Mind Where Your Sugar Comes from for Mind’s Sake

Posted April 2020
Hazelnut Butter & Strawberries on Corn Thins slices

Do you want to be the healthiest and happiest version of you? To see the world through optimistic eyes? Well a study hot off the press published in Scientific Reports discovered a potential negative impact of sugar beyond the know impacts to your waistline. This study of 23245 individuals reported men who consumed 67g of sugar a day (which is around 16 teaspoons) were 23% more likely to have a form of mood disorder and in both men and women evidence of recurring depression. This was regardless of other lifestyle choices or being overweight or obese. It seems sugar is not only potentially a demon for your body but your mind’s health as well!

What makes 16 teaspoons of sugar? A 500ml Coke will almost put you over this amount with a huge 13 teaspoons. A Weight Watchers Blueberry muffin has between 18-21g, Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars (all flavours): will give you 12 grams and Nature Valley Strawberry (or Vanilla) Yogurt Granola Bars will set you back 13 g of sugar.

So what can you do to protect your mind? Do you need to cut all sugar from your diet to be healthy? The truth is not all sugar is equal and there are some sugars which you need for health.

Without knowledge of what types of sugar should be limited this could lead many to  cut out essential foods which do have sugar but are also important for the health and functioning of the body and mind.

The WCRF has published recommendations for adults and children to limit ‘free sugar’ which is the sugar added to products. This can be seen on the ingredients in many names and includes honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. Free sugar does NOT include sugars naturally found in food like fructose in fruits or naturally occurring in milk products or milk known as lactose.

How much of these free sugars should be included in your diet? It is recommended to limit free sugars to less than 10% of total daily energy or kilojoules or calories, which is the same as 12.5 teaspoons of sugar for a 2000 calorie or 8364 kilojoule diet. For optimal health try to to eat or drink no more than 5% of total energy daily from added sugar or equal to approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar daily.

Before you go and cut out every type of sugar from your diet, remember sugar alone is not the enemy. It is the sugar added to food or drink which have little to no nutritional value. The body still needs foods and drinks which contain sugar for health.  Often when you have a diet higher in added sugar this replaces whole foods and beverages which your body and mind need to function at their best.

Fruit for example contains fructose, a type of sugar but also contains many components which have been shown to help protect your mind. This is why the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat 2 servings of fruit a day. The type of sugar which wants to be limited is the fruit juice and concentrates which for a large percentage have added sugar.

Sugar can also be found in whole grains but is an important food group for your health. Providing prebiotic fibres for a healthy gut as well as many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you consider the RICE THINS™ Wholegrain as an example it has 9.6 g of carbohydrate per 3 slice serve but when you look below has 0g of added sugar. Providing strong reasoning to why the type of carbohydrate the sugar comes from needs to be considered.

To help you make the best choice when deciding what to buy at the supermarket look for products which contain no more than 15g of added sugar per 100g. You can find this on the most right column of food labels. The key is to take the time to look what is in the food or beverage, checking if sugar is not high on the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in ranking from the highest to the lowest in amount. Other names for sugar can be dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, golden syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, raw sugar and sucrose.

Take home message: Not all sugar is equal and sugar in all its forms is not necessarily the enemy. The need to include whole foods like fruits, vegetables and milk and milk products in the diet are important for both mental and physical health, to be active and live with quality of life.


1.Knüppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific Reports. 2017;7(1):6287.

2. Miller MG, Thangthaeng N, Poulose SM, Shukitt-Hale B. Role of fruits, nuts, and vegetables in maintaining cognitive health. Experimental Gerontology. 2017;94:24-8.

3.Wellfare AIoHa. AIHW Australia: Australian Institute of Health and Wellfare; 2015 [cited 2015 8/8]. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/.

4.International WCRF. Curbing Global Sugar Consumption London: WCRF International; 2015 [Available from: http://www.wcrf.org/int/policy/our-policy-work/curbing-global-sugar-consumption?utm_source=World+Cancer+Research+Fund+International+email+list&utm_campaign=9b8a99a8f6-Policy_sugar_brief_mailing5_18_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8e546f8c30-9b8a99a8f6-163857177.

5.Australian guide to healthy eating. Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia. 2013;20(1):7.


  • Article By:
    • Ashleigh Felth…