Too Much Sugar Could Be Stressing You Out: Try These 3 Snacks Instead
8 minute read
Has sugar become the new carbohydrate? An evil to be avoided at all costs? Well, the research is out there and it proves that sugar is indeed dangerous to your health.
More than just a problem for your physical health, sugar has also been found to affect your mental well-being as well. Understanding how and why this happens is an important step in maintaining the motivation to optimize your diet for a healthier, stress-reduced lifestyle.
Sugar and Anxiety
There have been many studies that deal with the concerns of how sugar affects mental health.
First anyone with chronic anxiety should seek the appropriate professional help in managing their mental health. But they may benefit greatly from reducing their sugar intake.
Sugar can cause blurry vision, difficulty thinking, and fatigue. Not only are these all symptoms of a panic attack, they are worrisome in their own right and cause anxiety and fear.
Following large doses of sugar, most people have a “sugar crash,” which can prompt shaking, tension, headaches, and fatigue. Again, these are symptoms of anxiety and their mere existence can induce feelings of anxiousness.
Large amounts of sugars signal your body to produce enough insulin (unless you’re diabetic) to absorb the glucose and stabilize your blood again. This is your body working effectively.
The problem is it’s actually a lot of work for your body to do this. It’s natural, but it’s not easy. In some people this rollercoaster effect of riding a sugar rush and then dealing with a sugar crash can have a more profound effect.
If you suffer from depression, anxiety, and even addiction, you might be fueling the fire with sugar.
Are All Sugars Bad for You?
Sugar is everywhere. You can skip that candy bar or donut and opt for a healthy apple instead, but you’re still consuming sugars. The key is that not all sugars are the same.
Sugars occur naturally everywhere you find carbohydrates.
Now you know that carbohydrates are found in breads, rice, and all grains. But did you know they’re also naturally found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy?
It’s true. These foods also have carbohydrates, which means they have some naturally occurring sugars.
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It’s important to know the difference between naturally occurring sugars and refined sugar. The natural sugars you find in whole foods are okay.
This is because fruits and vegetables not only have carbohydrates and sugars, but they’re chock full of healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Dairy products not only have carbs and sugars, but they have vital proteins and calcium. These sugars are typically okay to consume.
The bad sugars are those that are added to boost the flavor of something or to extend its shelf life. Some of the main culprits in today’s diets are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurt, breakfast cereal, cookies, pastries, candy, and processed foods.
While these are pretty obvious, it’s the hidden sugar bombs you want to avoid as well. Keep your eyes on the labels and look to see what the sugar content of your favorite ketchup is, how about cured meats, even soup can pack a sugar punch.
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How much sugar is okay? Well, that requires a bit of math and is based on how many calories you consume a day.
To make it easier, the American Heart Association has put out a basic rule of thumb that says women should have no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar and men should keep it at or under 9 teaspoons (38 grams) per day. This is added sugars, not the natural ones.
Why Is Sugar Bad for You?
Now you may be wondering why sugar is bad for you. There are actually a lot of ways that sugar is harmful for your body.
If your thoughts first jump to diabetes, you’re right. That’s one of the top-of-mind illnesses where sugar plays a key role. It’s the way sugar affects your blood sugar, lipids, and triglycerides that makes it dangerous for diabetics.
It’s also this reaction that makes it dangerous for everyone else.
Diabetics cannot produce the appropriate amounts of insulin to deal with added sugars, which is why it’s particularly bad for them. But a lot of added sugar is difficult for even the healthiest bodies to process.
Sugar adds calories, it typically replaces more healthy foods, and it increases your chances of having a poor lipid profile, which can put you at greater risk for heart disease. There have also been some studies that suggest added sugars promote inflammation and inflammation-related illnesses.
Replacing Sugar and Staying Satisfied
If you want to promote all-over health, mental and physical, then you’re going to want to find ways to satisfy your emotional desire for sweets and your sugary cravings. The following three treats not only offer you some alternatives, they give you a starting place to create your own sweet sugar substitutes.
Since chocolate has added sugars and strawberries have healthy sugars, this is a nice way to ease into a healthier approach. You obviously don’t want to drown those strawberries in chocolate and you don’t want to overindulge, but a few may do the trick.
The key is to try to balance milk chocolate with dark chocolate, shoot for a 50/50 ratio. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, methylxanthines, and polyphenols. Besides being a mouthful, these building blocks help boost mood, lower anxiety, and fight inflammation.
Chai Tea Smoothies
They’re flavorful, packed with healthy ingredients, and can be tailored to your taste. Pick your favorite protein powder to give it a kick, add a fourth of an avocado for healthy fats and a smooth consistency, reach for the spices you love (like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom), and then finish it with some local honey.
It takes a bit of work to create the chai smoothie, but it can be just as rewarding as an ice cream shake.
Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Do you crave a sweet after dinner? Curb this craving by adding naturally sweet foods, like sweet potatoes, to your meal.
This does double duty by giving you a healthy and balanced meal while also satisfying your sweet-craving side. Don’t undo your hard work by making a sweet potato that’s drowning in brown sugar and honey, but do add a little of each to create a flavor that is just what you desire.
The Bottom Line
Overall, avoiding added sugars and finding healthy replacements will leave you feeling better from top to bottom. In today’s convenience-first world, too many foods already come with hidden sugars to justify adding sugar where you don’t have to.
Find your own creative ways to take out the sugar and replace it with foods that fuel a healthier, happier you.