11 Tips to Stop Menopause Sugar Cravings
Do you feel that sugar cravings are more intense now that you are in menopause? Are you looking for a way to decrease these cravings? If you answer yes, then this blog post is for you.
Menopause and Sugar Cravings: Blame the Hormones
The short version is that changes in estrogen and progesterone can change your stress levels, increase anxiety, decrease the quality and quantity of your sleep, and change how your body responds to sugar.
Each of these can make you crave sugar, and all of them combined might make sugar cravings very hard to resist!
The long version is that changes in the hormone imbalances result in changes in the stress hormone cortisol.
An imbalance of cortisol can lead to high-stress levels, causing stress-eating and food cravings. When you are stressed, you will most likely indulge in high sugar, high-fat foods. This is not a surprise, considering sugar makes you feel good!
In addition, imbalanced cortisol levels can result in poor sleep, another cause of sugar cravings (1).
Sugar activates the pleasure center in your brain, making you feel great. The brain responds to sugar the same way it responds to certain drugs. Sugar makes you feel good, crave more, build tolerance for high levels, and cause withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have sugar. Have you read the oreo cookie study? Sugar addiction is something researchers have seen in animal studies (1) and some human studies.
Furthermore, estrogen and progesterone levels can affect how your body responds to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Then, imbalanced sugar levels can cause sugar cravings.
But let’s stop here because the solutions are more important than the causes. So let’s focus on how to stop sugar cravings.
Top 11 Tips to Cut Menopause Sugar Cravings
Add Protein and Healthy Fats to Your Breakfast
Replacing sugary meals at breakfast with foods high in protein can make you feel satisfied throughout the next few hours and prevent sugar cravings.
When you have a sugary breakfast such as cereal, your body will process your breakfast quickly, and your blood sugars will drop. Once this happens, your body will send signals to your brain indicating that it is time to eat sugar again.
In addition, protein and healthy fats can decrease anxiety, a common cause of sugar cravings.
This can be especially important during perimenopause and menopause when anxiety is more common than you think.
Eat Satisfying Meals at Regular Intervals
Let’s not fight sugar cravings on an empty stomach! It is much easier to conquer sugar cravings when you eat enough. I suggest having meals rich in vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or quinoa.
This habit will make it much easier to resist sugar cravings.
It Is Okay to Fruits
Yes, fruits have sugar but also have fiber; thus, the sugar is released in the body much slower than added sugars, preventing high sugar spikes.
Plus, fruits are satisfying, easy to grab, and can satisfy your sweet tooth.
Reconsider Your Drinks
Drinks can easily pack an astonishing amount of sugar, and the more you drink, the more you want due to the powerful effect of sugar on your brain and body.
In addition, the body metabolizes sugar very quickly, and soon the levels of sugar in your body get low, leading to intense sugar cravings.
Give up Sugar for 7-10 Days
Sugar is addictive; the pleasure you feel when eating sugars is similar to consuming certain drugs. So, it is very understandable why you get sugar cravings.
Moreover, tolerance to sugar increases the more you eat. Thus the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you need to feel great.
To break the cycle, cutting sugar can work because it can decrease your tolerance levels and ease your cravings. But, it can be challenging, and you might experience physical symptoms of withdrawal. So, do this only if you are ready for a challenge!
Drink enough water
Sometimes, many people confuse dehydration with cravings. There is a scientific explanation for this: when your body is dehydrated, the liver cannot produce glycogen (the body’s primary energy source), causing sugar cravings.
So, try drinking a glass of water when sugar cravings hit. Adding a slice of lemon to your water can make it more satisfying.
Stress increases how much overall food we eat, particularly increasing cravings for high-calorie, high-sugar foods (2).Moreover, stress can increase insulin resistance which is another factor that increases sugar cravings (3).
Try meditation, regular exercise, mind-body exercise, positive affirmations, journaling, therapy, and a different attitude to life can help.
This is the most enjoyable way to cut menopause sugar cravings!
Poor sleep affects your body and mind in many ways that are difficult to imagine.
Plenty of research has linked poor sleep with increased intake of sugar and high-fat foods. Unfortunately, it also changes your hunger and satiety hormones making you feel hungrier and less satisfied after meals. Just a terrible combination!
In addition, inadequate sleep can increase your stress levels by changing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
But, of course, poor sleep is common during menopause. So you can probably now see the relationship between menopause and sugar cravings.
The good news is that you can improve your sleep quality and quantity. You can do many things, so I suggest reading my blog post about getting a good night’s sleep.
Plan Ahead for Sugar Cravings
Sugar cravings are often predictable. For example, you might find yourself craving sugar after a stressful day at work, craving dessert after dinner, or when you are bored.
Learn to identify your triggers for sugar cravings and have a plan to do something instead of eating sugar. Sometimes, something simple such as drinking a glass of water and waiting 20 minutes before eating sweets works.
Do you pass by a donut place every day and often stop to get one? Take a different route.
Does your family eat sweets every day? Keep satisfying, low sugar snacks at home.
Be kind to yourself
Eating less sugar might be hard to do. But, don’t get discouraged if you give in to a craving; just keep trying. It is much easier to recover and move forward with your goals when you are kind to yourself.
Being too hard on yourself or feeling stressed because you ate sugar might lead to further sugar cravings.
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Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui’s charisma and warmth have made her a frequent guest on Hispanic popular morning television shows.