Another TED-Ed video – about sugar's brain effect. Why sugar is so desired. Why food companies put it in so many foods. How our brain works to have us seek it out almost addictively and not get bored of it like we do with many healthy foods.
First it explains the kinds of molecules that are sugar. And it goes into the different types of sugar and the different names that sugar has. These are the words that you would look for on the food label to know if sugar has been added.
It also discusses some of the foods that sugar is added to, so that you are not looking just at desserts and other foods that you expect sugar to be in. In fact it is added to almost all of our packaged foods. It's in “healthy” granola and “healthy” yogurt. You really cannot go by descriptive words such as healthy, organic, or natural. You have to look at the labels to check the amount of sugar.
Sugar's Brain Effect
However, the best part of the video is when it begins to discuss how sugar affects our brain. This explains why companies so often add it to foods in ever-increasing amounts, and why added sugar should be avoided except on occasion.
It gives a good general explanation of the brain's reward system. Without too much scientific wording it explains that we have receptors in various parts of the brain which communicate with each other to give varying amounts of reward sensations. It also explains that there are also sugar receptors in our gut that signal the feeling of fullness and signal the secretion of insulin. The insulin is needed to push the sugar in our bloodstream into our cells.
The video goes into how the neural signaling molecule dopamine is found throughout this reward system, and discusses how it works. A healthy meal with a low level of sugar leads to a reward spike of dopamine. But with repeated healthy meals there is less and less dopamine secreted when the food is the same.
Some foods do not lead to any spike at all in dopamine. These are the foods we have little craving for. Broccoli hardly causes a blip. Now you know why our kids don't want broccoli.
This reward spike is followed by less secretion of dopamine when each meal is the same. To keep getting dopamine spikes we seek a variety of foods. Overall this is a healthy desire. By getting a variety of foods, we get a variety of nutrients. This way we are more likely to get all the essential nutrients we need.
Sugar on the other hand causes a spike every time just like a new meal. No matter how often we eat sugar, every time is like the first time. We get a big spike of dopamine in our brain's reward system. Sugar never gets boring to our brain.
With this knowledge we can come up with a better plan for our meals. We can avoid the boredom that occurs when eating the same basic food items, when avoiding added sugar, or when avoiding salt. By using a different spice or flavor combination at each meal we can add enough variety that we should continue to get a strong spike of dopamine to keep our brain happy.
If you are looking for tables with the potassium content of a food item, click on the List Of Posts tab at the top of the page. Figure out what food group your food of interest is in. Then look for the post that mentions that food group and has the word “table” in it. Click on the link to that post and look for your food of interest in the table.