The Sugar & Brain Connection: How Sugar Affects Cognitive Health
By Megan Roosevelt, RDN & Founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com
Why Brain Health is so Important Short-term and Long-term
When we think of brain health, one thing that may come to mind is memory. Our memory makes up a lot of who we are and gives us a sense of self and purpose. Another critical aspect of brain health is how our body functions day-to-day. Our brain controls a lot of what our body can do, from working to eating to sleeping. Keeping our minds active and healthy in the present is how we can prevent long-term cognitive health issues. A lot of factors play into long-term brain health. For example, working to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can be a preventive step towards preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer's.
Lifestyle and Dietary Habits That May Increase The Risk of Unhealthy Cognitive Conditions
Exercise: One of the leading lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of unhealthy cognitive conditions is not exercising. Exercise stimulates the brain, improves blood flow, and can help with memory. It’s also important for preventing many diseases, which can affect brain health.
Stress: Stress also plays a role in cognitive decline. Short-term stress can cause mood problems such as anxiety or lead to overeating. Long-term stress increases the risk of mental illness, changes in brain structure, and may even kill some brain cells.
Dietary Intake: Some negative nutritional habits that are harmful to brain health and may lead to chronic diseases are the overconsumption of alcohol, drugs, processed food, foods high in saturated or trans fat, refined carbohydrates, and added sugar. Aim to reduce or eliminate these from your diet and replace them with natural, whole, and predominantly plant-based foods to support cognitive function.
How a High Sugar Diet Affects Cognitive Health
While the brain's favorite energy source is glucose, too much sugar can start to impair cognitive function. An excess of added sugar can even be addicting and cause your brain to have “food cravings”, which may lead to overeating, weight gain and increase the risk of long-term chronic disease.
Continued intake of excess added sugar can make it more difficult for your brain to repair itself as you age, which may lead to cognitive decline, deficits in memory and attention, greater risk of depression and higher risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
5 Wellness and Nutrition Tips For Supporting Cognitive Health
1. Exercise: Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes 3-5 times a week with a mix of cardio and strength training. A great place to start is going on a nightly walk after dinner with family, friends, or pets.
2. Self-Care: We are better at caring for others when we feel that our basic needs are met and cared for. Selfcare doesn’t have to be a spa vacation or exercise class. It can be making a cup of your favorite tea, a small skincare routine at the end of the day, listening to peaceful music, reading a book, or passing on an event or opportunity not to overextend yourself.
3. Enjoy What You Eat, With A Better Sweetener!: If you are looking for a sugar alternative that doesn't have a bitter aftertaste and is not made by chemical and artificial processing… Try Purecane! Purecane is an all-natural, zero-calorie, zero-glycemic sweetener that is made with no synthetic chemicals! It tastes great and works great in any desserts, drinks, or your favorite baked goods!
4. Increase in Plant-Foods: All plant-foods contain prebiotic fiber, which are important for feeding your good gut microbes and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. A healthy gut is connected to a healthy brain! Check out the HealthyGroceryGirl.com blog for easy, plant-based recipes created by Registered Dietitians!
5. Cook with Quality Oils: Ditch the canola oil and certain vegetable oils for a quality oil with health benefits such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. These oils are made with brain and heart-healthy fats and even have some nutrients, all of which are good for brain health!
Have a happy and healthy day!
You can stay connected with Megan Roosevelt, RDN on Instagram at @HealthyGroceryGirl, watch recipe videos at YouTube.com/HealthyGroceryGirl or visit her recipe and wellness blog at HealthyGroceryGirl.com
See how Purecane does healthy lifestyle choices on Facebook and Instagram