Did you know sugar can affect your mood? (So can caffeine, carbs, and so many other things we put into our body). For the sake of brevity, let’s focus on a few quick take-aways but I encourage you to read a great article on the connection between sugar and depression posted HERE on HealthLine.
Most of us have experienced how feeling hungry affects our mood! Speaking for myself, when I want food, I am grumpy! We joke about being downright “hangry.” Eating enjoyable meals can likewise result in feelings of comfort and euphoria (which of course can add to additional problems if turning to food to manage emotions).
What you choose to put in your body can have short-term and long-term implications for your health. Research has found repeatedly that eating too much sugar may increase your risk for mood disorders, including depression. The HealthLine article does a great job of explaining how sugar occurs naturally in complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and grains. It’s also present in simple, refined foods like pasta, cakes, baked goods, bread, soda, and candy. The typical American diet relies heavily on these easily digestible carbs, and includes far too few complex carbs derived from healthier sources. Too much of anything can be problematic, and sugar is no different. Incidentally, men are at greater risk of the effects of sugar, so beware! If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, sadness, or low energy, consult your doctors/nutritionist and consider reducing your sugar/carb intake and monitor for changes.
The article goes on to offer great tips for reducing sugar intake; below are just a few:
1. Cut back on the obvious sources
Sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda, energy drinks, and coffee drinks, contain a lot of added sugar. Smoothies, juice drinks, and fruit juices frequently boast big sugar numbers, too. Opt for still water, sparkling water, or chilled unsweetened tea instead of sugar-packed sips. Or squeeze a lemon or lime into your water to add natural sweetness.
2: Pick healthier desserts (please always consult a dietitian/nutritionist for specifics tailored to your medical/health needs)
Grain- and dairy-based desserts are filled with sugar and simple carbs. At the end of a big meal, pass on these filling and nutrient-light options. Instead, reach for:
- fresh fruit
- a handful of dates
- a square of dark chocolate
- sautéed fruit sprinkled with cinnamon
Swap candy for fresh fruit or naturally dried fruit.
3. Choose quality carbs
Carbs aren’t all bad, but the quality does matter. Exchange simple grains for more complex options, such as whole grains. Unlike white flour, white pasta, and white rice, whole-grain varieties of these common foods cause less of a spike to your blood sugar than simple grains, and provide a bonus of nutrients that isn’t found in highly processed foods.
4. Read food labels
Food manufacturers frequently add sugar to savory foods like marinara sauce, canned soup, and even bread to boost flavor satisfaction. Flip over any box, bag, or jar you’re buying. If added sugar is one of the first five ingredients, return the product to the shelf. Here are the 56 most common names for sugar that you may find on labels.
5. Challenge yourself
Kick your sugar habit by challenging yourself — and perhaps your friends and family members — to a sugar scrub. Eliminate all added sugars and artificial sugars from your diet for two weeks. After that brief period of time, you just might find that you’ve reset your taste preferences and no longer crave the overabundance of sugar you were eating just a few weeks before.
Find more tips for sustaining healthy weight management lifestyle changes under Invest in Your Emotional Health!
Work with your medical team(s) or a registered dietitian to slowly cut back on your sugar intake. The key with sugar is not to cut it out completely. Abrupt changes and fad diets are often much more difficult to sustain. Look for ways to enjoy what you like in healthier ways to minimize feelings of deprivation and extremes while optimizing your physical and emotional health.