sugar + its impact on women’s health

A temptress in disguise – sugar may be seductive, but she has no nutritional benefits, is packed with empty calories and comes with a myriad of long-term health issues.

Most women have an innately higher craving for the sweet stuff than men. Nonetheless it may come as a surprise to hear that our sugar demands have serious biological backing. Evidence suggests that:

–  women need a certain percentage of body fat (approximately 20%) in order to maintain and sustain a pregnancy to full term.

–  elevated oestrogen levels and hormonal fluctuations throughout the month may be connected to our sugar cravings.

–  sugar raises our levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter made in the brain responsible for regulating mood. Women naturally have lower levels of serotonin than men and are, therefore, more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. So on a biochemical level, we would be forgiven for reaching for that afternoon hobnob.

Many experts are now saying that sugar is as addictive as tobacco and alcohol, and should be closely regulated. In fact it’s almost identical in chemical structure to that of cocaine.

top 10 reasons to avoid sugar

1.  Studies show sugar may fuel the growth and metastasis of unruly cells in the body.

2.  It’s linked to insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as blood sugar irregularities, affecting mood, energy, fertility, stress and work productivity.

3.  It elevates oestrogen levels, which impacts hormonal health, e.g. menstrual irregularities, PMS and PCOS.

4.  Raises androgen levels, resulting in hirtsuism (facial hair) and the increased growth and thickness of hair in unwanted places.

5.  Causes acne and pimples.

6.  Accelerates the ageing process, reduces tissue elasticity and causes skin to sag and wrinkle.

7.  Increases the risk and manifestation of autoimmune conditions.

8.  Reduces satiety, increases appetite and fat composition.

9.  Elevates prostaglandin levels exacerbating pain during menstruation.

10.  Upsets the vital balance between good and bad levels of bacteria within our gut. Think IBS and bloating for starters.

In contrast with refined sugar, unrefined natural sweeteners contain a much higher antioxidant value and an all round higher nutritional composition – so naturally a better option. To get you started, here are my top five alternatives to sugar below.

top 5 sugar alternatives

–  raw organic honey: is a true super food packed with enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Manuka honey is the crème del la crème of the honey family – but raw honey at farmer markets, direct from local the beekeepers is a good runner up. Note: the darker the honey, the richer the flavor and the greater the health benefits.

–  stevia: is native to South America and has been used for centuries to support healthy blood glucose levels and weight loss. Two hundred times as sweet as sugar, it has zero calories and none of the nasty side effects that artificial sweeteners inflict.

–  dates: are packed with iron, potassium, magnesium and B6. They help to lower LDL cholesterol and support protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism.

–  coconut sugar: with a low glycaemic index, it’s an increasingly popular choice amongst conscious consumers. It’s loaded with polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous and other phytonutrients.

–  maple syrup: native to North America, maple syrup is packed with antioxidants, calcium, potassium, zinc and manganese. Whenever possible, select darker, grade B maple syrup, as it contains more beneficial nutrients than the lighter syrups do.

Merran is a Naturopath, Medical Nutritionist, Herbalist, Homeopath, Certified BodyTalk Practitioner and published writer.

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