Advertising
Advertising

5 Ways Sugar Affects Your Mental Performance

5 Ways Sugar Affects Your Mental Performance

When we eat well, we feel better. Did you know that we also think and perform better?

A friend of mine would often give in to sugary snacks or processed foods to quiet her blood sugar dip – usually right after lunch. As a result, she went through a mid-afternoon slump – and it zapped her productivity. She couldn’t focus, she felt like her reaction time was delayed and she just wanted to take a nap. She would also feel more emotional and short-tempered when talking to other colleagues or her spouse. When she ate more healthfully, she felt more focus, less stress and was more in control of her emotions. She even had better memory!

It’s true – eating sugar can actually have a negative biological impact on your mind and emotions. Here are 5 ways sugar affects your focus, mood, memory, emotional and mental balance, and stress (and recommended foods to feel and perform better!).

1. Focus

According to a recent UCLA study, sugar “forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane, compromising our nerve cells’ ability to communicate”. This causes a “foggy” or “out of it” feeling. The study drew strong connections between sugar intake and a diminishment in how well we remember instructions and process ideas.

Advertising

Another way sugar affects focus is through its addictive qualities.When we taste sugar, the brain lights up in the same regions as it does an alcoholic tasting gin. Dopamine, our “reward chemical” spikes and reinforces the desire to have more. When you’re battling an addiction-fueled craving, your train of thought is disrupted, and you can’t put your full mental energy into tasks at hand.

More high protein and high fiber foods give us focus throughout the day and help curb sugar cravings. Here are some great options:

2. Mood

When we’re feeling low, it’s hard to get anything done. Studies have shown links to sugar starting cycles of binge eating, dopamine spikes, a physical and emotional crash and then more craving and withdrawal. As a result, we have shorter tempers, lower patience and even depressed feelings.

The best way to combat these mood dips is to have steady, regular meals with protein and fiber to keep our insulin levels constant and help us stay satisfied for longer. Try adding these mood-boosting foods instead of sugar:

Advertising

  • Complex carbs (whole grains, legumes)
  • Oily fish (trout, sardines, mackerel)
  • Fruits and Veggies (supply vitamins and minerals, ease digestion)

3. Memory

A high sugar diet affects our cognitive function and performance – and it can ALSO block our memory receptors. According to this study, there are clear links between high fructose (sugar) consumption and memory and learning impairment. We will actually have a harder time remembering what others say and making connections between concepts as a result of sugar. Even more unsettling is the research suggesting high sugar consumption has long-term and more severe repercussions, such as links between sugar and Alzheimer’s, where memory is grossly impaired.

Foods to boost your memory are:

– Sources of Vitamin E

  •  Minimally processed oils (olive, coconut)
  •  Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts

-Sources of Omega 3s

Advertising

  •  Fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)
  •  Avocados (both Omega 3s and vitamin E)

-Dark Leafy Greens due to folate (Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards,)

-Low Sugar Berries (blueberries, strawberries, acai berries)

4. Emotional and Mental Balance

Too much sugar leaves us prone to mood swings as it zaps up our stores of vitamin B and blocks chromium receptors, both of which are natural emotionally balancing chemicals. This can lead to irritability, anxiety, aggressive behavior and dramatic mental peaks and valleys.

There is more and more evidence for connections between our gut health and brain health. Gut health is contingent on eating more plant based, low-glycemic index foods and avoiding sugar. Sugar feeds bad bacteria in the gut, while veggies and fermented food feeds healthy bacteria. Striking this homeostasis balances us both physically and mentally.

Advertising

Healthy foods to help you achieve this inner harmony are:

  • Green, non-starchy vegetables
  • Oily fish
  • Probiotic foods like fermented sauerkraut, kimchi and other vegetables

5. Stress

Stress and food are closely linked. When we feel stressed, our body is flooded with chemicals related to our fight or flight responses. Stress is linked to overeating, weight gain and even obesity. We feel guilty for overeating or not knowing what to eat to help us stay healthy. This causes more underlying stress in our lives.

The best way to curtail this is to eat healthier foods to help us get ahead of our body’s stress cycle. Here are some foods to combat stress and release serotonin without spiking blood sugar levels:

  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Berries

More by this author

10 Surprising Benefits of Tequila You Never Knew Ideal Summer Food: 7 Cooling and Hydrating Cucumber Recipes These Surprising Carbs Will Accelerate Your Weight-Loss 20 Health Benefits Of Okra That Are Constantly Overlooked Why Artificial Sweeteners are Preventing you from Losing 10 Pounds

Trending in Health

1 How to Find Weight Loss Meal Plans That Work for You 2 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go 3 How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert 4 How to Start Eating Healthy No Matter How Old You Are 5 Understanding Intermittent Fasting Benefits: More Than Just Weight Loss

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

Advertising

3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

Advertising

6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

Advertising

9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

Advertising

Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

Read Next