Summary

Refined sugar is a toxic friend many of us turn to when we are feeling emotional—especially in uncertain times like these. Not only does sugar have a negative effect on overall health, it can also negatively impact mood. Avoiding refined sugar can help you feel your best physically and mentally.

For many of us, refined sugar and emotions go hand in hand. We reach for a piece of cake when we are feeling sad, we grab a dozen cupcakes to celebrate an accomplishment, or we reach for cookies when we are feeling lost. Sugary treats have become a sort of band-aid for whatever strong emotion we are feeling (even the good ones), and it is hard to break free from their sweet grip.

What many people do not realize, however, is that refined sugar can actually perpetuate the effect of negative emotions, especially when the body is already in a state of stress or anxiety. Comfort eating is a common phenomenon, especially in this new world we are trying to navigate, but it might not be as comforting as we originally thought.

Refined sugars are created from processing and refining sugar cane or sugar beet plants. The sweet sucrose (which is actually just glucose and fructose joined together) that is taken from these plants can then be turned into table sugar. Refined sugar extracted from corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup. Refined sugars are found in practically every processed food. 

Refined Sugars Puts Stress on Your Body 

Why do we feel the need to cover up how we feel with food in the first place? On a physiological level, stress is as harmful to the body as illness. It can cause headaches, problems with digestion, exhaustion, and even chest pains. It also makes it hard to concentrate, might change your appetite, and it could affect the way you react to people and events. 

Stress causes all of these biological and emotional responses because it is our physiological response to danger. Our bodies emit the “fight or flight response” to give us a chance to escape life-threatening situations. Although a fight with a significant other or a looming deadline at work might not actually threaten our survival, the body responds in the same way as it would if you were standing in front of an angry woolly mammoth. 

Unfortunately, thanks to the expectations of modern society, this means that many of us feel the physical responses to stress all the time. And it is having a very negative effect on our physical and mental health, which is why it is so easy to reach for some refined sugar to try to calm the nerves.

Blood Sugar and Mood 

The instant gratification of taking a bite of something sugary might make most of us feel like it is helping our mood, but in many cases, it might be making it worse. One of the biggest issues with refined sugar is it has a disastrous effect on the blood sugar levels in the body. When blood sugar fluctuates drastically throughout the day, as it does when we eat sugary treats, the body spends the rest of the day trying to return it to stasis. 

When you eat treats full of refined sugar, your blood sugar levels spike and once you’ve digested them, your blood sugar crashes way harder and faster than it would with foods that contain more nutritious elements. Picture a roller coaster of blood sugar that can instantly give you a false high, then crash into a headache, back up to calm, and down into a bad mood and poor sleep. Low blood sugar levels can even create a stress response in the body, which starts this vicious cycle all over.

Refined Sugar’s Attack on Your System 

One of the most dangerous side effects of consuming excess refined sugar is it can hinder your body’s natural ability to combat stress. The more you eat sugar when you feel anxious, the more anxious you might feel. All of those negative emotions that you are trying to avoid by popping a donut into your mouth become more evident thanks to refined sugar’s impact on the body.

Studies have shown that regular consumption of refined sugar can negatively impact the brain and how it processes information and emotions. Too much sugar can make it harder for your brain to learn and convert new information to memory. It can also make you more likely to suffer from depression. 

On top of adding to the body’s stress reaction, refined sugar wreaks havoc on your health. It has been linked to both obesity and diabetes, but it also has a negative impact on heart health, blood pressure, and might even lead to fatty liver disease and cancer.

Sweet Treats that Don’t Hurt the Body 

Before you start to feel like you can no longer enjoy your favorite coping mechanism, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that can satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a little bit of a boost without damaging your system. The next time you are craving cake, think about some of the foods on this list of refined sugar alternatives that give you comfort without hurting your body:

Citrus Fruits

Not only do these juicy fruits give you a burst of sweetness with each bite, but they are great sources of vitamin C, which actually reduces the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) if your body is in a stressed state. If you need some sweetness to comfort you during an emotional period, try to reach for an orange, a grapefruit, or pomelos. 

Nuts and Seeds

If you are feeling stressed, the omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts like pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds are great tools to combat excess cortisol. They can also help ward off depression. Add some to your favorite smoothie bowl recipes to get a sweet treat that can also make you feel better mentally.

Substitute refined sugars with nuts & seeds instead.

Sweet Potatoes

This nutritious treat literally has sweet in the name! Remember how refined sugar foods send your blood sugar on a wild ride? Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which can actually stabilize your blood sugar. Best of all, you can use sweet potatoes to make healthier versions of some of your favorite sweets like brownies. Check out our Okinawan Sweet Potato Bar recipe for a new, delicious take on this power vegetable. 

Steel-Cut Oats

The body takes its time digesting complex carbohydrates like steel-cut oats, which means you can fill your stomach with this warm, comforting food without causing your blood sugar to fluctuate drastically. This can help you feel satiated and maintain static blood sugar levels to prevent dips in your mood. Add some fruit and dairy-free milk and other pantry staples to add a hint of sweetness to this nutritious snack.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate lovers will be thrilled to hear that dark chocolate can have a positive effect on stress. Eating this sweet treat can actually improve your mood on a biological level. Luckily there are many dark chocolate options available without refined sugar.

Weaning Yourself off of Refined Sugar 

Another unfortunate side effect of refined sugar is that it can be quite addictive, which makes it hard to avoid the constant cycle of literally feeding your anxiety. If you have made the decision to take a step away from this sweet temptation, you might find yourself struggling to make it past the hump. 

Plan ahead and have plenty of refined sugar alternatives available when you want something sweet. Sometimes nibbling on some dark chocolate or eating a juicy orange is all you need to get rid of that sugar craving. When you are well prepared, it will be much easier to avoid using refined sugar as an emotional crutch.

If you are looking to kick your refined sugar habit, Thistle can help. None of our meals contain refined white sugar or alternative sweeteners. We also avoid preservatives, artificial dyes, and other additives that detract from the nutritional value of our healthy meals. Check out our recipes page for some more ideas on how to satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy, manageable way.

Thistle snacks & desserts never contain refined sugars.
Thistle snacks & desserts never contained refined white sugar or unnatural sweeteners.

We at Thistle understand how difficult it can be to wean yourself off of refined sugar, which is why we provide delicious, nutritious meals that can be delivered right to your home. Subscribe today to get started!

Get meals delivered to your door
We believe eating delicious is crucial to a healthy diet. Each week, our team of chefs design a new menu for what's in season, fresh and flavorful.
TRY THISTLE
Posted 
May 21, 2020
 in 
Lifestyle
 category.
Summary

Refined sugar is a toxic friend many of us turn to when we are feeling emotional—especially in uncertain times like these. Not only does sugar have a negative effect on overall health, it can also negatively impact mood. Avoiding refined sugar can help you feel your best physically and mentally.

For many of us, refined sugar and emotions go hand in hand. We reach for a piece of cake when we are feeling sad, we grab a dozen cupcakes to celebrate an accomplishment, or we reach for cookies when we are feeling lost. Sugary treats have become a sort of band-aid for whatever strong emotion we are feeling (even the good ones), and it is hard to break free from their sweet grip.

What many people do not realize, however, is that refined sugar can actually perpetuate the effect of negative emotions, especially when the body is already in a state of stress or anxiety. Comfort eating is a common phenomenon, especially in this new world we are trying to navigate, but it might not be as comforting as we originally thought.

Refined sugars are created from processing and refining sugar cane or sugar beet plants. The sweet sucrose (which is actually just glucose and fructose joined together) that is taken from these plants can then be turned into table sugar. Refined sugar extracted from corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup. Refined sugars are found in practically every processed food. 

Refined Sugars Puts Stress on Your Body 

Why do we feel the need to cover up how we feel with food in the first place? On a physiological level, stress is as harmful to the body as illness. It can cause headaches, problems with digestion, exhaustion, and even chest pains. It also makes it hard to concentrate, might change your appetite, and it could affect the way you react to people and events. 

Stress causes all of these biological and emotional responses because it is our physiological response to danger. Our bodies emit the “fight or flight response” to give us a chance to escape life-threatening situations. Although a fight with a significant other or a looming deadline at work might not actually threaten our survival, the body responds in the same way as it would if you were standing in front of an angry woolly mammoth. 

Unfortunately, thanks to the expectations of modern society, this means that many of us feel the physical responses to stress all the time. And it is having a very negative effect on our physical and mental health, which is why it is so easy to reach for some refined sugar to try to calm the nerves.

Blood Sugar and Mood 

The instant gratification of taking a bite of something sugary might make most of us feel like it is helping our mood, but in many cases, it might be making it worse. One of the biggest issues with refined sugar is it has a disastrous effect on the blood sugar levels in the body. When blood sugar fluctuates drastically throughout the day, as it does when we eat sugary treats, the body spends the rest of the day trying to return it to stasis. 

When you eat treats full of refined sugar, your blood sugar levels spike and once you’ve digested them, your blood sugar crashes way harder and faster than it would with foods that contain more nutritious elements. Picture a roller coaster of blood sugar that can instantly give you a false high, then crash into a headache, back up to calm, and down into a bad mood and poor sleep. Low blood sugar levels can even create a stress response in the body, which starts this vicious cycle all over.

Refined Sugar’s Attack on Your System 

One of the most dangerous side effects of consuming excess refined sugar is it can hinder your body’s natural ability to combat stress. The more you eat sugar when you feel anxious, the more anxious you might feel. All of those negative emotions that you are trying to avoid by popping a donut into your mouth become more evident thanks to refined sugar’s impact on the body.

Studies have shown that regular consumption of refined sugar can negatively impact the brain and how it processes information and emotions. Too much sugar can make it harder for your brain to learn and convert new information to memory. It can also make you more likely to suffer from depression. 

On top of adding to the body’s stress reaction, refined sugar wreaks havoc on your health. It has been linked to both obesity and diabetes, but it also has a negative impact on heart health, blood pressure, and might even lead to fatty liver disease and cancer.

Sweet Treats that Don’t Hurt the Body 

Before you start to feel like you can no longer enjoy your favorite coping mechanism, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that can satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a little bit of a boost without damaging your system. The next time you are craving cake, think about some of the foods on this list of refined sugar alternatives that give you comfort without hurting your body:

Citrus Fruits

Not only do these juicy fruits give you a burst of sweetness with each bite, but they are great sources of vitamin C, which actually reduces the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) if your body is in a stressed state. If you need some sweetness to comfort you during an emotional period, try to reach for an orange, a grapefruit, or pomelos. 

Nuts and Seeds

If you are feeling stressed, the omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts like pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds are great tools to combat excess cortisol. They can also help ward off depression. Add some to your favorite smoothie bowl recipes to get a sweet treat that can also make you feel better mentally.

Substitute refined sugars with nuts & seeds instead.

Sweet Potatoes

This nutritious treat literally has sweet in the name! Remember how refined sugar foods send your blood sugar on a wild ride? Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which can actually stabilize your blood sugar. Best of all, you can use sweet potatoes to make healthier versions of some of your favorite sweets like brownies. Check out our Okinawan Sweet Potato Bar recipe for a new, delicious take on this power vegetable. 

Steel-Cut Oats

The body takes its time digesting complex carbohydrates like steel-cut oats, which means you can fill your stomach with this warm, comforting food without causing your blood sugar to fluctuate drastically. This can help you feel satiated and maintain static blood sugar levels to prevent dips in your mood. Add some fruit and dairy-free milk and other pantry staples to add a hint of sweetness to this nutritious snack.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate lovers will be thrilled to hear that dark chocolate can have a positive effect on stress. Eating this sweet treat can actually improve your mood on a biological level. Luckily there are many dark chocolate options available without refined sugar.

Weaning Yourself off of Refined Sugar 

Another unfortunate side effect of refined sugar is that it can be quite addictive, which makes it hard to avoid the constant cycle of literally feeding your anxiety. If you have made the decision to take a step away from this sweet temptation, you might find yourself struggling to make it past the hump. 

Plan ahead and have plenty of refined sugar alternatives available when you want something sweet. Sometimes nibbling on some dark chocolate or eating a juicy orange is all you need to get rid of that sugar craving. When you are well prepared, it will be much easier to avoid using refined sugar as an emotional crutch.

If you are looking to kick your refined sugar habit, Thistle can help. None of our meals contain refined white sugar or alternative sweeteners. We also avoid preservatives, artificial dyes, and other additives that detract from the nutritional value of our healthy meals. Check out our recipes page for some more ideas on how to satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy, manageable way.

Thistle snacks & desserts never contain refined sugars.
Thistle snacks & desserts never contained refined white sugar or unnatural sweeteners.

We at Thistle understand how difficult it can be to wean yourself off of refined sugar, which is why we provide delicious, nutritious meals that can be delivered right to your home. Subscribe today to get started!

Get meals delivered to your door
We believe eating delicious is crucial to a healthy diet. Each week, our team of chefs design a new menu for what's in season, fresh and flavorful.
TRY THISTLE
Posted 
May 21, 2020
 in 
Lifestyle
 category.