If you know someone who gets a little angry when they’re hungry, you might call them ‘hangry.’ This term has been around for a few years now but is there any science behind getting in a bad mood after you’ve gone too long without a meal?
It turns out that, yes, it’s not just our imagination that we get more impatient and a little grumpy when we’re running on empty or if we’re filling up with unhealthy choices.
“Food 100% effects your mood,” says Certified Eating Disorder Supervisor and Owner of
iLiveWell Nutrition, Adrien Paczisa, RD, LD, CEDRD, who adds that going too long without adequate fuel causes blood sugar to drop and the brain requires a steady level of glucose to keep it functioning. When these levels drop, she says our brain chemistry actually changes and we can become anxious, agitated and not feel or act like ourselves.
In addition to making sure you have a snack on hand, choose smart foods to avoid getting hangry. Paczisa recommends reaching for foods rich in good fats, potassium, and protein and complex carbs. She says the fat promotes brain health and helps hormones and emotions regulate. She begs you to “Please put down the low-fat options and choose regular, full fat” since, as long as you monitor portion size, “you will be happy and satisfied!”
Paczisa says that choosing foods high in potassium helps to calm the mind and protein-rich meals and snacks can assist in slowing down an anxious brain while complex carbs can even help with depression. In addition , she says zinc and magnesium are seriously lacking in the typical American diet and they both play pivotal roles in brain health and, therefore, mood. “Zinc is responsible for over 300 chemical reactions in the brain and 70% of Americans diets are not meeting the necessary levels,” says Paczisa, “and magnesium tells the brain to grow and connect.”
While exact food choices can (and should) vary from person-to-person, Paczisa says that simple carbs tend to lead to more mood issues and more cases of getting hangry because, “The change is usually related to a change in blood sugar and when you have a simple carbohydrate with no protein or fat then your blood sugar drops and the hangry mood (along with low mood levels) can kick in.”
A healthy and happy diet is also one with balance so anything extreme is rarely necessary or appropriate unless recommended by a registered dietitian or health care provider. Elimination diets and food restrictions are all the rage right now but those who self-diagnose diseases and food restrictions can “run the dangerous risk of messing with their brain chemistry and metabolic efficacy,” says Paczisa.