Sugar has become the new health demon and for good reason. For perimenopausal and menopausal women limiting there are many reasons you may want to limit your sugar intake.
Sugar can occur naturally or be added to foods. Naturally occurring sugar is found in fruits, and to a lesser extent other foods like vegetables and milk. Sugar is added to many foods. Sometimes it is easy to spot, like in cookies or soft drinks, but sugar is also added to things like salad dressing, yogurt and ketchup. Limiting added sugar is especially important.
Too much sugar causes weight gain
One of the main reasons menopausal women want to reduce their sugar intake is weight control. You may find that as you get older, your metabolism slows down and you start to put on weight. Added sugars are empty calories, calories with no nutritional value. As we get older, we need to make choices that are more nutrient dense. We want to eat foods that contain the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients like protein, fat and carbohydrates that we need. Eating foods that contain added sugar means there is less room in your diet for foods that are healthier or that you consume excess calories and gain weight.
Sugar is linked to cardiovascular disease
Eating added sugar is linked with increased cardiovascular disease. A study published in 2014 showed that people who consumed more sugar increased their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. This was independent of the risk from increased weight that extra sugar in the diet might cause. According to Medical News Today, sugar is directly implicated in raising blood pressure. After menopause women lose the protective effects of estrogen and are as susceptible to heart disease as men.
Sugar may make hot flashes worse
Another reason you may want to limit sugar is that increased sugar intake is associated with increased hot flashes. Many women notice that if they eat too much sugar they have more hot flashes. Think about days that you get more hot flashes – did you consume more sugar on those days?
Sugar and Diabetes
Although sugar does not cause type 2 diabetes (according to the American Diabetes Association), drinking sugary drinks is linked with increased incidence of type 2 diabetes. Sugary drinks like soda, sweetened tea, sweetened fruit juices or punches have a large amount of sugar in them.
Sugar and Anxiety
According to Psychology today eating too much sugar can have mental health issues as well. There is some evidence that sugar is addictive. Eating a lot of sugar is also linked to depression and increased anxiety.
Does this mean you should replace sugar with artificial sweeteners?
Sugar substitutes like stevia and xylitol (a sugar alcohol) appear to be safe. Others like Splenda, Nutrasweet and Saccharin have not been shown to help with weight loss and have been linked to an increase in chronic diseases. Replacing foods with added sweeteners with whole foods and foods that are naturally sweet like fruit is a better choice. After a while foods with added sugar will start to taste overly sweet.
How to limit sugar
Limit sugar by:
- Limiting processed foods
- Reducing sugary drinks
- Reading labels and looking for sugar in its various forms – sucrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, etc
There are many benefits to limiting sugar intake. If you want to get started with reducing sugar in your diet, take the 5 Day Sugar Free Challenge.