How can we use food to improve our mood - Part 3.

Vixx By Vixx, 12th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Diet & Nutrition

How can balancing our blood sugar help us to improve our moods?

One of the most important things you can do to help your mood, and energy levels.

Personally, I feel that the next step that I am going to outline to you is extremely important in terms of being able to manage our food to improve how our mood is over the course of the day. By having the knowledge to deal with what I am about to outline will allow you to be able to improve your mood, maintain your energy levels and possibly even lose weight (should you need or wish to).

This method is important for many reasons besides maintaining mood, as it can help the body with other functions that are necessary for good health. I am looking here at maintaining blood sugar levels within the body.

Blood sugar is important as it is our energy supply line throughout the day. Carbohydrate provides us with our energy source – but not all carbohydrates are the same!

Have you ever felt any of the following during the day at some point:

- Tired?
- Drowsy?
- Irritable?
- Unable to concentrate?
- Shaky?
- Suddenly ravenous and need to eat?
- Buzzing / hyperactive?
- Headachy?

If you have, then chances are your blood sugar is not being controlled as well as it should be, and feelings like the ones listed above can often come down to this one element.

Personally, I find that when I have not eaten something for a long time I get quite short tempered and irritable. If I go for a really long time I get shaky and I can’t focus on what I am doing – which takes me a lot longer to get things done. Everyone’s experiences are different, but if the blood sugar is low, then your performance will suffer – and if you go back to the list you will see that those feelings are usually ones that people do not want to feel on a regular basis.

Blood sugar is derived from the food that we eat, and the body tries to keep the amount of sugar that is carried around the body as a fairly constant figure. When the amount is too high the body produces insulin from the pancreas in order to allow the sugar to be stored away in the body – but this takes time to do, so whilst this is happening your body will perhaps get a bit hyperactive, and you might feel a buzz. However, then when the supply runs out you will then possibly feel tired, or shaky as your blood sugar gets lower.

Think about when you have lunch – especially if you work in an office. Many people have lunch and then feel that they could quite happily crawl under their desk and have a nap. Productivity slumps and people just watch the clock tick around to 5pm when they can go home, with real effort having to go into meeting post-lunch deadlines because of it.

Think of the lunch that you might have if working in an office. Unless you prepare your lunch yourself you might pop out to get something – a sandwich, maybe a bag of crisps, and a can of pop. Quite often these will be what we call ‘simple carbohydrates’. These get into the blood stream quickly, raise the blood sugar, briefly heighten the energy levels – making you feel like you could take on the world! – and then you come crashing back down to earth. You feel tired, energy levels are gone, and you couldn’t fight your way out of a paper bag, let alone take on the world.

Do you find your mood swings up and down over the course of a day? Do you find that your energy levels go up and down? If the answer to either of these is ‘Yes’ then there is a chance that your blood sugar levels are up and down too often.

The best way to assist in keeping blood sugar levels stable is to remove as many simple carbohydrates from the diet and introduce plenty of ‘complex carbohydrates’ into the diet instead. A quick way of telling a simple carbohydrate from a complex carbohydrate is that if it is white in colour (e.g. white bread, white pasta) then it is simple in nature, and easily digested. If it is easily digested then blood sugar will rocket upward as the sugar from the carbohydrate breaks down. This puts pressure on the pancreas to make insulin to remove some of the blood sugar from the blood stream.

By changing these simple carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates – swapping the white foods for brown (granary bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice), these foods are unrefined and in a more natural state. This causes the food to take longer to break down in the digestive system, meaning that the blood sugar levels are more constant and you have energy available to you over a longer period of time. This means that your energy levels will stay on an even keel – giving you the chance to get more done and have a much more productive time. There will most likely be less high and low mood and you have more chance of getting through the afternoon in one piece!

Add fruits and vegetables to your diet too – whilst fruits can be seen more as simple carbohydrate due to the sugars involved, eating the fruit or vegetables can offer extra water into the diet, and the more natural the state the fruit/vegetable is in, the more fibre will be found too, and again this will slow down the digestion and keep you feeling fuller for longer as well providing you with extra vitamins and minerals!

Eating smaller meals more frequently can also help to keep blood sugar even as there is less chance of your fuel tank running on empty if you are eating every 3-4 hours (or every 2-3 if you are active). You won’t be having a full 3-course meal every 3-4 hours, but it should be something small yet nutritious. An example of this would be:

07:30 Breakfast

10:30 Mid-morning Snack

13:00 Lunch

16:30 Afternoon Snack

19:00 Evening Meal

This is only an example and would obviously depend upon what time you got up, and what time you went to bed each day. Ideally the digestive system performs best with an hour to wake up before the first food (thus assuming here that waking up would be around 06:30) and that you would not be going to bed on an empty stomach (so perhaps bedtime here would be between 22:00 and 23:00).

The phrase that should sum up most people’s eating guidelines should be “Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a Pauper.” Most people do not follow these guidelines though. The theory behind it is that your breakfast should be the best meal of the day – designed to set you up for the day ahead after 6-8 hours of fasting whilst asleep. The meal at Lunchtime should not be as big as breakfast, but should be designed to be moderate size and enable you to keep going over the rest of the working day, with your evening meal being modest, and light – nothing too heavy to sit on the stomach before going to bed. Most people do this the other way round, with the meal starting off small at breakfast and getting bigger – until the evening meal is sitting heavy on the belly and leaving us sluggish and aimless in front of the TV.

Think of your body as being like a fine car, such as a Ferrari. With a car that is crafted so specifically, you would not put any old stuff into it – you look after it, service it regularly and make sure it has fuel in it. We need to look at ourselves as being like fine automobiles – if we don’t look after ourselves, and fuel ourselves properly, then we aren’t going to go anywhere and will just sit and rust away through lack of use. Eating to maintain blood sugar will allow us to keep the engine ticking over throughout the day so that we can get the best out of ourselves every day.

Tags

Blood Sugar Balance, Energy Levels, Food, Mood, Mood Swings

Meet the author

author avatar Vixx
I like to write about fitness, nutrition, my running efforts and race reviews.

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author avatar Penny W-T
12th May 2013 (#)

Another good piece. Very useful advice.

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