Jump to: Refined Carbs Sugar Processed Foods Trans Fats
Depression is characterized by an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but it can also affect your sleeping habits, your eating habits, and your health in general. It’s exceptionally difficult to find the motivation to get your daily exercise, for example, when you find it hard to even get out of bed. Depression can lead to overeating (or lack of eating) and inactivity, which further impacts your mood.
Changes in lifestyle are often recommended in combination with psychotherapy and medication to help people with depression. Getting back to basics and focusing on healthy sleep habits, nutritious eating, and daily exercise can help boost your mood.
With these suggestions in mind, it helps to look at your daily eating habits and consider possible changes. Start by figuring out your baseline: What foods do you typically reach for when you’re feeling depressed? What are your daily eating habits? Do you stick to certain “comfort” foods or does your diet include a wide variety of foods?
Once you establish your eating pattern, take some time to consider whether or not some of your go-to foods negatively affect your mood and where you can make some changes.
Article continues below
- Do you feel depressed?
- #1. Refined carbohydrates
- #2. Sugar
- #3. Processed foods
- #4. Trans fats
- Natural sugar versus refined or processed sugar
- Sugar causes depression
- Refined sugar gives you ‘swollen brain’
- Belly fat
- Eating large amounts of processed sugar triggers mood
- Joys and lows of sugar
- Why Sugar Is Dangerous To Depression
- Dealing with Depression and Food Cravings
- Are Your Winter Carb Cravings a Sign of Depression?
- The Connection Between Carb Cravings and Seasonal Depression
- How Can You Tell If It’s Depression?
- Tips to Manage Winter Carb Cravings
- The Link Between Sugar And Depression: What You Should Know
- Can sugar make you feel sad?
- How does sugar affect you mentally?
- Are there any healthy sugars?
- What foods have added sugar?
- How can I improve my low mood?
Do you feel depressed?
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#1. Refined carbohydrates
You might crave things like pretzels, white bread, and soda when you’re depressed, but research shows that eating too many refined carbohydrates is linked with depression. One study of women with no history of depression, substance abuse, or other forms of mental illness found that eating refined carbohydrates spiked blood sugar levels and increased the risk of depression. 1
The good news here is that the same study also found that a diet rich in whole grains and produce actually lowers the risk of depression.
Given the research on refined carbohydrates, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that sugar is also on the watch list for contributing to depression. A diet high in sugar can increase inflammation throughout the body and the brain, and recent research links brain inflammation to a higher risk of depression.
One study found that brain inflammation was 30% higher in depressed patients. 2 The roller coaster of high blood sugar followed by a crash might actually be more than just a quick shift in emotions; it might actually contribute to the brain inflammation connected to depression. Avoid the candy counter when you’re feeling blue and grab a healthy alternative when you get a sugar craving.
#3. Processed foods
It might feel like a can of soup is the easiest way to fuel your body when your low on energy and feeling depressed, but think twice before you grab that can opener. A British study of more than 3,000 people found that those who ate the most processed food faced an increased rate of depression, while those who ate more whole foods had a much lower risk of the disease. 3
#4. Trans fats
You’ll want to stay away from fried chicken, French fries, and other items doused in hydrogenated oils if you’re battling depression. The same artery-clogging trans fats that increase your risk of heart disease can also increase your risk of depression.
A study that evaluated the association between fatty acid intake or the use of culinary fats and depression in a Mediterranean population found a detrimental link between trans fatty acid intake and risk for depression. 4
It’s natural to crave sweets, salty stuff, and fried items when you’re feeling down, but clearly research shows us that a healthy diet high in whole foods is better for your mood. Limit the comfort foods and ask a friend or loved one to help you jump start a healthy eating plan, instead.
Article Sources Last Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Too much sugar causes depression. That’s something science agrees on. There’s a difference between natural sugar and refined or processed sugar. Eating too much refined sugar changes body glucose levels and even swells your brain. A recent study shows that people who eat a lot of processed food high in sugar content, have a 58% increased risk of depression. High blood sugar affects mood, creates anxiety and depression, and weakens your ability to cope with stress.
Natural sugar versus refined or processed sugar
Natural sugar is found as glucose and fructose in fruit, veggies, and grains. Natural sugar is important because it not only gives your body glucose and fructose, but it delivers nutrients, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. These are processed to extract the sugar which is in the form of sucrose (that’s glucose and fructose molecules combined). Food manufacturers add processed sugar to all kinds of foods and drinks to enhance flavour. But all you’re getting is lots of sugar, and less of the original flavour.
Sugar causes depression
Refined sugars (white sugar, high fructose corn syrup), and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice, and most processed foods) use up your body’s B vitamins. B vitamins are important for a healthy mood.
Refined sugars also boost serotonin levels, but only for a short time, like an hour or two. Then serotonin levels get low, just like in depression. Sugar also changes dopamine levels. Eating lots of sugar gives you a “sugar high” quickly followed by a “sugar crash”. You may experience depression, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, excessive sweating, poor concentration, forgetfulness, excessive thirst, and crying spells.
A study of 3,456 middle-aged people found that those who had a diet with lots of processed foods had a 58% increased risk for depression, whereas those who diet contained whole food had a 26% reduced risk for depression.
Refined sugar gives you ‘swollen brain’
Swollen brain is caused by that nice round belly fat hanging around your waist. Glucose, the energy that fuels your body, has been converted to glycogen and then stored as fat. Think of glycogen as a suitcase packed with energy, waiting to be opened. Your body can only handle a certain amount of glycogen suitcases. Too much glycogen, and all those suitcases get stored as fat. To sum up, excess glucose (sugar) is stored as fat.
Eating too much refined sugar changes your insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to keep glucose levels normal. Insulin also helps your body store and use glucose. When there’s too much sugar in your system, extra insulin is released to process all the sugar.
Belly fat has insulin resistant fat cells. These insulin resistant cells create cytokines. Cytokines are secreted by cells to help your immune system fight infections. But cytokines can become dysfunctional, especially if there’s too much refined sugar in the body. Cytokines interpret all that extra sugar as inflammation. Cytokines multiply and form a storm of infection fighters that, unfortunately, cause inflammation of anything they touch. Thus your brain tissue becomes inflamed or swollen.
Dysfunctional cytokines have been linked to major depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. It was thought that diabetes caused depression because of the pain and mood swings. Recently scientists have said swollen brain is the cause of depression in diabetes.
Eating large amounts of processed sugar triggers mood
Your body relies on glucose to fuel itself. Glucose is a simple sugar found in plant-based carbohydrates. Glucose helps you function well physically and mentally. Glucose circulates in your blood, taking energy to all of your cells.
Glucose is essential for your brain to function properly. But unlike your other organs, your brain can’t store glucose. Instead, your brain bathes in a glucose solution that surrounds it. This mixture is constantly refreshed. Your brain’s backup for glucose is your liver. If there’s not enough glucose in the blood, the liver breaks down stored fat to produce ketones which then feed the brain.
When you eat too much processed sugar, you upset the glucose balance in your blood. Large amounts of sugar can trigger feelings of worry, irritability, and sadness. Imagine not eating anything except chocolate during your coffee break. You suddenly feel energized but a few minutes later you’re irritable and moody. If you’re depressed or anxious, this hits your system double hard.
Joys and lows of sugar
Sugar creates a mood change in another way. For example, a woman breaks up with her boyfriend and then binges on chocolate ice cream. Dark chocolate contains natural sugar that boosts mood. Once the sugar leaves the system, its back to feeling sad and grumpy. The cycle of chocolate ice cream bingeing begins.
Processed sugar also boosts serotonin levels, but only for a short time, like an hour or two. After that, serotonin levels quickly drop. This is the “sugar high” and the “sugar low”. Not only does it make you anxious, fidgety, and nervous, you are also likely to be more aggressive.
The sugar high and low cycle is very addictive, just like a drug. Sugar affects the reward centre of your brain. Dopamine levels change and you get a sugar high. If you doubt this, chug down a couple of 2 litres of pop every hour for a week. Then stop. You’ll have withdrawal symptoms which feel like a panic attack.
Having too much sugar directly affects your mood. Sugar causes depression. It’s important to be aware of and regulate how much sugar you have daily. It’s also important to know the difference between natural sugar and refined (or processed) sugar. Sugar can be highly addictive and, just like any drug, very difficult to stop using. Belly fat releases cytokines which create swollen brain. This is linked to major depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Why Sugar Is Dangerous To Depression
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the link between sugar and depression.
Anyone who doubts the relationship need only to spend a night in our house and see what type of behavior happens when two kids consume 12-ounce cans of Coke or Sprite — and the demonic demonstrations that happen after a 7-11 slurpee, especially if it’s red or blue, or God forbid, a mix.
People who suffer from depression are especially vulnerable to sugar’s evil power. I am so sensitive to white-flour, processed foods that I can practically set an alarm to for three hours after consumption, at which time I will be cursing myself for inhaling the large piece of birthday cake at the party because I am feeling so miserable. That doesn’t stop me from eating dessert at the next gathering, of course, but the awareness between sugar and mood does help me better understand some of my crashes.
What, exactly, is going on inside our brain when we take a bite of that fudge cheesecake?
I found a cool site called “Food for the Brain” that offers this simple explanation:
Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.
Lots of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates (meaning white bread, pasta, rice and most processed foods,) is also linked with depression because these foods not only supply very little in the way of nutrients but they also use up the mood enhancing B vitamins; turning each teaspoon of sugar into energy needs B vitamins. In fact, a study of 3,456 middle-aged civil servants, published in British Journal of Psychiatry found that those who had a diet which contained a lot of processed foods had a 58% increased risk for depression, whereas those whose diet could be described as containing more whole foods had a 26% reduced risk for depression.
Sugar also diverts the supply of another nutrient involved in mood – chromium. This mineral is vital for keeping your blood sugar level stable because insulin, which clears glucose from the blood, can’t work properly without it.
So what do you do if you want to level out your blood sugar so that it’s behaving more like the Dalai Lama than Michael Jackson inside your brain? In her national bestseller “Potatoes Not Prozac,” Kathleen DesMaisons offers a seven-step dietary plan for sugar-sensitive people like me. I’ve tried to implement her suggestions into my diet because, as a recovering drunk and depressive, too much sugar can get downright ugly.
Here’s what DesMaisons proposes:
- Keep a food journal. The journal keeps you in relationship to your body. It reminds you of the connection between what you eat and how you feel.
- Maintain your blood sugar level. Stay steady and clear. Always have breakfast. Eat three meals a day at regular intervals. Eat brown things (whole grains, beans, potatoes, and roots), green things (broccoli and other green vegetables), and yellow things (squash and other yellow vegetables). Choose foods with the least sugars and the most fiber.
- Enhance your serotonin level. Eat protein at each meal. Make sure that enough tryptophan is swimming around in your blood. Have a complex carbohydrate (without any protein) three hours after your protein meal to boost tryptophan into your brain. The baked potato as a nightcap is a powerful tool.
- Enhance your beta-endorphin level. Reduce or eliminate sugars and white things to minimize the beta-endorphin priming that comes with a hit of sugars. Make life changes to enhance behaviors and activities (meditation, exercise, music, orgasm, yoga, prayer, dancing) that evoke or support the production of your own beta-endorphin in a steady and consistent way.
Image courtesy of Cup-Cake.com.
Why Sugar Is Dangerous To Depression
Dealing with Depression and Food Cravings
Enjoying the occasional slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream isn’t a problem. However, if you find you have been turning to food more often since becoming depressed, it is likely time to adopt one or more alternative coping methods. These could include:
- Talk to a friend. Discussing your feelings with a loved one can reduce feelings of despair and isolation.
- Go for a walk. Numerous studies have shown physical activity helps reduce depression symptoms. Even a ten-minute walk around the block can help.
- Pamper yourself. A bubble bath, manicure, or time reading a favorite book can provide mood-boosting effects.
- Write in a journal. Pour out your thoughts and feelings in writing. Not only is it a cathartic experience, but it helps you keep track of your good and bad days.
Inpatient depression treatment at Bridges to Recovery can help you address the issues that cause you to overeat. Our compassionate staff will work with you to identify and replace such coping behaviors with healthy and sustainable habits. To learn more about our facility, contact us today.
Are Your Winter Carb Cravings a Sign of Depression?
A few weeks ago I mentioned how I seem to be hungrier and to crave more carb-rich foods in colder months, and I found this is due to both psychological and physiological changes in the body in winter. It was when researching this that I also became aware of another seasonal food connection which I previously knew little about: Increased carb cravings in fall and winter months are a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that begins in late fall and fades in early spring.
Cupcake cravings in January aren’t exactly a diagnostic tool for depression, but I think it’s important to be aware of the connection for yourself, as well as others. So how do you distinguish when cravings are an indicator of SAD, and when they’re just cold weather comfort food cravings? The answer isn’t exactly clear, but here’s what I found, along with tips to help manage carb cravings.
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The Connection Between Carb Cravings and Seasonal Depression
As days get shorter with fall, decreased hours of daylight can trigger hormone changes. Research suggests melatonin production increases, while serotonin levels decrease. Higher levels of melatonin—the hormone many associate with sleep—can lead to feeling sluggish or tired during the day, and lower levels of mood-boosting serotonin can have negative effects on your mood and state of mind. Carbohydrates enter the picture because not only do they increase blood sugar to provide a burst of energy (particularly if they contain added sugars), but they also encourage the production of serotonin. The positive effects seen in energy and mood are short-lived, which can create a perpetual cycle of seeking carbs to continue to get that boost.
How Can You Tell If It’s Depression?
In the midst of snow and holidays, it can be hard to determine if carb cravings are due to normal changes in hormones and cold weather adaptations or if they’re an indicator of something bigger. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health and the American Psychological Association (APA), SAD-associated symptoms and risk factors include the following:
- Greatly increased cravings for sweets and starchy foods
- Decreased energy
- Sleepiness in daytime
- A tendency to overeat
- A desire to “hibernate”, or stay in and skip social activities
- Being female (females are diagnosed four times more than males)
- Younger age (tends to be more prevalent in younger adults, as well as teenagers and even kids)
- Living in the upper half of the United States
- Already having depression or other mood disorder
- Having a family history of any form of depression.
There’s a high likelihood that one may be suffering from SAD, and not just the winter blues, if one experiences these symptoms for two or more winter seasons, according to the APA. Symptoms should slowly dissipate in spring as days become longer, but seeking professional help from a psychiatrist, counselor, or family doctor is highly encouraged. Some individuals show improvements using light therapy where you sit under an artificial light to mimic sunlight a few minutes each day, and medication may be suggested if symptoms are severe.
Tips to Manage Winter Carb Cravings
Incorporating certain foods and lifestyle habits can help with winter carb cravings, no matter the underlying cause. While these ideas aren’t intended to a be a remedy for SAD, they may aid in managing overall health while you seek professional help.
Don’t Stop Moving
Cold temps and snow can make it tempting to blow off a workout, but research suggests that exercise increases serotonin production and reduces stress and food cravings. If you can’t maintain your normal activity level, try setting a goal—a minimum number of days or minutes a week—to get activity. And every little bit helps; even brief 15-minute workouts appear to boost serotonin levels.
Eat to Reduce Cravings
Make sure each meal includes some lean protein, healthy fat, and plenty of high-fiber, low-calorie vegetables. Also, choose healthier versions of comfort foods that warm you up. Dishes like chili, veggie-based casseroles, and soups to keep you warm and fill you up.
Skip the Junk
Food and drinks that include added sugars or are made with refined grains should be eaten on special occasions—not every day. These carb-laden foods trigger a sudden rise in blood sugar (giving a quick energy and mood boost), but then can make you feel even more tired when blood sugar drops as a result from too much insulin.
Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D production in the body is initiated by sunlight exposure, so there’s some thought that the vitamin’s levels may play a role in SAD although research findings continue to be mixed. But with Vitamin D being a needed nutrient that many don’t consume enough of anyway, one might as well use this as an opportunity to include more vitamin-D-rich foods such as fatty fish, eggs, cheese, and fortified dairy, juice and cereal products.
Up the Omega-3’s:
There’s significant evident to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in brain health, and some research has found that getting adequate omega-3 fats (though diet and/or supplementation) may help. Make a point to regularly incorporate fatty fish like salmon, as well as foods like walnuts and flaxseeds. Taking 1 to 2 g/day of a fish oil supplement made predominantly of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is also an option, but consult with your doctor if you’re taking other medications.
The Link Between Sugar And Depression: What You Should Know
Source: Pexels public domain images
Sugar is everywhere in the news, and most of the news isn’t good. Case in point: a new study suggesting that sugar may contribute to depression in men. The results add to a flood of findings linking sugar to a variety of both physical and mental health problems.
The study tracked the diets and medical conditions of 8,000 people over 22 years (all part of a larger study called the Whitehall Study II) using surveys about diet and doctors’ visits completed every few years. By keeping tabs on what the participants ate and the sorts of conditions they were seeing doctors to treat, the researchers could analyze correlations between diet and health outcomes. The one that popped out is that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression in a five-year period than men who ate 40 grams or less.
None of the participants were being treated for mental illnesses at the start of the study. The connection between sugar and depression appeared relatively quickly during the first five-year survey, and remained more or less steady throughout the study. The researchers report that the effect was independent of the men’s socioeconomic status, physical activity, drinking, smoking, other eating habits, body weight or physical health. The same correlation didn’t appear for women in the study, though it’s unclear why.
This isn’t the sort of study that can prove a cause-and-effect relationship, and self-reporting in surveys isn’t always reliable. But a 23% difference is significant even with those drawbacks. Saying sugar causes depression isn’t a reasonable conclusion from these results, but enough dots are connected to raise legitimate concern.
The researchers also looked for the reverse effect, that mood influenced the men to seek out sugary foods, but that connection didn’t pan out. “We found no evidence for a potential reverse effect: participants did not change their sugar intake after suffering from mood disorders,” said Anika Knüppel, PhD Candidate in Epidemiology and Public Health and the study’s lead author.
For context, 67 grams of sugar a day is the rough equivalent of six donuts or about three average-size chocolate bars. It seems like a lot of sugar, about 25% higher than the daily recommendation. But the insidious thing about added sugar is how it turns up in foods we wouldn’t consider sugar-laden. Once you start counting up the sugar grams from foods throughout the day (bread, cereal and milk, for example), it’s not really that hard to reach 67 or more. And if you’re a sugary beverage drinker, it won’t take much at all–about two 12-ounce cans of your sugary soda of choice will get you there.
The finding is noteworthy because it lines up with what previous research has suggested: over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, upping the chances of outcomes like depression and anxiety. In particular, it seems excess sugar impacts dopamine–the neurotransmitter that fuels the brain’s reward system–not unlike a potent narcotic. Since addiction and mood disorders are closely associated, it may be that sugar plays a role similar to cocaine in powering the mood roller-coaster. And sugar is increasingly linked to cellular inflammation, which more evidence is revealing as a likely culprit in the onset of depression.
The bottom line is that there’s a sturdy research basis for concern about excess sugar in our diets with respect to mental health, which adds to what we already know about sugar and physical health.
Which is not to say that any amount of sugar is damaging; our brains are dependent on sugar to function. Brain cells require two times the energy needed by all the other cells in the body, about 10% of our total daily energy requirements. That energy is derived from glucose (blood sugar), the brain’s primary fuel. Sugar is not the brain’s enemy–excess sugar is.
Do we have conclusive proof that over-consumption of sugar causes depression? No. Do we have a decent indication that excess sugar is at least a contributing factor to depression in a percentage of the population? Yes. More research is needed to explore what’s going on, but at present we have more than enough evidence about sugar’s overall impact on health to be vigilant about how much we’re consuming.
The latest study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
You can find David DiSalvo on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and at his website, daviddisalvo.org.
Can sugar make you feel sad?
How does sugar affect you mentally?
In recent years, the issue of refined sugar has been gradually seeping into the public consciousness as it is often associated with major health issues such as obesity and diabetes and even other problems such as poor sleep, skin conditions like acne and poor immunity. However, while the physical symptoms of sugar are well-known and researched, how sugar can impact your mood and mental health isn’t as well documented.
The good news is that it looks as though this is finally changing as more studies are being conducted around the issue and, unsurprisingly, it looks as though refined sugar has a lot to answer for! One study that is gaining a lot of attention was published in the Scientific Reports Journal last year.
This long-term study tracked the diets and medical conditions of over 8000 people over the course of 22 years. It found that men who consumed approximately 67g or more of sugar a day were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety compared to men who consumed 40g or less. Interestingly, at the beginning of the study none of the participants were being treated for mental illness!1
Of course this study only identifies the correlation; it doesn’t appear to attempt to explain why it exists in the first place. However, it does appear to fit in nicely with other studies conducted around similar issues, so below I’m going to list just a couple of ways that refined sugar could be impacting your mood.
Refined sugar can suppress BDNF: You’re probably wondering what on earth BDNF actually is and I don’t blame you. BDNF, or Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor for those in the know, is actually a protein and it plays a really important role in your cognitive health, helping to stimulate the production of new brain cells. It allows you to learn faster, improves your memory and can even slow down the ageing process.2
Impressive, but when it comes to your mood BDNF works to protect your brain cells in times of stress and keeps your neural pathways nice and flexible. However, high rates of refined sugar have been associated with suppressing this protein and studies have shown that those diagnosed with depression and other mental health conditions often present lower levels of BDNF.3
Refined sugar is often pro-inflammatory: Inflammation is becoming a major buzzword these days and for good reason! While a small amount of inflammation can be a good thing, too much can have a negative impact for almost every area of your health, including your mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, refined sugar can be pro-inflammatory as it elevates your blood glucose levels. Once these are raised, it can increase your production of inflammatory cytokines, C-reactive proteins and harmful molecules like AGEs.
This can be problematic for your mood as high levels of C-reactive proteins have been associated with increased risk of psychological distress which could be why low-grade inflammation is often linked to depression.4 It’s also thought that inflammation could affect how tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is utilised, directing it towards the production of chemicals like quinolinate, which can promote feelings of anxiety.5
Refined sugar upsets your blood glucose levels: This is hardly surprising information but refined sugar can be disastrous for your blood sugar levels, causing you to experience rapid highs followed by exhausting lows. As I’ve mentioned, these fluctuations can promote inflammation but they also wreak havoc on your energy levels and sometimes even induce emotions such as anxiety, irritability and fatigue. It’s also worth mentioning that it isn’t just your mood impacted by your blood glucose levels – your sleep patterns can also suffer which can leave you more vulnerable to negative emotions.
Refined sugar depletes your nutritional stores: When your body breaks down carbohydrates like sugar, a number of vitamins and minerals are involved in the process. In the case of complex carbohydrates, this system works as they provide additional nutrients to supplement the ones being utilised in the digestion process but this isn’t true for sugar. Refined sugar has very little nutritional value which means it actually depletes your stores of nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium and chromium. This in turn can influence your mood as these nutrients – particularly certain B vitamins, vitamin D and magnesium – are crucial for your mood and energy levels!
Refined sugar does have physical symptoms: Okay, so far we’ve established that refined sugar can directly impact your mood and cognitive function but it’s also important to highlight that the physical consequences of a high sugar diet can also affect your mental wellbeing. If you’re continually plagued by problems like acne, poor immune function, flagging energy levels and a bigger waistline then you’re not exactly going to be in a positive frame of mind. Your confidence could be impacted and you may find that you suffer from low self-esteem which can sometimes be a recipe for low mood and anxiety.
Are there any healthy sugars?
Sugar has definitely earned a bad reputation in the last few decades but it would be wrong to completely jettison all forms of sugar from your diet. After all, sugar can act as a source of energy for your brain and your body so you actually do need it in small amounts. What really matters is where you’re sourcing this sugar from – ideally, you should be able to get all the sugar your body needs from natural sources such as fruit and vegetables.
The problem is that, more and more, sugar is creeping into our diets in other forms – namely refined sugar which is present in foods such as ice cream, chocolate and cakes, but also in less suspicious foods. According to the World Health Organisation, added or refined sugar should account for around 5% of your total energy intake.6 This amounts to roughly no more than 6 teaspoons a day, however here in the UK, we’re consuming around double this amount!
What foods have added sugar?
So, if you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake it’s important you don’t just focus on the obvious culprits. That’s why I’m going to identify a few surprising foods that sugar can lurk in!
- White Bread – When people think of sugar they often forget that it can linger in processed forms of carbohydrates and white bread is a primary example. Unlike wholemeal bread which still contains a decent amount of fibre and B vitamins, white bread has been stripped of these nutrients and just one slice can contain as much as 3g of sugar!7
- Cereal – Cereal is generally perceived as a healthy food but it very much depends on the type of cereal you are eating. Coco Pops, Lucky Charms and Frosted Shreddies probably seem like obvious choices when it comes towards having a high sugar content, but even healthy options such as granola can be rich in sugar which is why it’s really important to read the label!
- Tomato ketchup – Tomato sauce is an extremely popular condiment here in the UK, often accompanying chips or a bacon roll. However, this red sauce is concealing a nefarious sugar content – Heinz Tomato Sauce, for example, contains around 22g of sugar for every 100g!8 That’s why it might be worth investing in a ketchup that has a lower salt and sugar content – Dr Wills’ Tomato Ketchup, for example, doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients or added sugar or, alternatively, you could try making your own!
- Nut butters – Nut butters are considered to be quite a trendy, healthy food with many people now adding them to smoothies or serving them with slices of apple or banana. Once again though, quality does matter as some nut butters can be surprisingly rich in sugar. Ideally, the shorter the ingredients list, the better!
- Frozen meals: We’re all guilty of relying on frozen foods when we’re in a hurry. They’re a cheap, quick option and since most of them are savoury, we don’t normally think about their sugar content. Often, frozen foods are preserved using starch which, once it enters your digestive tract, can be converted into sugar. Fresh is still best I’m afraid, which is why I often recommend cooking batches of meals at home so you’ve got plenty of options for the week ahead!
- Coffee – Salted caramel latte anyone? Speciality coffees are all the rage and, while there’s nothing wrong with having them as a weekly treat, if your daily routine involves popping along to Starbucks or Costa for a cappuccino or a mocha latte, then your blood glucose levels are going to suffer. Our Nutritionist Emma talks a little more about coffee in her blog ‘Coffee habit? 7 reasons why it could be hindering your weight-loss efforts!’ which I highly recommend you read if you’re looking to kick that Starbucks habit
- Water – Water? Really? Well, yes and no. Plain old tap water or bottled water is unlikely to affect your blood glucose levels but, if you’re partial to fruity waters or carbonated water then it’s a different story. Not only do these types of drinks contain plenty of sweeteners and artificial flavours, they tend to be rich in sugar so it might still be best to stick to the stuff that comes out of your tap!
How can I improve my low mood?
It’s all very well discussing how your sugar intake can affect your mental wellbeing but if you’re struggling to deal with low mood, then you may need to look beyond simply amending your diet. There are a variety of factors to consider here but the good news is that we are here to help. Here at A.Vogel Talks Low Moodwe offer plenty of information on not only the symptoms of low mood, but also how you can tackle the issue by making small changes to not just your diet, but your lifestyle and outlook too.
However, if you are going through a turbulent period and feel a bit down, you could try our St John’s Hyperiforce Tablets for an extra little lift. Prepared using the St John’s Wort herb, this remedy can help to soothe mild symptoms of anxiety and low mood, enabling you to cope with your feelings rather than being overcome by them. It’s important to bear in mind though, that this remedy can be contraindicated with a variety of medications so always read the product information leaflet first!
Finally, if you really are struggling to cope with low moods and anxiety, it’s important that you speak to someone, be it a loved one, family member or a friend. Although our remedies can help with mild symptoms, they are not to be treated as an alternative to antidepressants so, if you are worried about how you’re feeling, never be afraid to confide in your doctor.