The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar
Many of us succumb to our infamous sweet tooth. But what is the difference between indulging occasionally in that sweet treat, versus consuming an overall diet high in sugar?
Sugar is everywhere in our food environment, and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugars to no more than ten percent per day, equal to 200 calories or 12 teaspoons of sugar for a 2,000 calorie diet. The naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruit or dairy do not contribute to added sugar. The sneaky thing about sugar is that it is often added to foods you wouldn’t normally consider sugar-laden, and they add up quickly. Sugar is packed into cereal, yogurt, bread and even items such as ketchup; not to mention the surplus of sugary drinks on the market. Most of us know by now that too much sugar has been linked to physical health problems such as obesity and diabetes, but what about our mood?
A long-term study published in the journal Scientific Reports tracked the diets and mood disorders of participants over 22 years. The study suggests that sugar intake from sugar-sweetened foods and beverages has adverse effects on long-term psychological health. The potential mechanism is thought to be that over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in brain neurotransmitters, increasing the likelihood of depression and anxiety symptoms. They found that higher habitual intake of sugar increased the likelihood of cognitive mood disorders in men after five years. While this was not a cause and effect study, the findings align with other major research on the links between sugar, diet and depression.
Bottom Line: That cup of ice cream every now and then won’t spiral you into a depression, but the focus should be placed on overall health and energy balance. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has tools to help you cut down on added sugars, determine how many calories you get from sugar and make healthy shifts in your diet.
Click here to find out more.
Check out this recipe for healthier homemade brownies: Black Bean Brownie Cups with Peanut Butter Swirl, full of chocolate fudge to hit the spot, while being healthy in just about every way. As if it couldn’t get any better, they are easy to make! Click here for the recipe.
Written by: Jillian Allen, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern