What if I told you that sugar has the absolute most significant adverse effect on your mood than anything else we eat! Could sugar be at the root of your anxiety, depression, and mood swings? Let’s take a fresh approach to improve your mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that good nutrition plays a significant role in promoting mental vitality and decreasing depression, anxiety, and insomnia. In her book, Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health, mental health nutrition specialist Dr. Leslie Korn suggests that our body’s engine (brain and digestive system) is like a car that needs the right fuel for our mental and physical health to flourish. Sugar prevents so many people from getting their anxiety, depression, and mood swings under control—the high consumption of refined sugar promotes unstable blood sugar. Refined sugar is a hidden trigger that sabotages our mental health. It promotes inflammation, robs the body of critical vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium and B-vitamins) for the brain, and triggers oxidative stress, damaging our cells and promoting diseases.
Sugar and Mood
Reactive hypoglycemia refers to high amounts of insulin released after eating large amounts of refined carbohydrates. Following this high-carb meal, we may feel fine for about an hour; then, our blood sugar comes crashing down. When blood sugar crashes, we may feel moody, irritable, nervous, panicky, weak, shaky, and anxious. Then we start to crave sweets, and the cycle begins again. These hypoglycemia symptoms may be mistaken for bipolar symptoms, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. When we fuel our body with the proper nutrients, we nourish our brain. One study suggested that individuals who followed a diet rich in sugar-sweetened beverages, pastries, refined carbohydrates (white flour-based products – bread, pasta, pizza dough, etc.) were associated with increased risk for depression (including recurrent depression) and anxiety (1). Several other studies also support the connection between sugar and depression (2, 3) and suggest that hypoglycemia may play a role in aggressive behavior (4). Furthermore, a 2016 (5) study suggests that a diet low in adequate protein cannot support neurotransmitter production due to decreased amino acids that must come from the diet. Additionally, this study suggests that healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids are vital in supporting mental wellness because they assist in the communication between the synapses or electrical signaling between nerve cells.
3 Strategies To Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
- Keep a log of when you are experiencing mood swings or anxiety in a diary.
- Add small amounts of protein or healthy fats to your snacks and meal—for example, nut butter with apple slices for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.
- Avoid skipping meals. While intermittent fasting may have many health benefits, some people may need to eat in shorter intervals to stabilize their mood and calm anxiety.
If you would like to participate in my free 5-DAY SUGAR DETOX CHALLENGE that will teach you how to beat sugar cravings, prepare delicious sugar-free recipes, and re-energize your life, click here to register for the challenge!
Korn, L. E. (2016). Why Does Nutrition Matter in Mental Health? In Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health: A Complete Guide to the Food-Mood Connection. W.W. Norton & Company.
- Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: Prospective findings from the Whitehall II Study. Scientific Reports, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7
- Lim, S. Y., Kim, E. J., Kim, A., Lee, H. J., Choi, H. J., & Yang, S. J. (2016). Nutritional factors affecting mental health. Clinical Nutrition Research, 5(3), 143. https://doi.org/10.7762/cnr.2016.5.3.143
- Huang, Q., Liu, H., Suzuki, K., Ma, S., & Liu, C. (2019). Linking what we eat to our mood: A review of diet, dietary antioxidants, and Depression. Antioxidants, 8(9), 376. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox8090376
- Merbis, M. A. E., Snoek, F. J., Kanc, K., & Heine, R. J. (1996). Hypoglycaemia induces emotional disruption. Patient Education and Counseling, 29(1), 117–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/0738-3991(96)00940-8
- Aucoin, M., & Bhardwaj, S. (2016). Generalized anxiety disorder and hypoglycemia symptoms improved with diet modification. Case Reports in Psychiatry, 2016, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/7165425
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about wellness and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. Please do not stop psychiatric medications or any current medications abruptly as this may cause serious physical and emotional reactions. If your goal is to wean off psychiatric medications, please see your healthcare provider for further guidance.