Sugar & Mental Health: 3 Types of Sweet Snacks to Limit This Summer for Your Brain's Sake by Dr. Teralyn Sell
You worked hard all winter to finally be able to show off your summer body and to indulge in the sugary goodness of sodas, cakes and every other sweet treat that comes with summer fun. But what is all this sugar doing to your body as you’re having fun in the sun? More importantly, what is it doing to your mental health?
Sugar is a major contributor to long-term psychological health. In recent research it was found that sugar consumption increases the risk of depressive symptoms due to inflammation on the body and brain. All it takes is intaking more than the daily recommendation of sugar which is 6 teaspoons or 24 grams per adult to increase your risk. The average American consumes 17 teaspoons per day, which is already more than three times what is recommended.
How might this be impacting my mental health? We have to consider what is happening to the body and to the brain almost immediately with the consumption of sugar. To put it plainly, the rise and fall of blood sugar is known as hypoglycemia. In someone who eats a high-sugar diet, this rise and fall is very sharp leading the individual to complain of dizziness, headaches, shakiness and this might lead to feelings of anxiety and depression with fatigue. This is known as reactive hypoglycemia. If such an individual came into a doctor’s office, they would most likely complain about the anxiety and fatigue.
Here are a few high-sugar content food and drinks to limit this summer:
- Alcoholic Beverages: Though not a popular opinion to avoid in summer times festivities, alcoholic beverages are rich in sugars and carbohydrates which can be very problematic. Alcohol has many unexpected consequences outside of intoxication. These consequences can include dysregulating blood sugar, not eating in lieu of drinking, shutting down your thinking brain and disrupting your sleep. Additionally, alcohol can cause dehydration because it is a diuretic. This can lead to a host of problems while you are in the hot summer sun. If you choose to drink, make sure you also eat plenty of protein snacks and hydrate well in between drinks.
- Sodas: An average can of soda contains more than 39 grams of sugar which is almost double the daily recommended amount for an adult. Instead of full sugar sodas opt for sparkling, carbonated water. You get the fizz and flavor without the sugar and it’s negative impacts on your health.
- Cookies, Cakes, Pies: Cookies, cakes and pies are super fun at any outing, but work to limit your consumption. An average cupcake has 30 or more grams of sugar while a chocolate chip cookie has 11 grams. Cakes and cookies go down fast making it easy to fill up on the low quality, high in sugar treats. If you have trouble moderating (you can’t eat just one) opt instead for fruit and protein sources.
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