How Sugar Affects the Brain.

Hi! I came across this TED Ed video today, and thought it was so informative that I should pass it along!

Here are the main points of the video, for those short on time: 

1) Sugar, in the way it affects the brain, is similar to a drug, such as alcohol or nicotine. Sugar activates the brain’s “reward system”, which releases dopamine. Moreover, even when you consume sugar day after day, the level of dopamine that the brain releases each time you consume sugar doesn’t level off. This is what prompts us to keep consuming sugar day after day. It’s addictive.

2) In contrast, if you eat a balanced, healthy meal, dopamine levels will spike the first time you eat the meal, but if you eat this same meal over and over again, levels of dopamine released will be lower and lower each time. In other words, if you eat chicken, potatoes, and broccoli every day, your brain’s will actually get bored of the meal. This encourages us to seek variety with our meals! It’s our brain’s way of helping us get all of the vitamins and minerals that we need to stay healthy.

3) If you over-activate your reward system, it can lead to decreased tolerance and cravings. 

4) Sugar is in many grocery store products that you wouldn’t expect. It can be found in tomato sauce, yogurt, granola bars, bread … you name it.

So now, what is to be done about this sugar madness?! To me, it boils down to one simple action: cook more! This way you have control over how much sugar is going into your food (would you ever think to put corn syrup in your homemade tomato sauce?)

Grocery stores are putting sugar in products other than just candy and sweets. This makes complete sense from a business perspective because, as the video shows, we will never get bored of eating sugar! Our brain will eventually get bored of any wholesome, balanced meal or food, because it craves variety- so why should companies sell those?

However, eating tons of sugar can obviously lead to problems, diabetes being just one. If you avoid the sugary, pre-packaged products and instead buy and cook a variety of whole, fresh foods, then you can stay away from the company-driven sugar trap.

That being said, I still think it’s important to indulge some and eat dessert at least a few times a week. Moderation, not deprivation!

-S

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