It’s no surprise that sugar isn’t a health food. But, did you know that sugar has a very interesting effect on your brain. Studies have shown that not only does excess amounts sugar impair our cognitive skills but it also reduces our self-control. Consuming sugar triggers the reward center of the brain leading to cravings for more sweets. Scientists have proposed that sweet foods can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain leading to loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain. This stimulus was once beneficial because it helped our ancestors seek out calorie-rich foods, helping with their survival during times when food was scare, but now this primitive drive contributes to a entirely new set of issues such as obesity and diabetes.
Our brains use more energy than any other organ in the human body and glucose is its source of fuel. Our bodies convert most of the foods we eat into sugar or glucose. ‘Good’ glucose comes from complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides and take longer for our bodies to digest. The other type of sugar we consume is fructose. If we eat this source of sugar in the form of fruits and vegetables, it provides us with vitamins and minerals our bodies need. When we consume fructose in the form of junk food or processed foods we receive no nutritional benefit from our food and the results are harmful to our health.
To keep your body and brain functioning at peak capacity watch for hidden sugars. Read food labels – if sugar or any of the other names it goes under are in the first five ingredients, consider avoiding that food. If you do crave something sweet, reach for fruit or be sure to eat your sweet food alongside a serving of nuts or a higher protein option to help slow digestion and reduce the likelihood of a glucose spike.