Are you stress-eating sugar?

Have you been feeling the pressure lately? Whether it's a gruelling work schedule, or the daily rush of getting the kids off to school and ferrying them between various activities, it's not the easiest keeping up to speed in our busy world. 

Often, when we feel the weight of our different responsibilities pressing down on us, we neglect to look after our bodies by eating healthy and getting regular exercise. Instead, if we're feeling low after a tiring day we turn to our various coping mechanisms – whether it's binge-watching My Kitchen Rules or bingeing out on sweet treats. 

But have you ever stopped to wonder what these vices could be doing to our bodies? Is eating that entire king size slab of chocolate really going to make us feel fulfilled and happy? 

Many of us turn to sugar when we're stressed. Many of us turn to sugar when we're stressed.

Here, we're going to take a look at one of the world's most beloved snack ingredients, sugar, and how it affects our stress so that you can beat the pressure the healthy way by filling your reusable shopping bags with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Have you got a sugar monkey on your back?

It's no secret that sugar isn't the best thing in the world when it comes to making healthy eating choices. I'm sure you even had the 'too much sugar will rot your teeth' speech when you were a kid.

But unlike the tooth fairy, this dental story has a grain of truth, according to the Australian Dental Association.

"The number one cause of tooth decay is consumption of sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis," the Oral Health Committee Chairman, Dr Peter Alldritt.

"The bacteria in your mouth convert sugars into acids. Over time, acids eat away at the surface of a tooth, attacking the enamel, weakening the tooth and causing decay in the form of holes or cavities." 

Yikes. Fortunately, Dr Alldritt goes on to continue that the simplest way to avoid tooth decay is through being aware of what we eat and drink, as well as lessening our consumption of sugary/acidic food.

The hidden power of sugar

Have you ever found that eating sugary foods only leaves you wanting more? Some people might even go as far as to say that they are "addicted to sugar".

A new study released by the Endocrine Society might give us an insight into why some people might binge on sugary drinks when they're feeling the pressure. According to the findings, it appears that when people drink sugar-sweetened beverages, their stress responses are suppressed.

Skip the confectionery aisle if you're feeling stressed.  Skip the confectionery aisle if you're feeling stressed.

This involves the suppression of what is commonly known as "the stress hormone", cortisol, which Mayo Clinic explains can influence functions related to mood, immune system response and our digestive system.

So could consuming sugary snacks really effect how we manage stress? 

Possibly, but it's worthwhile remembering that this sweet treat comes with a price, as explained by one of the study's authors, Dr Kevin Laugero from UC Davis.

"The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar's detrimental health effects, including obesity," he said. 

Handling stress the healthy way 

While it might be easy to reach for a chocolate bar, there are many other, more healthy ways of managing your stress. 

Firstly, replacing the sugar with a healthier alternative is a good place to start. By weaning yourself off sugar, you can make room in your diet for nutritional food such as a rainbow of fresh produce.

In addition, Mayo Clinic recommends taking the time to recognise what's causing you stress, as well as making sure you are getting sufficient sleep, interacting with your friends and practising meditation or relaxation techniques.