Thanks to quarantine exhaustion and the global pandemic, mental and physical health are being tested on a daily basis. Hence it is expected that our emotions can go through a roller coaster ride. And in times of stress, we can reach out for feel-good foods that are high in sugar.
According to recent studies, overall sugar intake increased more than 50% during the start of the quarantine. In another recent study from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], the rise in sweet indulgences has negatively impacted movements, sleep cycles, and the health of the average American, both physically and mentally.
Besides, consuming too much sugar can cause health conditions such as heart disease and type II diabetes. Again, it is also highly correlated to depression in the long run and more imbalances.
To stop this vicious cycle of sugar impacting our physical and emotional wellness, let’s look at what you need to grasp about sugar to help you break the habit.
- ‘Sugar Rush’ Does Not Exist
Like most of us, you may have reached for a sweet bite hoping to boost your adrenaline quickly before a Zoom meeting. But while high glucose levels can cause short-term effects due to sugar consumption or sucrose on your mood, you may instantly start experiencing a decrease in your alertness and a higher level of fatigue within the first hour of eating. Recent studies from Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews revealed that sugar does not enhance any aspect of mood. Therefore, this revolutionary conclusion challenges the idea that the sugar rush is a myth, and it does not offer any temporary ‘high’ as previously thought.
- Long-Term Impact On Negative Mental Health
Research indicates that high sugar consumption can lead to depression and poor mental health symptoms after many years. Intake of added sugars over a long period can affect long-term mental health, whereas a restricted input of added sugars is linked to improved mental health. Current research outlines areas where added sugars can impact mental health. These include:
- Elevated blood pressure and chronic inflammation
- Long-term depression
- Swift blood sugar spikes and crashes
- Fluctuating hormone levels and mood conditions
- Addiction-like effects on dopamine
- Permissible Sugar Level Intake
So, the question arises, how much sugar must one consume? Currently, an average individual consumes more than 30% of added sugars every day. This consumption rate exceeds the recommendations that suggest we need to consume less than 10% of added sugars in our total daily calorie intake. Areas where sugar creeps into our diet include sweetened tea and coffee, beverages, desserts and sweet snacks.
Aim to keep your total daily added sugar consumption below 6% of your total calories. This means, if you consume 2000 calories every day, you may want to keep the consumption of total added sugars below 120 calories, which is equivalent to 8 teaspoons of table sugar.
- Swap Sugar For Healthy Substitutes
For instance, instead of reaching out for a sugar-sweetened refreshment, you can try infusing cold water with fresh sightless fruits and herbs. Adding freshly cut lemons, oranges all meant in your water can give you a refreshing and hydrating option. It can also help cut down your sugar craving. On the other hand, if you are aiming to go for a sugary snack, you can try a snack high in protein and healthy fats to keep you feeling satisfied while at the same time maintaining your blood sugar levels. Opt for a handful of knots and a piece of fruit, peanut butter and sprouted grains or hummus and crackers as alternatives to sugary snacks.
Since fruit is naturally sweet and comes packed with fiber, water, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, you may want to add fruits to your daily diet to satisfy your sweet craving. You can end your meal with a sweet dish such as blending bananas or mangoes that make a delightful treat.
- Track Sugar Consumption
You may be surprised to know that added sugars hide in unsuspecting places. Innocuous food items such as tomato sauce and salad dressings are packed with high sugar levels, and it can be challenging to know how much you’re actually consuming with every meal. Use a food diary or a tracking app to increase your mindfulness of food choices. Since sugary sources can be tricky to track, use simple tracking tools to help you know more about the foods you consume every day. Besides, you will also become more aware of your eating patterns and work on the proper diet for a balanced body and mind.
It can be a good idea to read nutrition labels on packaged food products to see the number of added sugars. When eating seemingly healthy foods such as granola bars, non-dairy milk or breakfast cereal, you may want to go through the ingredient list to look for added sugars.
Knowing that added sugars can affect your physical and mental health does not mean it needs to be sworn off wholly. Since every human has a liking for sweet foods, you can use constructive ways, like the ones mentioned above, to cut down your sweet cravings and keep your mood and blood sugar levels in check.