I know, I know, most people like sugar and you’ve heard it a million times growing up that it’s bad for your teeth bla, bla, bla! But I’m going to tell you a couple of things here that may surprise you and you might want to pay attention to, if you want to feel happier, more energised and in top form.
Hundreds of studies have found a link between high intake of sugar and psychological health. In fact, a 2017 study found a 23% adverse effect of higher sugar intake on mental health cross-sectionally and 5 years later in a study based on 23,245 repeated measures in men. Similar effects have been seen in women in other studies – hundreds of them. So, if you have been having low mood, anxious feelings (mild to panic attack level) or you’ve been acting like an angry witch, sugar might be, or at least could be contributing to the problem.
You see, overconsumption of sugar can induce hypoglycaemia through an exaggerated insulin response and that influences hormone imbalance, leading to all sorts of mood and cognitive problems. It causes your blood sugar to go on a rollercoaster ride of spikes and crashes, and your mood, focus and energy goes along for the ride, going up and down.
The tricky part is sugar is highly addictive. Get this! One study in rats found that sweetness can stimulate the brain’s reward center and may be more pleasurable than cocaine, even in people with a drug addiction! In other words, the high from sugar was seen to be stronger than the high from cocaine. This was a rat study but looking at the evidence from people studies, it’s fair to say similar applies. Is it any wonder why so many food companies try to sneak sugar into our food? It makes you want more of it!
What to do? Well, I’m not going to patronise you by telling you to cut out all sugar from your diet (it’s not realistic), but the following 10 tips may help you cut down or at least make you more aware of how you can balance things out, if you want to feel happier, more energised and focused.
- Eat full fat foods. Diet alternatives often come with a “healthy halo” but are really just marketing ploys. For example, a 6-ounce (170-gram) serving of low fat vanilla yoghurt contains 24 grams of sugar. The same amount of full-fat plain yoghurt contains just 8 grams of naturally occurring milk sugar. So, if you are thinking about buying yoghurt or other diet products, don’t be fooled by the word diet!
- Eat whole foods. Whole foods haven’t been processed or refined. They are also free of additives and other artificial substances. These foods include whole fruits, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. Examples of processed foods are sugary cereals, chips, and fast food. Try to cook from scratch if you can, so you can avoid added sugars. You don’t have to cook elaborate meals (I am a useless cook!), just keep it natural. Marinate for flavour instead of using sugar-laden sauces.
- Avoid canned foods that are packed in syrup or have sugar on the ingredient list. Go for versions labelled “in water” or “no added sugar.”
- Limit sugary breakfast cereals. Some breakfast cereals can be loaded with added sugar. One report found that some of the most popular ones contained more than half their weight in added sugar! Switch up the cereals a few days a week (cutting back is better than doing nothing at all.) for porridge sweetened with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, avocado smash etc
- Consider eating more protein. A diet high in protein and fiber reduces hunger and promotes a full feeling. Protein has been shown to directly reduce food cravings. One study found that increasing protein in the diet by 25% reduced cravings by 60%. Stock up on protein-rich foods. If you feel like a nibble, eat a protein food such as nuts instead of a sweet.
- Cut back on sugary drinks. Sugary drinks (sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and sugary juices) are absorbed very quickly into the body, resulting in a rapid increase in your blood sugar level. So, where possible, switch to unsweetened sparkling water, black or green tea or coffee, You don’t have to cut it out completely but if, for example, you have two a day, maybe cut it back to one.
- Avoid sugary desserts, I know, I’m killing ya here, right? No, I’m just looking out for you. Please read on 😊 You see, grain and dairy-based desserts, such as cakes, pies, doughnuts, and ice cream, account for more than 18% of the intake of added sugar in the American diet, so make a few adjustments to bring it down even slightly. Consider having fruit, Greek yogurt with cinnamon, baked fruit with cream, dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) or other less sugar laden foods every second dessert maybe. The key is to just cut down at the start.
- Artificial Sweeteners. There are plenty on the market, but your body won’t thank you for them. However, your body will react perfectly fine to sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and allulose.
- Research a low GI diet. The low glycaemic (low GI) diet involves swapping high GI foods for low GI alternatives. It’s worth researching as it can give you specific items to buy and not to buy.
- Shop when you’re full. If you go into a shop and it’s been a while since your last meal, your body will celebrate the sweet aisle. But if you go shopping on a full stomach your sugar levels are balanced so there’s no craving temptation for sugar. You’ll end up buying what you need, not what you crave when you’re hungry.
Bottom line is do your very best to cut back on sugar. It will help your mood, energy levels and thinking hugely. Just look at what you eat and see if you can switch up some alternatives and be okay with it.
And make sure to download my eBook for FREE at https://donnakennedy.com#ebook , if you haven’t already. It will help you have a positive success mindset, so you can get on track today!