You know how you feel after a stressful day. Your mood has tanked, and the first thing you want to try to calm your nerves is a big tub of ice cream. Have you ever thought that it was uncanny that you get sugar cravings when you are frazzled?
Well, there may be some scientific reasoning behind this common problem as you are not alone. There is an undeniable link between your mental health and sugar. The issue goes much deeper than the sweets you eat every day, and it has to do with your stress levels and your cravings for sweets.
A Study That Provides a Clear Link from Stress to Sugar Cravings
A fascinating study was conducted by the University College London Institute of Epidemiology. They found that people who consume large amounts of sugar in their diet have a higher risk of developing depression. On the flip side, a person could say that their depressive nature caused them to seek out carbohydrates and sugars.
Could the massive sugar consumption in America, which has caused an obesity problem, be why depression is on the rise? It’s an interesting concept to consider, especially since both issues are out of control.
While it may appear that the depression comes first and the sugar cravings second, the study found that the intense need for sugar was first. They dubbed this phenomenon reverse causation. What the study couldn’t see is the exact cause and how the two are linked.
The real conundrum is how can sweet sugar cause so many problems in the body, and how is it destroying vital parts of the brain?
Your Diet and Mental Health are Connected
In 2002, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted a study on sugar consumption. They looked at data from six countries. They found that people who consume more sugar in their diet have a higher rate of significant depression.
The Ketogenic diet or keto for short has been all the rage. The menu calls for users to restrict their carbohydrate content and decrease the consumption of processed and fast foods. The typical diet is laden with items like French fries, pizza, hamburgers, and chips.
The study in Texas showed that the individuals who regularly consumed junk food and processed varieties had a higher rate of depression than those that ate healthily. Another significant issue is sugary beverages like soda, juice, and sports/energy drinks. These people also had a higher risk of developing mental health conditions than those who drank mostly water.
The purpose behind these studies was not to find the biological or mechanical links to unhappiness; rather, it was trying to identify the relationship between sugar and depression. Shockingly, the connection is undeniable in all six countries examined. Are highly stressed people at a higher risk?
Understanding the Science of Sugar
Your body doesn’t need any sugar to function properly. Sugars are made from molecules of simple carbs. Your body does need carbohydrates to help its cell and organ function, but the inner workings of the human system can pull the nutrients from carbohydrates and give the body what it requires.
Realistically, you don’t need to consume sugar to give your body what it needs. There is no benefit to eating this white stuff, and your sugar cravings can ruin your health. The American Heart Association states that your body will use sugar no matter where it comes from for cell function.
For instance, you can eat a candy bar, or you can consume some nutritious honey. Both are going to give your body what it needs, but one is healthier for you. You can get sugar from fruits and vegetables, molasses, and milk. However, processed foods with sugar tend to be more difficult for your body to process than those varieties found naturally.
They further went on to state that you only need 6-9 teaspoons each day for optimal cell function. The average can of soda contains more than eight teaspoons of sugar, but an apple only has 3.8 teaspoons and provides other vitamins and minerals your body needs. Now, which one is better for you?
If you drink three cans of soda each day, you will consume 24 teaspoons of sugar, which is four times the necessary amount. Additionally, when you have high sugar consumption, it causes problems with your teeth and waistline and affects your mental health.
Your sugar cravings have a direct link to your diet. The more you eat it, the more your body wants more. It can be as much of an addiction as an illegal drug, especially for highly stressed people.
Nerve Damage From High Sugar Consumption
When a person has type II diabetes, the risk of having nerve damage is great. After decades of research, science is finally unraveling how high sugar levels in the bloodstream can cause this irreversible damage.
The Huazhong University of Science wanted to see how sugar damaged the neurons in the brain. They used rats that had diabetes for their research. They found that when the rats had high glucose levels in their system, they had increased inflammation in their bodies.
The inflammation allowed them to see the biological connections. What they didn’t expect the study to uncover was the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, which proves that sugar cravings and high toxicity can affect overall brain health.
The rats consumed a high sugar diet for many days to see how the elevated glucose levels affected their function. After day five, the rats had a difficult time recognizing places, and their mental capacity started to deteriorate. What they were unable to uncover is the exact mechanism in sugar that causes mental health issues.
It’s a severe problem because many people cannot get their sugar cravings under control, which ruins their brain health.
Evading the Dangers of Sugar
Sugar cravings are hard to combat, especially during times of high stress. It’s easy to say that you’re going to adopt a sugar-free way of life, but all the commercials and advertisements for the newest treat is hard to ignore. Another issue is that even foods that appear to be healthy can have high amounts of sugar that people don’t even realize.
Have you checked your children’s breakfast cereal content lately? While the front of the box may say whole grain, the back of the box tells a whole other story. Another common condiment that has sugar levels as high as a serving of ice cream is ketchup. How many tablespoons of this tomato puree do you consume with your hamburger and fries?
Other shocking labels include milk, yogurt, bread, and items that claim to have a lower fat content. If you want to get your sugar cravings under control, then you must start reading your labels. You are consuming way more sugar than you know because it’s hidden in so many everyday foods.
Sadly, even baby and toddler foods have high levels of sugar that are more than they need in a day. It’s time to get back to basics and prepare delicious, healthy meals that don’t have all the concealed dangers in them.
Final Thoughts on Breaking Your Sugar Cravings
Many people think that by switching to a low-carb lifestyle, their cravings for sugar will go away. Be patient, while you will feel better, it’s going to take some time to get those cravings under control. It can take up to a month before your body won’t crave sugar, but you can eat a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar to combat those longings.
Making better food choices can help your mental health. You can consume foods that will help combat depression, such as items high in omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. You have the power to take charge of your brain health, and mother nature is there to help you.
The next time you feel your stress levels rising, and your cravings for sugar increasing, do something different to combat those feelings. You should take a walk, eat some fruit, or call a friend or loved one for a vent session.
Additionally, if you want to control your sugar problem, then don’t buy it. It’s hard to consume something in a fit of anxiety when it’s not easily accessible. When you kick sugar to the curb, you will feel better and save a ton of money.
Invest your savings in a gym membership or a massage as these are natural and more effective ways of handling daily stress and anxiety. Highly stressed people need healthy outlets to deal with the angst they feel.
You have the power to end these cravings and take control of your mental health. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.