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Unveiling The Sweet Deception – How Sugar Impacts Your Health And Brain

Written by: Allison Liu, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Allison Liu

We all know sugar is bad for our waistlines, but did you know it is also playing havoc with our minds? The sweet grains those we sprinkle on cereal and that hide in salad dressings are messing with our amazing brains in ways we would never suspect.


Couple looking at glass container.

It is hard to imagine how something that tastes so good can, in reality, be so deceptive. Remember the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Willy Wonka's chocolate factory is a magical place filled with delectable treats and sugary delights. The lucky children who win golden tickets are granted access to this paradise but soon start to suffer when they over-indulge in the various temptations within the factory.


It would seem in life, as in the story, that even the sweetest of pleasures can become harmful when consumed in excess. We are biologically wired to seek out sweet foods: they are a great source of energy and can increase our fat stores in readiness for leaner times. So, despite the fact that we are now in an age of abundance, and the leaner times rarely come, it still applies that the sweet foods we consume increase the desire for more. This is how sugar can be addictive.


This fact has not gone unnoticed by food manufacturers who are now adding sugar to so many processed foods. Their aim? To keep us coming back for more. As a result, today’s diet is laced with added sugars that give us far more energy than we need. This then leads to weight gain, hardening of arteries, rising cholesterol, impaired immunity, chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and ultimately, it sets the stage for dementia. Maybe it is possible to have too much of a good thing.


Think of a brain as a high-performance car. It needs the right fuel – healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbs – to keep those neurons firing on all cylinders. With the wrong fuel like energy drinks and chocolate bars, the effect is staggering: imagine the impact of pushing your foot down hard on the accelerator. Sugar spikes your blood sugar leading to an inevitable crash, which leaves you foggy, irritable, and craving your next fix. Not exactly the peak condition that promotes sharp thinking.


But the harm goes beyond occasional brain fog. Research is starting to show a link between chronic sugar intake and cognitive decline, with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. That is truly sobering in an age when diabetes and obesity are on the rise.


Becoming sugar-aware is the first step to ensure your diet of today does not steal your happiness from tomorrow.


Here are 3 strategies to start you on the journey to overcoming your sweet tooth so that you can put sugar back in its rightful place in your diet and protect your memory, health, and well-being.


Question your thoughts


Bearing in mind that sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods can hijack the brain, it is important to notice the excuses you might make that can keep you locked in the sugar habit.. For example, do you often find yourself saying things like “It's been a stressful week, I deserve a treat” or "I’ve earned a donut after that workout!” If so, the hard question to ask is whether thoughts like this are hindering you from the good health you desire moving forward.


Maybe it is time to let them go and focus on the abundance of brain-loving foods that you can eat instead. Choose empowering statements like “My health is non-negotiable” or “I want to eat nourishing food for my brain.” To get you started, make a list of brain-boosting foods you love and keep it handy to silence the sugary whispers.


Become a sweet deception label reader


Food manufacturers are adding sugar to an alarming number of foods. A recent report* found that an estimated 74% of packaged foods contain added sugar, including savory foods such as bread, salad dressings, and pasta sauce. Even foods labeled ‘healthy’, such as fruit yogurts and energy bars, can be loaded with added sugar.


It is therefore essential that you start to read ingredient labels to protect your health. There are more than 60 different names for sugar, which means that you need to know what to look out for. Common names include anything ending in ‘ose’, such as dextrose, maltose, and sucrose, all syrups, barley malt, cane juice/crystals, caramel, dextrin, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, honey, molasses, nectar, and sorbitol. When you read labels you can choose options with fewer or no added sugars.


Simple swaps


Recognizing the meaning we give to certain foods is a fascinating aspect of our relationship with what we eat. Just like we choose different clothes for specific purposes, like gardening, exercising, work, or special occasions, we also assign meanings to different foods. Think about it: we reach for ice cream when we are feeling under the weather; we indulge in cake to celebrate birthdays; or we share chocolate to express love. It is amazing how sweet food can be intertwined with our emotions and experiences!


However, it is also important to remember that there are alternative ways to find comfort, celebrate, or show love that does not solely rely on food. For example, enjoy a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil, organize a weekend mini-break for a special anniversary, or arrange to meet up with a friend. By exploring these alternatives, we can cultivate a healthier and more balanced relationship with food, allowing us to find joy and fulfillment in a variety of ways.


Less is more


The science is clear: sugar's grip on our brain is real, its influence subtle yet profound. Reducing our intake is not a fad, but a conscious step towards optimizing our cognitive potential. The saying “less is more” cannot be more applicable than in the context of sugar so commit today to get started. Challenge the thoughts that keep you locked in your current eating habits, start reading food labels to choose the best options, and explore alternative ways to celebrate and show you care.


Remember, every small change counts! If you are looking for further inspiration and support on your journey, why not start with the 40-Day Sugar Fast Challenge. This transformative experience will help you break the sugar habit and reclaim your mental sharpness. Together, we can make a positive change and embrace a healthier, happier life. See here.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Allison!


Allison Liu Brainz Magazine
 

Allison Liu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Allison Liu, a brain health coach and expert in helping people get their brain younger, healthier and stronger, struggled with early warning signs of memory loss in her late forties. Forgetting what she was saying in the middle of saying it, feeling increasingly irritable and struggling with panic attacks, she felt she was losing her sense of self. Adopting a science-based approach, which she uses with her clients today, she increased her own ‘brain reserve’, improving her memory, mood and relationships. She now coaches clients around the world through a personalised plan to prevent or slow down cognitive decline so they can remain present with those they love. Her mission: Staying sharp for life.

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