Blog Post

Top 5 Things Sugar Does To Your Brain

Food can be one of the major factors on our mood and general cognitive wellbeing and sugar specifically can have a significant impact on how well our brain performs. Even though sugar is nothing to be concerned about in small quantities, many of us are eating and drinking too much on a daily basis.

 

In supermarkets, packaged and highly processed foods contain, on average, 74% sugar. And while it is recommended that sugar comprises 5% of our daily diet, the average intake is over double this amount.

 

With this in mind, here are five things that sugar does to our brain:

 

 

  1. Disrupts Emotional and Mental Balance

 

Too much sugar leaves us prone to mood swings as it depletes our vitamin B stores (important vitamins for a healthy brain) and blocks the chromium receptors, both of which are natural emotionally balancing chemicals. This may lead to us feeling irritable, anxious and having dramatic peaks and troughs in mental performance.

 

Some foods high in B vitamins which are great for the brain include: eggs, chickpeas, oily fish and bananas.

 

 

  1. Blocks Memory Receptors

 

A high sugar diet affects our cognitive function and our mental performance. Studies have shown that we may actually have a harder time making connections with what people say and making connections between concepts as a result of sugar.

 

A great counterbalance to this is to eat more nuts, seeds and avocados as they are a great source of omega 3 and vitamin E to promote our memory capacity.

 

 

Infographic-Caffeine-Sugar-Comparison-Blog

 

  1. Lowers our Mood

 

When we feel down, it is hard to get anything done. Eating sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. But when we eat sugary foods, our brain craves more and more and if we are constantly over-activating these pathways, our levels of serotonin can deplete, leaving us with symptoms similar to that of depression.

 

The best way to combat these mood dips is to have steady, regular meals with protein and fibre at the centre to keep our insulin levels constant and help us feel satisfied for longer.

 

 

  1. Increases Stress Levels

 

As with any emotional response, our body becomes flooded with chemicals and when we are stressed, our fight or flight response kicks in. Stress has been linked to overeating and gaining weight. We feel guilty when we eat unhealthy foods like sugary snacks and drinks which can cause underlying stress in our lives.

 

The best way to counteract this is to get ahead of our body’s stress cycle. We can do this by eating foods that will release serotonin without spiking blood sugar levels, like walnuts, avocados and berries.

 

 

  1. Blurs our Mental Focus

 

According to a recent study, sugar forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane, compromising our nerve cells’ ability to communicate. This causes what is known as brain fog. The study also drew connections between sugar intake and our ability to retain information and process ideas.

This is one reason why energy drinks can be so counterproductive when we are trying to focus. The high sugar will leave us with a crash, leading us to feel sluggish and often worse than before.

 

More high protein and high fibre foods will help us focus throughout the day. Foods high in protein and fibre also make us feel fuller which means we will be less likely to reach for something sweet. Nuts and pulses are a great snack to help keep those sugar cravings at bay, while helping us to retain razor sharp focus.

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