There is a close connection between the foods you eat, your mood and your brain chemistry. When one of the three components malfunctions the others often do too. This is why many people with major depression or mood disorders have intense cravings for unhealthy foods that are high in sugar, and/or struggle with obesity issues.
This article explains the physical relationships between eating sugary foods, what it does to your brain and how it affects your mood, and what you can do to restore yourself to balance.
Why you crave sugar when you’re depressed
If you’re reaching for foods high in sugar (candy, chocolate, ice cream, soda) or refined carbs (bread, chips, crackers, potatoes) you likely have a beta-endorphin deficiency. These are brain chemicals that allow you to feel a sense of well-being, self-esteem, give you a tolerance for managing physical and emotional pain, and encourage you to feel like you want to connect socially with people. In other words, they make you feel confident and positive.
Eating sugar stimulates the release of beta-endorphin chemicals. This is why you crave sugar when you aren’t getting enough. Your brain is imbalanced and it’s sending signals to you to say “hey, my beta-endorphins are low, send me something I can work with”. It’s also why many people feel inclined to reach for alcohol and heroin, because, like sugar, these substances all known as “opiates”, have the same effects. (So does the pain reliever morphine).
But consuming large amounts of sugar only temporarily boosts your beta-endorphin levels. And this is a major problem because when you receive a giant boost of energy from sugar your body runs out quickly and goes looking for more. You become hungry for sugar again and intensely crave it.
Overtime, the pattern becomes worse and harder to control. It leads to sugar-addicted cycle that affects long-term mood and weight. It can also lead to binge eating disorder.
You do want to raise your beta-endorphin levels, but slowly. Here’s how:
Eat complex carbohydrates and avoid refined ones: Your brain desperately needs complex carbohydrates to function. So avoiding them is a terrible thing to do. And, eating too many refined carbs is also bad because it throws you brain chemistry out of balance and ultimately this affects your food choices.
The difference between the two types of carbs has to do with the level of sugar each one pushes into your blood. When you eat a food, the carbohydrates in it are converted to sugar, ( aka glucose or blood sugar), which provides energy that fuels your body.
Foods with refined carbohydrates are already broken down. Your body doesn’t have to do any work to process them. What that really means is they go through your system quickly. You receive a boost in energy, which allows you to be highly productive, sometimes agitated and overstimulated.
The problem is, you expend the energy quickly cause you use it faster and then your body is looking for more. Without more sugar your body will experience a major drop in energy. You’ll start to feel weak, fogging, and depressed and you you’ll crave more sugar to give you energy again.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates (listed below) give you a slow release of glucose so your body does not run out of energy and you feel full longer.
So, you want to avoid these foods: Cookies, ice cream, cakes, pastries, chocolate, candy, chips, white rice, white pasta, white bread, potatoes
Eat more of these foods: Whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, farro, amaranth, barley, oats, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes. It’s very important that they are whole grain not whole wheat (whole wheat products are usually processed and contain a great deal of sugar)
As a general rule, 10% or less of your daily intake of calories should come from refined carbs.
Making the switch from refined to complex carbohydrates can be very difficult if you’ve become used a to sugary diet. Start this process by make very small changes. Replace some foods at first, and slowly move towards a better diet.
Remember that your body and brain are used to a certain type of pattern, so sometimes it can be very difficult to stop the cycle. This is why small changes overtime work better than quitting refined carbohydrates immediately.Need at least 3 ratings