Unfortunately processed food has become a staple in most of our lives. It has increasingly become part our lives since the 1950s. Processed food is natural food that has been stripped of its nutritious, raw and fibrous elements to give it a longer shelf life. It has preservatives added to it, to make it last even longer. It has coloring added to it to make it look better and added sugar to make it taste better. All foods in cans, plastic containers or plastic packaging are processed foods. The majority of the shelves of your supermarket contain processed food. When you fill your shopping cart, chances are that it contains mostly processed food.
It is harder to find a definition for the term junk food. Generally it means food that is low in nutritional value, but high in caloric value. Most people agree that candy, pretzels, chips, soda, ice cream, donuts, cookies and cake are junk food. Many people would also include fast food as junk food.
The most significant difference between grandma’s diet and yours has to do with added sugar in the food that you eat. In the decade between 1950-1959 USDA says that annual per capita consumption of sugars was 109 pounds. By the year 2000, USDA said that per capita consumption of sugars was 152 pounds.
What is sugar?
There are 3 forms of sugar. The form of sugar you may consume as table sugar, cane sugar, or white sugar is called sucrose. Then there is glucose. This type of sugar comes from eating carbohydrates such as such as rice, pasta, grain, and potatoes. Your digestion process converts these foods into glucose. Lastly there is fructose. The main food source for fructose is fruit. All fruits contain fructose. Fructose can also be made from corn. This is an important fact, as you will see.
Why are you consuming more sugar than your grandma did?
Sugars are used heavily in processed foods. Sugar has been added to 75% of the 600,000 processed foods available in supermarkets in the US. It is found in breads, cereals, soups, crackers, hot dogs, salami and other packaged meats, juices, sodas, sports drinks, peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings to name a few foods ….. not to mention cakes, cookies, candy and a Starbucks cappuccino. Reading food labels will help you find out how much added sugar is in the foods you eat. The names of added sugar on food labels include
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
Why has sugar been added to processed food?
In the 1970s, medical researchers ERRONEOUSLY determined that the major cause of escalating cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes) was saturated fats in our diet….. much of which comes from the process food that we eat. Processed food manufacturers then embarked on a campaign to reduce and eliminate fat from their processed foods….hence fat free and reduced fat foods.
However, low fat food tastes like cardboard and the food industry knew it. It wouldnt sell. So what did they do? They developed an added sugar from corn, known as high fructose corn syrup (hfcs). Hfcs was sweeter than sucrose, which appealed to the sweet palate of Americans, it costs less than sucrose, and it lasts longer.
What does this have to do with my menopause?
Added sugar in the diet is the major cause of insulin resistance.
Your body secretes insulin in response to the foods you eat — particularly the carbohydrates. Insulin breaks down the food you eat into glucose, which is commonly called blood sugar. It also enables the cells of your body to receive glucose. Glucose provides your body with energy, without which it could not function.
Your body can be either insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. If it is insulin sensitive, insulin is doing the job it is intended to do. If it is insulin resistant, your body will not be getting the energy it needs. Your body does not process large amounts of fructose efficiently. So when the added sugar takes the form of hfcs, which is used extensively in processed food, insulin becomes ineffective. Your body secretes increasing amounts of insulin in an attempt to energize the cells of your body, but this fails. When this happens frequently, the result is the condition known as insulin resistance.
It is estimated that 25% of Americans are insulin resistant.
As you know, all of your menopause symptoms are caused by hormone imbalance – particularly imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. The way to relieve/reduce your symptoms is to re-balance those hormones. You cannot re-balance them, when the condition of insulin resistance exists. You must first address insulin resistance.
You do this by eliminating junk and processed food from your diet and basing your diet around real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will also improve the balance between estrogen and progesterone, if you eat real food.
A series of posts will follow soon about how sugar affects specific menopause symptoms.