You are what you eat. This quote has proven to be true almost always! The more I study nutrition and understand its impact, I realize we really are what we eat. You eat healthily, you are healthy, you eat unhealthily and it directly causes you to be unhealthy too.
It’s commonly known that eating too much sugar can cause a lot of medical problems including
obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart health decline, hypertension, inflammation, poor dental health and in worst cases even Alzheimers! But did you know that consuming excessive sugar can also result in poor mental health?
Food has a direct impact on our moods and emotions. When we feel hungry, it’s most likely to be grumpy and feels angry. Badly cooked meals make us upset and sad. However, when we have a delicious meal, our mood improves suddenly.
Research has concluded that indulging in sugary treats can negatively impact mental health. Sugary treats can cause fluctuations in mood, hampers learning and even puts you at risk of mood disorders such as depression.
Here it’s important to note that high sugar content does not only come from your favourite sweeteners or go-to sweet treats. Sugar comes in different forms. Fast foods, processed foods, fortified yogurt and ready to eat cereals are all high in sugar content and must be limited if not eliminated.
So how does sugar harm your mental health?
Why Sugar Is Bad For Your Mental Health
1. Sugar May Cause Depression
Research has shown that a diet rich in natural foods, vegetables, fish and whole grains can lower the risk of depression in middle age.
The study printed in the British Journal of Psychiatry further stated that people who overindulged in sweetened desserts, fast foods, processed foods or fried foods were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who relied greatly on whole foods and unprocessed foods.
2. Sugar Is Addictive
Every day more evidence is being cited which shows that sugar is highly addictive. Our bodies are not made to handle sugar highs. So when you indulge in a carb-rich meal, your body is actually experiencing a high. Sugar and cocaine both release the feel-good hormones called dopamine.
A study conducted on rats showed that when presented with sugary water and cocaine, the rats chose sugary water. When the water was taken away, they showed withdrawal symptoms too.
3. Sugar Causes Inflammation
A carb intensive diet causes inflammation in the body as opposed to a more clean and natural diet. Overindulging in sugary treats all the time means you may be suffering from chronic inflammation which then again may cause metabolic disorders or even cancer.
Another study claims that inflammation leads to depression as inflammation and depression share some symptoms including changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite and heightened perceptions of pain. So depression might be an underlying sign of inflammation.
If you have been facing these symptoms, please visit your doctor so tests can be run to cross off other health conditions. A doctor will also provide suggestions to follow an anti-inflammatory diet rich in natural foods and antioxidant-rich fruits.
4. Sugar Mixes Badly With Anxiety
While sugar may not directly cause anxiety but if you suffer from it, it’s probable that indulging in too much sugar may worsen your anxiety symptoms. This will automatically render your body unable to cope up with your body’s ability to handle stress.
By reducing your sugar intake, you can improve your body’s ability to cope with stress and automatically lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms too.
Do All Sugars Cause Mental Health Problems?
The answer to this question is a clear cut no. Both, quality AND quantity of carbs, are extremely important when we are talking about sugar and its relation to mental health. Foods that have a high glycemic index raise the blood sugar level more. It’s the high glycemic index foods that put people at a higher risk of mental disorders.
You’ve been conditioned for a very long time to eat high carb foods. Getting back to a more naturalistic way of eating will not happen overnight and will require consistent effort. We also recommend starting the keto diet to slowly cut down carbs from your body.
The keto diet allows only a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrate per day and pushes you to include more fats in your diet to provide body the energy it needs to drive daily functions. The keto diet vows to provide mental clarity and this is the major reason why it holds such high claims: sugar causes mental fog, makes you fatigued and negatively impacts your emotions too.