The Most Important Dietary Change To Make In Menopause

I'm often asked what is the most important dietary change I should start with at this stage of life.

This is a tricky question but in most cases, it’s removing sugar from the diet.


Sugar is the perfect toxin, it sweet to taste and addictive in nature. But let's clarify here I’m talking about processed sugar and not the naturally occurring sugars found in carbohydrates such as fruit, and vegetables. The benefits of consuming natural unprocessed sugar-containing foods are that these plant foods also contain fibre and other nutrients that reduce the blood sugar spike that occurs in processed sugars.


Processed sugar on the other hand is another matter altogether.

 Most processed foods contain sugar and the top sources include soft drinks, fruit juices, flavoured dairy products, cereals, baked goods and of course lollies. According to the National Cancer Institute, we consume on average 24 teaspoons of sugar daily!


Most women are aware of sugars effect on their waistline, energy levels, and potential risk of diabetes but not everyone links the other downstream effects. Sugar is very inflammatory and can promote inflammation and trigger any inflammatory condition in the body, whether it be a simple trigger for a hot flush or the underlying cause of their insomnia.


Other issues related to high sugar consumption include:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease and the higher your intake of sugar, the higher your risk of death by heart disease is.
  • Fatty liver disease, sugar consumption is the number 2 cause of this disease after alcohol consumption
  • Alzheimer's has been named type 3 diabetes due to its strong link between high blood sugar levels and brain damage results in various forms of dementia.
  • Sugar feeds all forms of cancer
  • High blood sugar levels promote the development of acne
  • Sugar and stress have an interesting relationship, the more sugar that is in the diet, the less able to handle the stress you are. Activation of the stress response produces Cortisol. Cortisol tells your body to converted stored sugar into active blood sugar so your body has fuel to run away from danger and this ultimately triggers a roller coaster blood sugar ride
  • Mental health, mood swings and depression are triggered by the overconsumption of sugar. Imbalanced blood sugar levels, dysregulated neurotransmitter production and increased inflammation trigger this downward cascade of poor food choices and poor moods.
  • The interaction between consumed sugar and protein produces advanced glycated end products (AGES). Ages damaged collagen, elastin and promote the development of lines and wrinkles.
  • High sugar diets accelerate telomere shortening which increases cellular ageing
  • Prolonged elevated blood sugar levels increase your risk of kidney disease
  • Hangry - blood sugar highs and lows, turn you into the hungry, angry monster that none wants to be anywhere near.
  • Dental cavities


Please remember sugar is not a required nutrient for health.


Hidden sources of sugar include:

  • high corn fructose syrup
  • brown sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • honey
  • malt
  • molasses
  • invert sugar
  • anything ending in “ose” e.g. dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose.


Now you are aware of the full extent of over sugar consumption, let's talk about how to remove sugar from your diet.


Please be aware I don’t recommend you replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, instead let’s set out to retrain your taste buds so you can once again enjoy the great taste of real food.


I’m not a fan of calories counting or hyper-focus on macronutrient counting but if you need a number to aim for, aim for 100g carbohydrates daily.


Let's start with your kitchen, go through your pantry and fridge and identify food choices that need to go.


Think about back up plans for when life gets busy or hunger strikes. I have frozen homemade meals in my freezer, boiled eggs, a combination of fresh/frozen fruit, fresh nuts, ready to go salad options like cherry tomatos, baby carrots, quakes (mini cucumbers) and dips like yummy hummus for added phytoestrogens, homemade protein balls or ingredients for a smoothie.


Let's look at drinks. Its time to stop adding sugar to hot beverages like coffee and swap soft drinks for water. Water doesn’t need to be boring, my current favourite water recipes if 1/4 freshly squeezed lemon, a little freshly grated ginger (1/4 teaspoon) and a pinch of natural salt. Yum.


Do you really need snacks or desserts? No, not really but if you choose to eat them, make your own at home without the sugar. My favourite treat is a 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries.


If you are struggling with cravings, it could indicate you have inadequate protein or fats in your diet.  Consider what you have eaten? Has it just been carb-based? Where can you add more protein and more beneficial fats?


If you are struggling with your diet, consider starting personalised consultations. We have a nutrition app we use with our patients that provides guidelines, recipes and trackers on top of your regular one on one support. Click here for more details.


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