Just think of your own body’s reaction to sugar. The “highs” and “lows” of eating sugar is a good indication of how profoundly sugar affects our brains. It’s not uncommon to hear about just how toxic sugar is to your body and brain.
Too much sugar stresses our insulin system, which in turn puts our brain and heart at risk. Research suggests that people with pre-diabetes and diabetes have greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, and cognitive decline. Dr. Antonio Convit of New York University has shown through CT scan imaging that sugar imbalances actually shrink the delicate hippocampus, a metabolically active part of our brain which is critical for short-term memory and some aspects of emotion. Sugar also increases inflammation levels in our bodies, which adds to our risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, as well as heart attack and perhaps cancer, some headaches, and inflammatory-related diseases.
Sugar causes major problems for your brain and heart – limit sugar!
- Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars. Look at labels – you’ll be amazed at how many foods contain corn syrup – also called fructose or sucrose.
- Use natural sugar substitutes such as stevia, erythritol, or xylitol in your favorite recipes.
- Limit your intake of highly processed, refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta. These are quickly converted to sugar in the body, and stress the insulin system in a way similar to sugar.
- Choose foods that help regulate blood sugar levels, including complex carbohydrates (high fiber whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables), fish and omega 3′s, green tea, cinnamon & turmeric.
- For the small amounts of sugar in a brain healthy or diabetic diet, use molasses, honey, agave, and raw sugar which at least contribute some nutrients.
- Limit desserts with sugar to a few per week. Instead eat fruit and favor desserts with healthy ingredients such as nuts and whole grains.
- Limit fruits and fruit juice equivalents to 5 per day. Whole fruits are safer than juices because of the high fiber content and the bonus nutrients.
Check out our Brain Healthy Mediterranean Diet recipes. There are recipes such as the Frozen Mango Margarita to satisfy the crave for sweetness without adding sugar!