Dealing with anxiety is no picnic, and recent studies have revealed that coupled with sugar, anxiety can worsen. So what’s the solution? Cutting out sugar is the best way to reduce anxiety, but it’s easier said than done. As we found out, depending on how much sugar gets eaten, sometimes it may take some time to cut back. However, with the help of a low carb, high-fat diet discussed in the Body Reboot book, cutting back or entirely cutting out sugar is possible. Plus, there are plenty of low carb recipes (which we mention in this article) that can help curb the cravings!
For starters, let’s learn more about how sugar affects anxiety. It turns out sugar doesn’t make you feel better – it aggravates the anxiety you’re already feeling! Healthline discusses this more in depth:
If you deal with anxiety, then you know how disastrous it can be to binge on sugar.
The powerful high and subsequent crash can make you feel irritable, shaky, and tense — all side effects that can worsen your anxiety.
But that’s not all. Sugar can also weaken your body’s ability to respond to stress, which can trigger your anxiety and prevent you from dealing with the cause of the stress.
There’ve been a few studies that have looked at the connection between sugar and anxiety, but they were both done on rats. While the findings did show a definite link between sugar intake and anxiety, researchers would like to see more studies done on humans.
The Physiology & Behavior 2008 study goes into detail about how sugar is very similar to taking drugs, which is very scary if you think about it. If you are prone to binge eating sugar, you may want to think twice (or figure out other ways to deal with anxiety) because otherwise, your sugar eating habit may only worsen.
Bingeing on sugar may activate neural pathways in a manner similar to taking drugs of abuse, resulting in related signs of dependence. The present experiments test whether rats that have been bingeing on sucrose and then fasted demonstrate signs of opiate-like withdrawal. Rats were maintained on 12-h deprivation followed by 12-h access to a 10% sucrose solution and chow for 28 days, then fasted for 36 h. These animals spent less time on the exposed arm of an elevated plus-maze compared with a similarly deprived ad libitum chow group, suggesting anxiety. Microdialysis revealed a concomitant increase in extracellular acetylcholine and decrease in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens shell. These results did not appear to be due to hypoglycemia. The findings suggest that a diet of bingeing on sucrose and chow followed by fasting creates a state that involves anxiety and altered accumbens dopamine and acetylcholine balance. This is similar to the effects of naloxone, suggesting opiate-like withdrawal. This may be a factor in some eating disorders.
Long-term deprivation following sugar bingeing can result in behavioral and neurochemical adaptations similar to those observed when opioid-dependent animals are deprived of an abused substance, such as morphine. These indicators of opiate-like withdrawal are signs of dependence. This finding, combined with previous studies showing that sugar bingeing can result in other signs of dependence, including dopaminergic and opioid changes, naloxone-precipitated and spontaneous withdrawal, cross-sensitization with drugs of abuse, increased intake of sugar after abstinence, a time-dependent increase in responding for cues previously associated with sugar, and a proclivity to consume alcohol, suggests that dependency is evident on several dimensions.
Even though you’re on a low carb diet doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on anything right away. Healthline mentions that if it’s hard for you to cut out sugar altogether, you may want to ease yourself into it. Otherwise, it may be challenging going through the withdrawals.
When it comes to quitting processed sugar, many people recommend going cold turkey. But if you have a history of panic attacks, that might not be a good idea.
Withdrawing from sugar isn’t pleasant.
It can cause serious side effects, such as anxiety, irritability, confusion, and fatigue. This has led experts to look at how the withdrawal symptoms from sugar can resemble those of certain drugs.
“Evidence in the literature shows substantial parallels and overlap between drugs of abuse and sugar,” explains Uma Naidoo, MD, who’s considered the mood-food expert at Harvard Medical School.
When someone misuses a drug, like cocaine, they go into a physiological state of withdrawal when they stop using it.
Naidoo says that people who are consuming high amounts of sugar in their diets can similarly experience the physiological sensation of withdrawal if they suddenly stop consuming sugar.
That’s why going cold turkey from sugar may not be the best solution for someone who also has anxiety.
“Suddenly stopping sugar intake can mimic withdrawal and feel like a panic attack,” Naidoo says. And if you have an anxiety disorder, this experience of withdrawal can be heightened.
One study from July 2018 questions whether sugar addiction is indeed real, and discovered that yes, sugar does affect the brain and thus, it can also lead to anxiety when going through withdrawals.
In animal studies, sugar has been found to produce more symptoms than is required to be considered an addictive substance. Animal data has shown significant overlap between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitisation, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, reward and opioid effects. Sugar addiction seems to be dependence to the natural endogenous opioids that get released upon sugar intake. In both animals and humans, the evidence in the literature shows substantial parallels and overlap between drugs of abuse and sugar, from the standpoint of brain neurochemistry as well as behaviour.
So now that we know all of the horrible side effects sugar has, let’s find out what some of the low carb desserts you can eat (and that have far fewer side effects)! Diet Doctor recommends berries as a yummy dessert, and we happen to agree that berries taste good.
Berries are decently low-carb sweets. But if you’re on a strict low-carb diet you may need to make it an occasional treat. Blueberries have the most carbs.
Heavy whipping cream – forget low-fat fake cream. Get real heavy whipping cream, ideally at 40 percent fat and definitely unsweetened (the natural sweetness is quite enough once you get used to it). Whip and have it with your berries. Note however that this is absolutely delicious, and it’s easy to eat a lot of it when not hungry, slowing down weight loss. So try to not overdo it.
Good news! You don’t have to cut out chocolate completely. Diet Doctor mentions that you can eat chocolate sparingly, though, dark chocolate is the best to eat.
Chocolate is not low carb. However, you can occasionally get away with one or two thin squares of high-cocoa chocolate (70%+) even on a strict low-carb diet. On a more liberal low-carb diet you could do it regularly.
One small thin square (10 grams or less than half an ounce) of 86 percent chocolate contains about 2 grams of carbs.
Switch to 70% chocolate and you get about 3.5 grams per square.
Regular chocolate can be 6 grams of carbs or more per square – not an option if you want to stay low carb.
After you get used to eating the basics and you want to try making a keto friendly dessert, why not try a fat bomb? All Day I Dream About Food gives instructions on how to make delicious Peanut Butter Fat Bombs. Check it out:
Low carb peanut butter and jam? Heck yeah! These tasty peanut butter cups are full of healthy keto fats and taste like biting into your favourite sandwich.
Calories: 223 kcal
3/4 cup raspberries
1/4 cup water
6 to 8 tbsp powdered Swerve Sweetener divided
1 tsp grassfed gelatin
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup coconut oil
Line a muffin pan with 12 silicone or parchment paper liners.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the raspberries and water. Bring to a boil and the reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Mash the berries with a fork.
Stir in 2 to 4 tbsp of the powdered sweetener, depending on how sweet you like it. Whisk in the grassfed gelatin and let cool while preparing the peanut butter mixture.
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the peanut butter and coconut oil. Cook on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until melted. Whisk in 2 to 4 tbsp of the powdered sweetener, depending on how sweet you like it (I only use 2 tbsp).
Divide half of the peanut butter mixture among the 12 cups and set in the freezer to firm up, about 15 minutes. Divide the raspberry mixture among the cups and top with the remaining peanut butter mixture.
Refrigerate until firm. Keep refrigerated.
Dr. Axe provides another yummy dessert you can make and eat on a low carb diet. Learn what he thinks about a salted caramel custard and below I Breathe, I’m Hungry gives us the ingredients and instructions on to make these delicious fat bombs.
Tired of boring vanilla pudding for dessert? This recipe gives you a much more interesting and low-carb option to try. Plus, if you want to get more eggs into your diet, this custard is a tasty way to do it. It’s super easy to make and finished with a three-ingredient caramel sauce that you might start drizzling on everything.
For the custard:
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup water
1.5 Tbsp granulated sugar substitute (splenda, ideal, swerve, etc.)
1.5 tsp caramel extract
For the caramel sauce:
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 Tbsp granulated sugar substitute
1/4 tsp (or to taste) caramel extract
To make the custard:
Combine the custard ingredients in a blender or magic bullet and blend until smooth. Pour into two greased 6 oz ramekins or bowls. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (F). Place your ramekins in a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Pour hot water up into the cookie sheet until halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes, or until set. Remove and chill for at least one hour (or overnight) before serving.
To make the sauce:
Melt the butter, sweetener, and caramel flavoring in the microwave for 30 seconds (or in a saucepan on the stove until melted) and whisk together until fully blended. Divide between and pour over the two custards just before serving.
Another quick and easy keto dessert is a low carb mug cookie. Tasteaholics gives us the details on how to make this tasty dessert. Yum!
Low Carb Mug Cookie
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp almond flour
1 tbsp So Nourished erythritol
1 pinch cinnamon
1 egg yolk
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp sugar free chocolate chips
If you're using an oven to cook this mug cookie, preheat it to 350°F.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small pan and let it brown a little. This will enhance the flavor of your mug cookie!
Combine this browned butter with 3 tablespoons of almond flour. If your almond flour is a little coarse, feel free to pulse it in a food processor to make it a little more fine.
Add in erythritol and cinnamon.
Add your sugar free chocolate chips (did you know you can make your own?!). Stir to combine.
Spray a mug, cup or ramekin with some cooking oil and place your cookie dough in. Flatten it out to ensure even cooking.
Microwave on high for about a minute or bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Let it cool for a few mins and then dig in! Enjoy alone or with a scoop of low carb ice cream (perhaps homemade!)
Sugar really does wreak havoc on a body, and there’s a much better way to take care of your body and cut out the unhealthy stuff. We discuss in the Body Reboot book how a ketogenic diet can be the ticket to cutting out sugar and later, you likely won’t even crave it! There are many, many desserts you can eat on a keto diet — but, of course, the fewer desserts you eat, the better results you will likely have. If you want a free copy of the Body Reboot book help us cover shipping and receive a free book! Visit this page to find out whether we still have any copies remaining.
Sources: NCBI: Avena, Nicole M et al.Physiology & behavior vol. 94,3 (2008), NCBI: Br J Sports Med. 2018 Jul, Healthline, All Day I Dream About Food, Diet Doctor, Dr. Axe, I Breathe, I’m Hungry, Tasteaholics
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Discover how to activate your body's “Reboot Switch” that flips on a fat burning inferno so you can finally achieve your weight loss goals!