The Real Halloween Horror — The Effects of Sugar on the Body.
Halloween is right around the corner, and I think we’re all wondering where the time has gone and how we’re already nearing the end of October, am I right?
We’re gearing up for the Halloween holiday getting last minute costumes, loading up on candy for trick-or-treaters, and carving our pumpkins. You’re likely dreading the mounds of sugar that will soon be pouring through your door by the bucketful– I know I am! Not to mention how much extra attention you’ll need to pay towards brushing your kid’s teeth each night before bed. The good news is that if you’re worried you’re not alone.
A lot of parents are concerned about how all this sugar will impact our kids. Many of us are trying to figure out how we can take steps to minimize the effects without becoming the “mean mom,” and throwing out their Halloween candy when they’re not looking… (guilty as charged).
The Negative Effects of Sugar on the Brain
I know that most parents’ biggest concern when it comes to sweet, sugary treats — such as Halloween candy — is typically what it will do to our children’s teeth, and rightfully so. But what you may not be aware of is the level of impact that sugar can have on your child’s brain, or even your own for that matter. (Yes—we know about all those peanut butter cups you sneak from the candy stash after you’ve put the kids to bed). The point is, as harmless as a little bit of sugar might seem if consumed in moderation, the impact on your child’s brain health can be surprisingly great.
Good Sugar vs. Bad Sugar
Sugar comes in many forms: dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, glucose, etc. There are actually more than 50 different names for it, but sugar by any name, is still sugar. I think one of the biggest questions most parents ask is, “how bad is sugar?” or “are all sugars bad for you?” To answer those common questions, there are essentially two types of sugar: there is “good sugar” that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, and then there is “bad sugar” that is added to sweeten sodas, candy, baked goods and so on.
The “good sugar” (found in fruits and vegetables) is actually needed within the body, particularly within the brain. Following a meal, food is broken down into glucose. Glucose is so crucial to cell function that glucose deprivation can actually lead to loss of conscious and eventual cell death. Therefore, after a meal, the body has a system in place in which excess glucose is stored as a reserve to help keep you functioning optimally. So, in summary, “good sugar” is essential for your basic brain functions, and not to mention, it tastes great too!
Unfortunately, now we need to talk about the dreaded effects of “bad sugar” and how ‘too much sugar’ or ‘added sugar’ can be harmful to your health. While our bodies depend on glucose for cell function and survival, too much sugar or “bad sugar” can cause an array of health issues. Did you know that on average, people ingest 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day, which is on top of the naturally occurring sugar already in our daily diet? This increase in sugar consumption has been shown to result in obesity, in both children and adults. An increased diet in these saturated fats and sugars can cause fundamental changes within the brain that can have long-term detrimental effects as well. Some of these include: impaired learning and memory issues, sugar addiction and dependency, low energy or mood imbalances (which include withdrawal symptoms such as; headaches, anxiety, cravings and even the chills).
What To Do About All This Bad Sugar
So the question becomes, how do we cut out the bad sugar and keep the good kind? And what do we do with Halloween at our doorstep?
Although we can’t control what other people give out on Halloween, we can make sure that we give our trick-or-treaters healthier (yet still tasty)options. Check your local health food stores for natural and/or organic alternatives — there are lots of great choices out there! Futhermore, we can make sure to substitute natural sweeteners (such as; honey, stevia, maple syrup, natural fruit juice etc.) in place of the bad sugars the other 364 days of the year. Thankfully, the Halloween craze only lasts a few days, so instead of focusing on the negativity that surrounds this sweet and spooky holiday, focus on the amount of sugar your kids consume the rest of the year.