Mood and the Glycaemic Index

If you’re feeling a little unsettled at the moment with all that is going on in the world, you are not alone! It wouldn’t be too over the top to say it has been an emotional rollercoaster! But did you know that the foods we eat can make this rollercoaster of emotions worse? Let me explain ….

The glycaemic index (GI) is a scale from 0-100 on which carbohydrate containing foods (think bread, rice, pasta, potato, fruit etc) can be categorised into low, moderate and high GI carbohydrates. Low GI foods have a rating of <55 and high GI >75 on the GI scale. High and low GI foods have a different effect on the amount of sugar (also known as glucose) in our blood.

Carbohydrates are important for us to include each day as they provide our body, muscles and brain with energy to do our normal daily tasks – this might include exercise, study, work, caring for our family, housework etc. When we eat these foods, our body breaks them down into smaller parts, the part we use for energy, we call this glucose, but it can also be called sugar. The sugar is taken into our blood stream, after some time a hormone called insulin (released from the pancreas) attaches to the sugar in our blood and carries to our muscles and liver where it can be stored as glycogen so we can use it for energy. It is normal for some sugar to be in our blood always but depending on the types of carbohydrates we eat the level of sugar in our blood can go quite high – too high!

Looking at the picture below you can see what happens to our blood sugar levels when we eat high GI carbohydrate foods. Our mood and energy levels are closely linked to our blood sugar levels (BSL). So when our BSL spikes, so does our mood and energy. We feel pretty good when this happens – happy, energetic etc. The problem is after this spike insulin takes the sugar out of the blood and we have a BSL low. When our BSL goes too low, we can feel pretty awful, mood is low, energy is low, we might feel hungry or even HANGRY. To make things harder when we have this low our body often craves more of those sweet foods to get us back up again. You can see how the yoyo pattern in our mood can start to take shape. For people who may already be struggling with their mood this yoyo-ing is NOT helpful.

Of course, it is absolutely fine to be having the occasional treat (goodness knows I have been!), but in order to help keep our mood as stable as we possibly can it is best that we have a regular intake of low GI carbohydrates over the day. Examples of this could be porridge or a high fibre cereal at breakfast with fruit, wholemeal/wholegrain wrap or sandwich at lunch and some long grain rice or pasta with meat and vegetables at dinner.

If you would like to find out more about what this might look like for you please feel free to contact one of our dietitian's for more information.

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