Your Brain on Sugar

Refined sugar creates inflammation, which decreases blood flow to the brain.  This can trigger anxiety, depression, fatigue and headaches.  Studies done by Johns Hopkins University have even implicated sugar as a trigger for seizures!

Sugar lights up the brain’s dopamine pathways similar to that of drugs and alcohol.  Research done by Dr. David Kessler found that rats worked much harder for a milk shake high in sugar and fat, and the more sugar that was added, the more they consumed.

Stress increases cortisol levels, which can increase appetite and cravings for sugar.  Lack of sleep (less than six hours a night) contributes to stress and signals the brain to release hormones that increase appetite and sugar cravings.

A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology reported that consuming sugar forms harmful molecules (AGEs) that can damage the brain, as well as the collagen and elastin that helps keep skin firm and supple.

Refined sugar comes in many forms.  Packaged foods often contain several sources of sugar.  Some of its many names include:

Sugar/Invert Sugar

Lactose/Maltose/Galactose/Dextrose/Fructose/Glucose (words ending in “ose”)

High-fructose Corn Syrup/Corn Syrup

Maltodextrin

Dehydrated Cane Juice/Crystals

Sucanat (better form of refined sugar)

Malt Syrup/Barley Malt

Turbinado Sugar

Honey/Agave (unless raw, it may be refined)

Beware of how much sugar you’re getting from all sources–sauces, dressings, cereals, crackers, nut butters, snack foods, etc.  Even if you’re eating a “health” food, check the ingredients!

Whole carbohydrates contain fiber, which decreases inflammation and cholesterol, which improves blood flow to the brain.  Fiber reduces how quickly blood sugar is elevated and helps release steady fuel to the brain, preventing sudden “crashes”.  Always check the labels of packaged foods for fiber content.  Aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber in your daily diet.

Replace liquid sugar (soft drinks, energy drinks, sweetened tea, etc.) with water, green or herbal tea, or lemonade sweetened with raw honey or raw stevia.

Only consume fruit juice in moderation.  Instead, eat whole fruit, which contains fiber.

When consuming an occasional sweet treat, add some fiber to it.  Top your ice cream with nuts.

Subtract the number of fiber grams per serving from the number of carbohydrates per serving to see how actively the food/beverage will raise your blood sugar.  Try to keep this number between 15 to 25 grams, especially if you are trying to lose weight or have blood sugar challenges.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist I& Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

 

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A healthy brain is made of healthy fats!

A healthy brain is key to making healthy choices.  The brain needs good blood flow, and inflammation can decrease blood flow and increase the risk of disease, including memory loss and dementia.  Diet plays a key role in reducing or increasing inflammation.

Healthy fats build healthy brains.  Our brains are 60% fat.  Bad fats increase “brainflammation,” and good fats decrease “brainflammation”.  Inflammatory fats cause plaque to be formed in our arteries, decreasing blood flow to the brain.  Plaque can also form in the brain as a result of inflammation.  This can set the stage for memory loss, anxiety, depression, ADD, etc.

Many studies show the benefit of a diet rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, including a decreased risk of dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss.  Those with ADD and depression are often found to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.  Conversely, diets rich in these healthy fats tend to improve mood and emotional well being.

Eating one or two servings of wild-caught fish per week can help improve your omega-3 levels.  Farm-raised fish contain less omega-3 fats than wild-caught.  You might also consider taking a fish oil supplement that is certified mercury free.

Other sources of foods rich in omega-3 fats include flax seeds, flax oil, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, chia and hemp seeds, egg yolks (from pastured chickens), avocados, spinach, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and organic edamame (soybeans).  Add a handful of raw nuts and seeds to your daily diet, and eat two or more servings of vegetables at each meal.

The worst inflammatory fats are man-made fats known as “trans-fats”.  These include “hydrogenated” and partially-hydrogenated” oils, margarine, shortening, and even refined vegetable oils that have been overly processed.  These are the kinds of fats found in most packaged foods and used in fast-food restaurants.  Always read the ingredients, because a product can contain up to half a gram of trans-fat and legally claim to have no trans-fat.  It all adds up!

Omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation.  The American diet is loaded with omega-6 foods.  Corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil all contain omega-6 fatty acids and are found in most packaged foods like chips, crackers, baked goods, and frozen foods.  Animal protein also contains omega-6 fats.  Eat twice as many vegetables as meat to help reduce inflammation.  Replace unhealthy fats with healthy ones.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.