Have you been feeling down lately? Chances are your diet is at least partly to blame and one of the culprits may be sugar.

EDITED sugarSugar can impact a person’s mood, body and mental health according to a holistic nutrition consultant and scientific research.  Photo courtesy of Pexels, Creative Commons Licensed

The science is in. After consuming foods with added sugar, your blood glucose levels rise and then fall drastically. This can leave you feeling drained, according to multiple studies.  

Have you heard of hangry? Blood glucose directly affects energy, so when it crashes your energy does too. This can cause feelings of anxiety, irritability, and hunger.

Sugar also takes a toll on mood with medical research showing that added sugars are associated with depression. The British Journal of Nutrition featured a study that suggests consuming added sugar increases the risk of depression. Most concerning are foods with high levels of added sugar, such as candy and ice cream.

When you choose to eat more natural and less concentrated sugars, like those in fruit, it keeps your levels good throughout the day. No more whiplash.

In addition to our energy and mood, a Calgary holistic nutrition consultant says people need to know sugar negatively impacts our bodies and our brains.

Sharon Wright says sugar is rocket fuel. “It spikes us beyond what our bodies can tolerate and it doesn’t sustain us for very long.”

Sugar on its own has no nutritional value and after it enters the body stored vitamins and minerals are used to combat the effects of sugar. “I call it the energy robber,” says Wright.

Sugar also triggers the release of cortisol, the stress chemical. Cortisol causes inflammation in the body which can lead to “foggy thinking.” It makes it hard to focus and takes a toll on memory.

With fluctuating energy, depressed moods and sluggishness, sugar consumption can negatively impact our productivity and happiness.

Wright says her clients have benefitted from sugar-free diets. One client with bipolar, manic depressive disorder found that a sugar-free diet helped him to manage some of his symptoms.

When eating sugar-free he found that his symptoms were more manageable compared to when he was eating sugar. Wright says that when he began to eat foods with added sugar again, he found his symptoms were worse.

“I believe food may not fix things 100 per cent, but without good nutrition nothing else will work,” says Wright.

In today’s processed world, it can be hard to cut out sugar completely. But, even cutting down has benefits. Wright offers  five pointers to help people get on track:

EDITED naturalfoodsWhole foods are less manufactured and are close to how they appear in nature. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Creative Commons Licensed

1. Get back to nature

Stick to whole foods, which are less manufactured and less processed. “When things are refined, we lose some of the nutrients and fibre and the actual sugar content is boosted,” says Wright.

EDITED Maple SyrupMaple syrup can be a healthier alternative to syrups with added sugar.  Photo courtesy of Pexels, Creative Commons Licensed

2. Choose healthier alternatives

Try to replace white sugar with more natural sources. Wright says that honey and maple syrup are good alternatives for individuals who want to maintain some of the sweetness in their diet.

EDITED savouryIf you’re looking to cut down on sugar, choose salty or spicy foods over sweet ones. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Creative Commons Licensed

3. Pick savoury over sweet

When deciding what to eat, Wright believes that choosing savoury ingredients, rather than sweet ones, will decrease your sugar intake while providing you with something delicious and satisfying. More savoury choices are ones the are more salty or spicy.

EDITED waterWater is the healthier choice when it comes to sugar sweetened beverages.  Photo courtesy of Pexels, Creative Commons Licensed

4. Don’t drink your sugar

Drinks sweetened with refined sugars play a large role in daily sugar consumption. Studies show that fructose filled drinks don’t satisfy hunger. When you choose to drink juice with your dinner you will likely eat the same amount as you would while drinking water, but with extra calories.  

EDITED labelFood labels can tell you a lot about what you’re eating. Keep an eye out of high fructose corn syrup, which is often called glucose-fructose in Canada. Photo by Brittany Willsie

5. Read the label  

A key part of decreasing your sugar intake is to read the ingredients on the label. “Don’t have sugar as the first ingredient,” says Wright, “and if it has high fructose corn syrup, run the other way.” High fructose corn syrup is a big contributor to obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In Canada it is listed as glucose-fructose and can be found in many common items including some brand-name ketchups and carbonated pop.  

Editor: Amber McLinden | amclinden@cjournal.ca

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