Sugar – a class of molecules called carbohydrates(carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen).
When you go shopping next time, check the labels on your goods. There are so many types of sugars: sucrose, fructose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, starch, glucose etc. Sugar is EVERYWHERE!
Now to the question. How does sugar affect your brain?
Let’s say you took a bite of your Grandma’s sweet chocolate cake. As soon as it reaches your tongue, the cake activates the “sweet” taste receptor signals. These signals travel up to your brain stem and into your cerebral cortex which is one of the places where the signals go to. This activates the brain’s reward system. Dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, makes the brain happy and rewarded. Sugar triggers dopamine but not as violently as alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or sexual and social interaction. When these actions go overboard, everything in your body goes bonkers(loss of control, craving, increased tolerance).
Let’s go back into your body. After you gobble up that decadent bite, it travels into your stomach and actuate your receptors telling you that you are full or that you need more insulin to deal with all that sugar.
The brain is curious. When we eat new flavors and tastes, dopamine levels rise in the brain. So that means if you eat a balanced diet, your dopamine levels will rise and your brain will feel happy about it. However, if you eat that same dish many days in a row, your dopamine levels will crash. That is because the brain will pay special attention to new and interesting dishes. The more variety of dishes we eat the more we can detect what foods are good for us and what are not. Instead of creating dopamine with sugar create dopamine with new tastes!
It’s okay to have a new taste of pie once in a while.