Why do we love sugar when it’s so bad for us?
Oh yeah … because it tastes great, it’s cheap and abundant and it gives us an immediate mood-boosting lift!
Sugar and other quickie carbs give us an instant lift because they trigger the release of serotonin. You’ve all heard of serotonin, it’s a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, mood and appetite. Unfortunately, when we use sugary snacks to boost serotonin, we cause a bigger problem by depleting serotonin stores over time. Sugar has other negative side effects as well:
The Dark Side of White Sugar
- Sugar is as addictive as cocaine – brain scans show the same reward centers of the brain lighting up like a Christams tree in response to sugar or cocaine
- The average American eats 130 lbs per year – up from 20 lbs per year in 1800.
- Sugar robs your body of minerals during its metabolism
- Sugar represses your immune system for 2-4 hours after consumption.
- Sugar gives you a burst of mental energy and focus, followed by brain fog and fatigue – and more cravings
- Sugar causes inflammation – the root cause of most chronic health conditions
It’s not sugar but protein that actually makes serotonin. The precusor to serotonin is tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is converted into serotonin. The tricky part is that tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids to be transported into the brain, so just eating protein isn’t enough, you have to eat some carbohydrate to help it cross into the brain. But instead of sugar, try the following strategies.
Steady Serotonin Boosters
- Have slow-whole carb with the tryptophan containing protein, like a small amount of sweet potato, brown rice, nuts or fruit.
- Get plenty of protein which supplies the tryptophan you need – meat, fish, protein powder, eggs and dairy if you can tolerate.
- Exercise! Exercise stimulates many of the feel-good chemicals we so dearly love, so approach exercise not as a chore or to look good but to feel and function at your best
- Get good sleep – 7-9 hours in pitch black darkness if possible.
- Build in good times with family and friends. Remember that the delightful act of cuddling releases the feel-good chemical oxytocin; you can think of oxytocin as the “tend and befriend” hormone.
The good news is, you don’t have to live your life addicted to sugar and removing it from your diet will help you improve mood, create steadier more reliable energy and support better brain function.
To your good mood!
Cassandra Mick, CNE
Read more about Cassandra’s approach to nutrition or schedule a free Nutriton Strategy Session at www.eatwellpdx.com