Posted in D.I.Y's and Advice, mental health

Food for thought- Sweets

Sweets And Your Mood

Hi everyone!

It’s Aarti, and today I’m in the mood to talk about something sweet-literally sweet!

There is one thing that is common about every season which is that every season brings along a new kind of sweet and savory treat. And while it’s not bad to enjoy these types of treats every once in a while, in our modern food era it’s so easy for unhealthy, sugary and fatty foods to become part of our every day diets. And despite this, sugary and fatty are the types of foods that people innately enjoy. Though it might hurt to have to think about giving up the type of food you might like best, there are ways to still satisfy your sweet tooth while making healthier choices

The truth about sugar

As a psychology and health sciences student, I’m a firm believer that every emotion or behavior, topics associated with psychology, always has a biological explanation. With that said, have you ever thought about why you crave chocolate, ice cream, donuts, brownies- anything and everything remotely sugary and fatty- when you’re upset?

Think about how you feel when you are upset- your body might be clenched up, your heart feels like its racing, you might be crying, screaming out of anger, gritting your teeth and cursing at something or someone. But the overall message that your body is getting is that you are really really stressed, and you need to relax. Naturally, your body responds by sending chemical signals called neurotransmitters which will help your body relax. Sugar helps for the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a role in reward-associated behavior, and your body also released opioids,  which act on opioid receptors on your neurons and produce effects that immitate morphine: they help to relieve pain. Both the reward from behavior (eating the ice cream in this case) and the pain relief from the opioids are beneficial to you when you feel upset. But this is only half the story.

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to limit ourselves to small amounts of sugar when so much of our food contains large amounts of sugar. So besides these medicinal effects of sugar, there are also many adverse effects, the most obvious being that terrible feeling you get when you realize that you’ve been eating so much sugar that it’s making you sick. Excess sugar also has many effects that aren’t as obvious. One of these is addiction: think about it, sugar causes the release of dopamine and opioids, both of which make you feel better after a period of sadness. If it works once, you will count on it to work again, which can lead to dependency on binge-eating sugary foods often to make yourself feel better.

The problem with sugar is that while it’s obvious that it does more harm than good, it’s hard to quit old habits such as depending on a sweet heavy diet. So you might be wondering, what can you do?

Alternatives

Having a HUGE sweet tooth has always been my biggest problem in maintaining a healthy diet, so over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research and experimenting in finding alternatives to get sweets in while still being healthy.

When taking on a new diet, its important to remember two things:
1) it’s going to take a while to get used to, so while you shouldn’t give up on it on the first day, you should also be patient with yourself.
2) Part of the reason why many diets fail is because people don’t realize that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s also important to maintain the diet itself- it’s not a temporary fix. In creating long-term solutions, it’s essential to work towards solving each problem one small, doable step at a time. So the bottom line is don’t deprive yourselfIf you like ice cream, eat ice cream! But make sure you do so in limited quantities, and not on an every day basis. Keeping these pro-tips might help in figuring out how to do that too.

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1. Invest in seasonal fruit

One of the best things that you can do in order to eat healthier is reduce the literal and figurative distance between yourself and where your food is sourced from. If you are eating right now, stop what you are eating and think about it for a second: what are you actually eating? Where in the world did it come from before it got to your local super market, and who raised it? It’s much safer and easier to trust yourself and the food choices you make if you are able to answer these questions, and if you can answer these questions, it’s more likely that you will find yourself eating healthier food.

One of the main benefits of eating fruit is that while it is still sugary and sweet, it took much less processing to produce than did packaged cookies, ice cream, and other sweets you will find at your supermarket. If you are craving something sweet, look at this seasonal fruit chart, and buy something that is in season. Strawberries and oranges are my favorite type of fruit to eat in the summer time!

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The dark kind of chocolate is the best kind

At least that’s my opinion! Dark chocolate has far less sugar in it than the milkier variety, and because of this, it will still satisfy your sugar cravings without putting excess sugar in your system.

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 Coconut milk ice cream!

I saved this one for last because it’s my favorite set of pro-tips! While looking for healthier alternatives to the classic ice cream recipe, I came across this DELICIOUS recipe for vegan coconut ice cream, and it is by far the best thing that I’ve ever cooked up. I got this recipe from Buzzfeed, and I replaced the sugar they asked for in the recipe with honey, so that there wouldn’t be any processed sugar content in the ice cream! This ice cream is a GREAT alternative to traditional ice cream because:

  • It contains no real milk, so anyone, including lactose intolerant folks, can enjoy it
  • It contains four simple ingredients, and no artificial flavorings or preservatives of any kind.
  • It tastes great while not having much sugar in it (I put in 1/4 cup of honey total, and even without the chocolate and strawberries it was still very sweet)
  • IT’S SO GOOD.

Takeaways

Because of how the food and agriculture industry has developed without accompaniment of the health industry, along with the heavy marketing of sugary foods as “cures” for a broken heart, it’s very difficult to ward off the constant cravings for sugary, fatty foods, especially when in a low mood. But by learning about how sugar can negatively influence your mood and then following these few, simple tips, it’s possible to satisfy your sweet tooth while still eating a healthy diet.

Author:

I am an undergraduate student, I am an aspiring psychology and global health research professional, and I'm devoted to spreading the message that Mindset Matters.

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