When you think of sugar, you probably think of your favorite sweet treats and a boost in energy. But did you know that sugar can affect your mood in a negative way? In fact, consuming too much processed sugar can lead to mood disorders. Here we cover the relationship between sugar and depression and how you can help your teen change their diet to combat the negative effects.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
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People often associate sugar with happy, hyper feelings because of the sugar rush they experience after they’ve eaten candy or a pastry—it happens quickly because simple sugars are easily digestible. When you consume sugar, your body undergoes a spike in blood glucose levels and releases endorphins such as serotonin, which initially causes you to feel happier. The higher your serotonin levels, the better you feel. However, after that sugar rush, your blood glucose levels drop immediately, making you feel fatigued and irritable.
The Negative Effects of Sugar
The brain depends on glucose to function properly, so a brain that isn’t receiving a steady flow of glucose may be more prone to developing mood disorders. Furthermore, the highs and lows of changing glucose levels may exacerbate the symptoms of depression. According to the CDC, 16% of U.S. adolescents’ total caloric intake comes from added sugars (sugars that have been added to processed foods). In fact, teens who consume a lot of processed foods are at risk of developing a sugar addiction that could lead to severe consequences for both their physical and mental health.
Making Dietary Changes
Image Credit: Jan Vašek
When someone is suffering from mood swings or is diagnosed with depression, they usually consider medication or therapy that could help them feel better. However, most people don’t stop to think about how changes in their diet could help them in their recovery as well. Your brain needs you to feed it nutrients as it works to process new medications or therapy treatments. Here are some ways your teen can make simple changes to their diet:
- Start a food journal to track their meals so they can remember the connection between what they eat and how they feel.
- Reduce the amount of processed sugars they consume; they can start small by cutting out sodas. If they’re craving something sweet, recommend fruits like blueberries and oranges.
- Develop healthy eating habits by cooking meals; you can cook together and choose natural foods that will improve mental functioning. You can also include healthy energy-boosting foods like spinach, which is rich in iron, and nuts.
Sugary foods may taste delicious, but the effect they can have on the brain is anything but sweet. The next time your teen is tempted to reach for a cupcake, remind them about how it may affect their mood. They’ll likely change their mind and opt for a healthier alternative that will keep them in good spirits.
Feature Image: Brian Chan