Hangry? Could your Dietary Patterns be Influencing your Mood?

It is 3:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon, your stomach is grumbling, your productivity at work is slowing down and you snap at your colleague/friend/family member for no apparent reason…sound familiar?

This phenomenon, known as being ‘Hangry’ (or angry because you’re hungry) describes the short-tempered state that many people feel, when they are overdue for a feed or have not eaten enough.

Understanding the science behind why we get hangry can help us to plan our day, to ensure we do not leave ourselves vulnerable to this diet-driven state of anger.

Let’s break it down:

When you eat, the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your food are all broken down and digested into simple sugars (such as glucose), amino acids and free fatty acids. These sugars make it possible for nutrients to pass into your bloodstream, to allow them to be distributed to your organs and tissues, and used for energy.

However, depending on the meal you consumed, and how much time has passed, these nutrients in your bloodstream can drop. Glucose is used as the primary fuel source for your brain. The brain is critically dependent on this for function, therefore if your blood-glucose levels fall far enough, your brain will perceive this as a life-threatening situation.

You have probably experienced this before – Daily tasks can seem more difficult, you may find it harder to concentrate, or make silly mistakes. Additionally, your limited brain power may render you susceptible to inadvertently snap at people, such as your partner, friends and family. Sound familiar?

How to avoid becoming hangry:

The easiest way to handle hanger is to eat something before you get too hungry. While you may hanker for quick-fix foods such as chocolate or potato chips when in the throes of hanger, junk foods induce large rises in blood-glucose levels, that come crashing down again rapidly.

Here are our top 5 picks for afternoon tea, which will give you the energy you need, without the fat and sugar that you don’t need:

Vita-Weat + peanut butter: Selecting the grainier variety of Vita-Weat, such as 9 grain, will provide you with a low GI snack to keep you sustained through to dinner. Top with a low-sugar spread, such as nut butter, to provide you with a great carb/protein balance for a mid-afternoon snack.

Reduced fat yogurt and oats – Pick up a reduced fat yogurt ~1/2 cup Chobani natural Greek yogurt, or any of their 0.5% fat range make for a high protein, low fat snack. Top with a few tablespoons of rolled oats and a handful of nuts and seeds, for a high calcium-packed snack.

Skim Latte – As long as you do not go overboard with the quantity of milky coffee consumed in a day, a skim latte can offer you a calcium and protein enriched snack, for less than 100 calories. If you find that caffeine will affect you later in the day, opt for decaf instead.

Nut and seed snack pack – fill a zip lock bag with a handful of nuts and a handful of seeds to keep at your desk for the afternoon munchies. While nuts are a nutritious choice, it can be difficult to stop after the recommended limit of 15 to 20 nuts. Portioning these out before taking them to work will help.

Vegetable sticks + dip – pre-chop your favourite veggies and keep them in a container in the fridge for a quick, easy snack. Dip into your favourite low fat dips, such as hummus, tzatziki or beetroot relish.

Can you relate?  If you feel that your dietary patterns are affecting your mood or vice versa, why not book an appointment with one of our friendly Accredited Practising Dietitians for a complete nutritional assessment, with  advice tailored to you and your lifestyle ? Call 8599 6275 to book, or visit our website at www.opt.net.au for more information.
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