Brain Waves with Debra Rose: March 2022

Your Brain on Sugar

We associate sweets and treats with joyful occasions, yet in reality sugar does little to make us happy.
Perhaps you are more conscious about how much sugar you consume, yet it is still hidden in the areas you would least expect; pasta, salad dressing, even sauces. Winter is also a time in which we gravitate towards a heavier cuisine, and ironically when our mood is also more heavy and less cheery. Cutting down on sugar will not only enhance your health it will brighten your mood.

Consuming too much sugar results in the well-known physical reactions of increasing inflammation, weight gain, tooth decay, acne, high blood pressure and cholesterol to name a few. It is harder to sleep well, concentrate and regulate our digestive system with too much sugar in our diet. Mentally, we are less prepared to handle stressful situations, and our mood is less stabilized due to the lack of neurotransmitters created from a more nutritious diet. Sugary foods tend to crowd out the healthier ones and are more dense in calories, so we are gaining the calories without the nutrients and fiber.

We need melatonin for sleep, serotonin for a pleasant mood, dopamine for focus and motivation, and GABA for alleviating anxiety, all of which are reduced by consuming too much sugar. Sugar in our diet plays a role in depleting the vitamins and minerals our bodies require.

You may not also love sugar as much as you think you do, you may just be used to it. The slightest adjustments to eat less sugar on a daily basis make a major difference. It all adds up. Try eating more fresh fruit instead of something processed, you will have the added benefit of hydration, nutrients and fiber without the calories. Baking your own desserts and breads allows you to regulate what sugar is added, and fosters creativity with substitutes; bananas, dates and ingredients with natural sugar rather than refined sugars. Items like yogurt, milk and beverages can easily be the plain, low or no sugar variety, and water the beverage of choice. When you are reducing sugar you are making room for more B vitamins, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, selenium, amino acids, and the vitamins and minerals that will keep you healthier and in turn will make you happier.