Have you ever experienced the energy highs and lows that come with eating too many high sugar foods such as cookies, specialty coffee drinks, energy drinks or fast food? If so, you know that what you eat can definitely affect how you feel. This classic example of a “sugar crash” is just one of the many ways that food can affect your mood on a day-to-day basis.
What’s Behind That Energy Spike (or Crash)?
After a meal or snack, our bodies break down the food we eat into glucose. This glucose is either used right away as fuel for the body or stored for later. The amount of glucose in our bloodstream is our blood sugar. Just like the rest of the body, our brain needs a steady supply of glucose to function properly. When blood sugar gets too high or too low, it can affect us in many different ways. Common symptoms of low blood sugar include feeling anxious, irritable, tired, lightheaded or getting a headache.
Refined carbohydrates – like the added sugar in junk food, fruit juices and many other foods – are the primary culprit behind this cycle of energy highs and lows. Avoiding or limiting those foods can help your blood sugar remain stable throughout the day.
Mood-Supporting Nutrients and Vitamins
Sugar isn’t the only ingredient in food that affects how we feel. Take a look at how these other nutrients can impact your mood in a positive way – and some common foods where you can find them.
Habits to Help Boost Your Mood
We all want to have that feeling of sustained energy and alertness throughout the day. Much of that energy and alertness will come from eating a diet filled with nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. There are additional health habits and strategies you can practice to get the most out of the foods you eat.
- Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.
- Eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day instead of a few large meals.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Limit added sugars from drinks like tea, coffee and juice.
- Eat more whole grains and fewer refined sugars.
- Include protein at every meal.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Get regular exercise.
These tips and strategies can help you avoid a negative loop where low-quality food leads to a bad mood, in turn driving you to eat more low-quality food. For more information on how what you eat can affect your overall well-being, order the Fund’s Principles of Good Nutrition toolbox talk or our Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers series from the online Publications Catalogue.