Sugar, energy and mood…

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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Row of cupcakes

My last post was all about the importance of breakfast, especially for children and teenagers, as their bodies can’t store nutrients for as long as adult bodies can.

This post focuses on balancing blood sugar – something us Nutritionists regularly talk about, especially given society’s focus on easy snacks, often high in refined carbohydrates (such as white flour) and added sugar, meaning they break down into glucose easily, which then quickly hits our bloodstream….giving us a sudden burst of energy.

BUT our bodies are quick to respond, sending out insulin to quickly draw the extra glucose out of our bloodstream and into our cells – a self-protective mechanism that looks after both our blood sugar levels and the energy needs of our cells – and causes our energy to drop quite quickly again.

What does this mean for us? Our brains need glucose for energy. A sudden rise in blood glucose, followed by a sudden drop, can leave us feeling tired, irritable, headachy and sometimes even a bit shaky. Ever noticed that urgent sensation of craving something sweet to combat a dizzy or trembly feeling? That’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs some energy.

How do you avoid this? By eating meals and snacks that will release sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream slowly, so that you have a steady supply of energy rather than highs and lows. What sort of meals and snacks do this? Those that provide complex carbohydrates (wholegrains, fruits, vegetables), combined with healthy fats (nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, avocado) and/or protein (lean meats, beans, legumes, tofu, seafood, eggs, cheese).

What does this look like over a day?

Breakfast: ditch sugary cereal in favour of wholegrain muesli or oats with berries and yoghurt, or try a smoothie made with nut butter, fruit, yoghurt and milk, or eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado and fetta.

Lunch: Wholegrain wrap or sandwich packed with lots of salad and a source of protein (grilled chicken, tofu, salmon, tuna, eggs, cheese).

Afternoon tea: Rather than reaching for a handful of rice crackers, sweet biscuits or a bag of chips, try something that will keep you feeling fuller for longer – wholegrain crackers with cheese, a protein ball and a piece of fruit, fruit spread with nut butter, a handful of nuts mixed with some Greek yoghurt and berries (I’m sensing a nut theme today – might be a sign I need some myself…).

By the time you get to dinner, you’ll feel much better than had you eaten crackers, sweets and white bread-type foods all day, which means you will be more likely to take the time to prepare a healthy dinner. As to what that could look like – I’ll leave that up to you, just make sure to fill at least ½ your plate with veggies, add in some wholegrains like brown rice or wholemeal pasta, plus protein. And don’t be afraid to drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil for all its positive health benefits, including helping to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Try eating like this for a day, then reflect on how you felt. You might notice your energy and your moods were more stable than usual.

It’s certainly not essential that everyone eat every few hours, nor is morning or afternoon tea necessary for everyone. Pay attention over the next week to what you eat, how you feel afterwards and when you next feel hungry, then plan your meals and snacks so that you can meet your hunger needs (which change from day to day), help keep your blood sugar levels stable and consequently better manage your energy and moods.

As always, for a personalised discussion about your health, energy, moods and eating habits, book an appointment to see me here, or call me for a chat to learn more about my approach and how we might work together.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Develop a positive relationship with food