Why your sweet tooth might impact your mental health
Americans consume 30% more sugar than they did 30 years ago. The average person ingests a whopping 66 pounds of sugar per year, and you can find sugar in everything from sports drinks to salad dressings.
You may have heard that sugar can damage the enamel on your teeth, resulting in cavities or other dental concerns. You may also know that some people believe that a link exists between obesity and sugar consumption.
What you may not know is that sugar can impact your mental health; we’ll explain how below.
Sugar Makes You Crabby
Sugar may trigger symptoms in people who have mental illness or struggle with addiction, but it can also affect your mood even if you don’t.
Prevention lists sugar as one of five common foods that cause sadness, explaining that sugar consumption increases brain inflammation.
When your brain is inflamed, you may experience feelings of depression or discontentment. Inflammation can also potentially trigger anxiety and irritability.
Regardless of the cause of your mood, it’s important to talk to a healthcare specialist if feelings of depression persist. You should also contact a medical provider if you feel tempted to hurt yourself or others.
Sugar Affects Blood Glucose
Blood glucose, commonly called blood sugar, gives your body energy. Some people mistakenly assume that more glucose equals more energy, but that’s generally not the case.
If you eat too much sugar, you may feel lethargic and find it hard to function physically and mentally. You may also become angry or anxious until your blood sugar stabilizes.
If your blood sugar drops too quickly after you consume sweet treats, you may become irritable or short-tempered. You can help combat these potential side effects by eating a spoonful of almond butter or another protein-packed food.
Protein helps stabilize glucose levels because it doesn’t break down as quickly as refined sugar.
Sugar Can Trigger Psychological Reactions
The paragraphs above discuss the physical effects sugar has on your body, but did you know that it also has a psychological impact on some people?
Sugar has the potential to trigger memories, both good and bad, when you eat it.
This is true for any food, but sugar-filled foods are often served during work events, school functions, and family gatherings. You may eat sugar in an effort to relive happy memories from the past, but this may backfire and leave you feeling lonely and depressed.
Here are some examples of psychological cravings for sugar:
- Eating cake because it reminds you of your last birthday party
- Consuming ice cream because it makes you think of fun-filled summer days with your best friend
- Devouring boxes of chocolates because they remind you of your ex boyfriend
- Cramming fresh-baked cookies into your mouth because you associate them with your deceased grandmother
You may temporarily feel joy or excitement when you consume sugar to satisfy a psychological craving, but these feelings are often replaced with feelings of shame, guilt, or sadness.
Things to Consider
We’re not advising you to completely eliminate sugar from your diet (unless you want to), but there are things you can do that might help reduce the mind-altering side effects of sugar. Start by monitoring how much sugar you consume each day.
The American Heart Association says that women should generally keep their daily sugar intake at or below 25 grams, while men should aim for 36 grams or less. You can also try replacing some of the refined sugar in your diet with healthier alternatives, such as honey.
If sugar makes you feel bad, document your feelings in a food diary or journal. Write down what you ate and how it made you feel so you can establish a pattern.
This may help motivate you to avoid eating foods with an excessive amount of sugar.
Many factors, including genetics and lifestyle choices, affect your mood. If you’ve been depressed, angry, or anxious lately, your sugar intake might have something to do with these emotions.
**Paige Johnson loves offering her advice on weight lifting and strength training. She is part of the team in Learnfit.org where they are dedicated to sharing their passions.
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