’s advertised as “low GI,” but it is actually highly processed and contains 80% fructose. It will create blood sugar problems, too.
10. Eat a menopause healing diet to calm sugar cravings. Our bodies run on glucose, and we are hardwired to want sugar! But intense sugar cravings mean your health is out of balance. Choose nutrient-dense foods first – before you reach for the cookies and sugary cereals.
Start the day with a mentally calming but energizing cooked breakfast of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbs. Try eating a bean burrito, or perhaps free-range eggs, turkey bacon and low-carb Ezekiel sprouted grain toast, spread with organic butter or almond butter. At lunch and dinner, go for a piece of lean turkey or chicken or wild salmon accompanied by broccoli, a small amount of whole grains like brown rice or quinoa and a big salad. For dessert, what could be better than a bowl of fresh berries, topped with a dollop of organic unsweetened heavy whipping cream or plain Greek yogurt? You might also try baking apple slices sprinkled with a hint of cinnamon. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Enjoy.
Select the medical condition you’d like to reverse (below) -- then sign up to receive free recipes, natural healing news, and new health-boosting products via email:Your privacy is assured. We will never sell, rent, trade or share your email with any other organization
Featured Healing Products