Going grain and sugar free when I was in perimenopause was the best thing I could do for my health. Hot flashes disappeared overnight, I lost weight in all the right places, I slept well and had amazing energy. I haven't gone back to adding them into my life on a regular basis but if I am out or travelling and options a limited I don't stress about it. It's become easier as the years have gone by with more options for no sugar no grains choices available in the supermarkets and when eating out.
Why Eliminate Sugar?
Carbohydrates are converted by the body to glucose which then stimulates insulin to be released Carbs can be in the form of fizzy drinks, sweets, sugar, cakes, bread, pasta, rice or potatoes.
Sugar includes honey, raw sugar, dates, fruit. The body doesn't recognise these are not your ordinary table sugars, it may just take a little longer to process them but the outcome is the same, they raise our blood sugar levels.
Keeping your blood sugar levels low keeps your insulin low which will lower help control the amount of fat being stored around your body.
Having balanced blood sugar levels will improve hormonal balance which is important as we enter into menopause and midlife.
You'll lose weight easier, improve energy, reduce cravings, and reduce inflammation in the body which lowers your risk of diseases like dementia, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Watch for hidden sugars in cereals, yoghurt, muesli bars, anything labelled low fat. Marketing companies have become very good at making a product look healthy on the surface.
Read the labels and check the sugar levels.
Why Eliminate Wheat?
Wheat is a high GI carbohydrate meaning it's rapidly absorbed. It contains proteins that cause inflammation and conditions such as leaky gut, where bacteria and toxins are able to leak through the intestinal wall causing bloating and fatigue. This is particularly not good for women in menopause as the hormones that help reduce inflammation are on the decline.
Whole grains are better but only marginally. they usually have the husk still attached and are less modified but they still spike insulin levels.
What Carbs To Eat Instead?
Being grain and sugar free we need to get our carbs from somewhere.
It's better for our health to get our carbs from leafy greens, brightly coloured vegetables, non-starchy vegetables and nuts and seeds.
Eat a rainbow!
These foods will supply you with lots of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
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Grain and Sugar Free
One word of caution, it’s not a good idea to embark on removing these things from your diet if you've got a big change coming up in your life. Or your sister-in-law is visiting with her four kids, two of which are pimply teenagers who don’t seem to eat anything other than pizza and hamburgers. You don’t need the added stress. You will need time for you. I want to see you succeed so make it easy for yourself.
1. Know why you're doing this
For me, I literally woke up one day and said: “that’s it, no more sugar or grains.” I wanted to feel for myself the sustained energy, boosted brainpower, better quality sleep and good digestion that I had been reading about. I wanted to see my menopause symptoms dissipate. Feeling average was normal for me and I was fed up with it. My health wasn’t where it could be. I focussed my blurry eyes on the end game and I didn’t look back.
2. Know what to expect
You are possibly going to go through some days of feeling less than average. You may experience one or many of the following: lethargy, nausea, bloating, constipation, hyperglycaemia, cramps and headaches. Pamper yourself, push through, and focus on how you will feel if you stick with it. This faze doesn’t last and for me was only a few days.
Slapping a piece of cheese between two bits of bread and calling it lunch is no longer an option. Be prepared. Stock the fridge with cold meats, fresh veggies and dairy (if you aren’t giving that up as well). Make some snacks and treats ahead of time for when cravings hit you or you’re feeling low.
Ideas for snacks: keto fudge, bliss balls, pickles, olives, coconut yoghurt, nuts, and dark chocolate.
4. Drink plenty of water and add more salt to your diet
The drop in insulin will cause fluid loss which can cause muscle cramps so drink more water and add more salt into your diet to compensate for the salt lost from the body. Remember you are no longer eating all that packaged food which is full of sodium.
Ideas for adding more salt: chicken bouillon, Vegemite, cured meat and fish, cheese such as feta and pickles are all good sources.
5. Add more magnesium into your diet
If like me you have consumed grains for a long time when you give them up the effects of magnesium deficiency can be amplified. The following foods are high in magnesium: leafy greens, avocado, dark chocolate, fish, nuts, seeds and banana.
No one I know is going to argue with adding more dark chocolate into their diet.
Magnesium is difficult to absorb into the body so if you are experiencing symptoms of deficiency (tremors, nausea, muscle cramps) supplements are a good idea. Magnesium malate is probably the most easily absorbed.
6. High-fat foods will satiate you
Eat plenty of olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, cheese, avocado, nuts and seeds.
A three-egg cheese and avocado omelette with greens on the side is enough to satisfy the hungriest hound.
7. Starchy vegetables are satisfying
Try pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Roast them and add them to salads.
8. Add plenty of probiotics to your diet.
The change in diet may cause constipation and bloat. Keep your gut flora healthy with plenty of probiotics. A supplement during this time may be beneficial. I prefer to eat plenty of rich probiotic foods such as coconut yoghurt, Greek yoghurt, fermented foods such as Kim Chi and sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha.
9. Mind your protein
Too much protein and your body will treat it as a carbohydrate. Protein will help to satiate you though so keep it to a moderate level and don't forget meat is not the only source. We can also get protein from plant-based sources such as nuts and seeds.
10. Give yourself a break
If you fall off the wagon it is not the end of the world as you know it. Recognise it as a small bump on the road to your healthy self. Pick yourself up and carry on and be proud of how far you have already come.
I speak from experience when I say your health will greatly improve.
If you set off down this path to being grain and sugar free let me know. Tell me how you get on. If you would like some moral support, send me an e-mail, I would love to offer encouragement.