How Does Sugar Affect Your Mental Health?

Most of us are aware of the impact too much sugar can have on our physical health – such as causing problems with our dental health, weight gain, widespread inflammation, or diabetes. However, it’s less commonly acknowledged just how damaging high sugar intake can be on our mental health.

One factor to consider is that sugar causes highs and lows in mood. A sugar rush means your body has to work hard to get back to normal – which can lead to worry, fatigue, irritability and sadness.

Those who suffer with depression or anxiety often already experience these kinds of symptoms, so a sugar low will most likely intensify them. 

Sugar can also weaken your body’s ability to respond to stress, worsening your symptoms of anxiety. By minimising your sugar intake, your body will have a better ability to cope with the cause of your stress. 

Having too much sugar can also lead to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain – which could trigger depression. Interestingly, countries with high sugar intake have correspondingly high cases of depression.  

Additionally, overconsumption of sugar can lead to addiction. Similar to drugs, sugar triggers dopamine, the ‘feel-good’ chemical, to be released in the brain, and when you quit cold turkey it can lead to withdrawal symptoms that are very similar to those people experience when withdrawing from drugs. 

It is therefore recommended that a person with a mental health condition shouldn’t quit sugar cold turkey, but rather should cut down gradually. 

Lastly, sugar can have an impact on our brain health – slowing it down and affecting memory and learning. A high-sugar diet can also lead to insulin resistance, which can cause damage to brain cells. This may also lead to a higher risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  

Here are some ideas of how to cut down on sugar, and how you can replace it with healthier alternatives: 

Try to cut out products with added sugar, as well as fizzy drinks. Try having slightly less sugar each day.

For example, if you take sugar in your tea or coffee, you could try cutting out half a
teaspoon every few days, that way you can adjust to the taste gradually. 

What about when you fancy something sweet? Try some of the following ideas:

  • Try eating some sweet fruit if you are craving something.
  • Take a natural yogurt and add a dash of vanilla essence and some fruit. 
  • Try chocolate-coated strawberries, with either dark chocolate or a mix or dark and milk.
  • Make some sweet potato fries. 
  • Try some banana pancakes topped with fruit
  • My personal favourite – homemade peanut butter cups (recipe below!)

 

Homemade Healthy Peanut Butter Cups. 

To make 4/5, you’ll need: 

100g bar of dark chocolate 

2 dessert spoons of peanut butter

½ dessert spoon softened butter

Sea salt/Himalayan pink salt (optional) 

Silicone cake cases

 

  1. Melt the dark chocolate
  2. Mix together the peanut butter and butter
  3. Spoon a small blob of the dark chocolate into each cake case, and make sure it covers the bottom (you may have to swirl it around a bit)
  4. Put around 1 teaspoon of peanut butter in each cake case on top of the dark chocolate (or more if you prefer them more peanutty!)
  5. Cover the peanut butter with another layer of dark chocolate in each case. 
  6. I like to sprinkle a little salt on top. 
  7. Put in the fridge and let them set for at least 15 minutes!
  8. Enjoy!