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10 Ways Sugar Affects My Brain and Body

Illustration of how sugar affects me

If you’re like me, you have favorite go-to sweet treats. My favorites are chocolate cake, Starbucks mocha lattes, and chocolate ice cream. Yeah, I love dark chocolate and only dark chocolate. I gotta be desperate to eat milk chocolate and I believe white chocolate isn’t chocolate. But I digress.

Until recently, say the last several months, I didn’t fully realize how sugar affected me until I started making notations in my food journal starting about June 2016.

I discovered it doesn’t take much sugar to affect me. All it takes is having a mocha latte a few times a week, eating toast or cereal (gluten-free, of course) without any protein too many mornings in a row, or eating too much fresh fruit in a day such as peaches, grapes, or melons.

screenshot of Starbucks mocha caffe nutritional information

A 12-oz soy, no-whip Starbucks mocha latte has 230 calories, 5 grams total fat, 9 grams of protein, 35 grams of carbohydrates that includes 27 grams of sugar – that’s just over 2 tablespoons!

You’ve probably noticed numerous headlines about sugar and its effects on human health over the last few years. In June health writer Anahad O’Connor asked the question “Is Sugar Really Bad for You?” in his article published in the New York Times. He discovered a murky answer because of the numerous forms of sugar used in foods.

In August, ScienceDaily.com reported that researchers in Munich, Germany found that the brain actively takes sugar from the bloodstream, not passively as once thought. In September, major media outlets such as NPR and NBC News reported how the sugar industry manipulated the research about sugar’s effect on human health by paying researchers to blame saturated fat for coronary disease.

While certainly not a hardcore scientific research tool, I do believe my food journal provided me with enough clues to determine how my brain and body react to sugar and simple carbohydrates. Here’s a sordid list of 10 effects I’ve noted:

  1. I get real cranky, the type of crankiness that slips me into anger in less than .00001 nanoseconds. It’s a horrible feeling, one I can’t escape even after an intense workout!
  2. Every inch of my body feels stiff and creaky, even after sitting for only 10 minutes. I walk like the late character actor Walter Brennan did in the movie, The Over-the-Hill Gang until I can loosen up a bit.
  3. I feel sluggish after the initial rush that lasts the rest of the day.
  4. I’m sore after workouts — even light sessions — that can linger for several days.
  5. I get serious foot and leg cramps at night. When I say “serious” I mean the type of cramp that can run from my toes all the way to my butt with such an intensity I feel my bones will break and muscles will snap. Only by guzzling a couple glasses of an electrolyte replenishment product will stop or prevent those cramps.
  6. I suffer “brain fog” thicker than the fog that rolls into San Francisco. My head feels like an oversized bean bag and my mental processes are circuitous wanderings.
  7. My immune system tanks, letting allergies to kick in or a cold to take hold.
  8. My cravings for dark chocolate kicks into high gear.
  9. I eat more carbs such as tortilla chips and baked potatoes. I’ll also want to bake chocolate cakes, eat donuts, and nosh on bagels slathered with peanut butter and blackberry jam.
  10. I am easily tempted to jump off my gluten-free wagon. Whenever I eat wheat-based breads, muffins, or pancakes, I will later feel as if I was run over by that same wagon multiple times. I get super cranky-angry, stiff as a board, serious brain fog (are we seeing similar pattern here?), plus I gain several pounds and itch like crazy for at least a day.

Just by being more aware of the foods I eat and how I feel afterwards is helping to eat more healthfully.

So how am I going to handle the upcoming holiday season filled with chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin and pecan pies, and the oh-so-delicious Starbucks’ holiday mochas?

By remembering how sugar affects me and immediately distracting myself with an activity.

I’d love to know how sugar affects you. Comments welcome!

About Bonnie Parrish-Kell

Diva-in-Chief and Publisher of Slowpoke Divas who always feels better after a good workout or race...no matter how sore she may become. Tweet me @bparrishkell

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