The Impacts of Sugar on the Brain & Tips for Quitting

We all know that sugar should be avoided. Enough of it impairs our cognitive skills and self-control and can lead to health problems. If so many people understand its disadvantages, why do we have such a hard time saying “no”? To answer this question, we must first understand why our bodies love sugar so much.

A Science Behind Your Sweet Snack

Once the first bite of sugar touches the taste receptors on our tongues, those receptors send a signal to the brain and cerebral cortex.

Those signals have reached the brain, and its reward signals are activated. This system answers the question, “should I do this again?” Those warm, fuzzy feelings kick in- a flood of dopamine- telling our bodies, “yes, more, please!” We give ourselves another sweet bite and the cycle begins.

Unfortunately, too much pleasure can steer the brain into overdrive. This kickstarts a series of unfortunate events including cravings, loss of control, and increased tolerance. Over time, these effects can be psychologically and physically taxing.

This troublesome hole can be easy to slip into, and even more difficult to get out of. Many products have added sugars hidden in their ingredients and quitting sugar “cold turkey” leads to withdrawal-like symptoms.

How to Spot Hidden Sugar on Your Labels

Added sugars can be hidden within other ingredients or names. You may see sugars listed as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose.

Try to avoid any products with sugar listed as one of the five first ingredients.

How to Quit

To shun the sugars and curb the cravings, try filling up on healthy fats like nuts or olives. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, and drink lots of water. Avoid triggers, like walking past certain restaurants or stores, or stressful situations.

If you do quit added sugars all at once, get any day-to-day cravings under control before indulging in sweets again. When you do, avoid simple carbs, low-quality candy, processed foods, and packaged foods with hidden sugars. Make sure your indulgences are intentional, thought-out, and enjoyable. Life is short!