How Sugar Impacts Mental Health
Ever experience a hyper little sugar high from eating a slice of cake, and then shortly after plunge into brain fog, irritability, or forgetfulness? It’s a bittersweet experience. But why does this happen to us? Shouldn’t we be able to have our cake and eat it, too? Well, here is why that high and low is happening with your body and your mind when you have too much sugar in one sitting.
Glucose from the sugar or carbohydrates we eat is the main form of energy for your brain. Eating too much sugar may result in poor memory, feeling anxious, depressed or irritable. When we consume added sugars or simple carbohydrates like that found in cake or white bread, we see a spike and decline in our blood sugar.
Research has found that consistently high blood sugar levels from consuming low fiber carbohydrates and added sugar, is linked to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as increased anxiety, depression, poor memory recall and irritability.
When we abuse substances like alcohol, nicotine, and heroin, we see the “feel-good” hormone called dopamine released in high amounts in the brain. The high that people get from dopamine results in them seeking out the same feeling again and returning to the substance for another fix.
Sugar, while it may not be as drastic of a high as the previously mentioned substances, does have a similar (albeit, dampened) effect on the brain with its release of dopamine following consumption.
In comparison, foods like broccoli, have no release of dopamine following their consumption. Therefore, the reward system is not the same and possibly the reason why you don’t crave broccoli when you need a pick-me-up.
Being aware of the amount of added sugar you consume is critical to your health and longevity. According to the American Heart Association, women should only consume up to 25 grams and men 38 grams of added sugar per day. On average, Americans consume 71 grams of added sugar per day. That’s double the recommended limit!
Keep an eye out for added sugars in sneaky places like sauces, dressings, dips, bars, processed snack foods, dried fruit, drinks, and more. Skip the artificial sweeteners as they are over stimulating for your taste buds. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives with natural sweeteners like pureed fruit, mashed bananas, dates, honey, maple syrup or agave.
If you are still struggling with a sweet tooth, let’s chat! Sometimes there are other elements of your life out of balance that are calling for you to take care of them. Stay tuned for my next article where we will dive into how caffeine impacts your cognitive function.