Sugar + Mood Swings

Breaking the detrimental cycle of bad mood -> sugar high -> sugar low -> worse mood.

The physical problems caused by too much sugar are well researched and documented. In short, sugar causes inflammation and inflammation is a big cause of chronic health problems. But, sugar also causes mental health issues including mood swings and exacerbated anxiety and depression.

That sugary Starbucks drink gives us a sugar rush, but it also gives us a big sugar low. It’s that lull we have to worry about. There are studies suggesting that a greater sugar intake contributes to imbalanced moods — anxiousness, panicky feelings, increased risk of developing depression and a weakened ability to handle stress. It’s even said to diminished brain cognition. And it happens fast. Research shows that within 5 days of a higher sugar diet, you start experiencing negative mood/brain symptoms.

That pint of ice cream, cookie or bag of chips may sound like a good idea in the moment. But the ongoing cycle of bad mood -> sugar high -> sugar low -> worse mood is detrimental in the long term.

So, What Do We Do?

The answer: it’s not easy. We see lots of ads touting beautiful desserts and delicious looking French fries. And then there are the hidden sugars — sugars in tomato sauce, OJ, the white puffy baguette and even fruit.

Lowering sugar should be done with baby steps. Sugar withdrawals are a real thing and can cause fatigue, irritability, anxiousness or worse.

Work on quitting the processed bagged snacks and reach for old-fashioned real foods. It will take time, but as you dissect your choices, you can create a new plan that has less sugar and more healthy fat. Our brains like healthy fats.

Science-Backed Mood Boosting Foods

  • FISH (Omega 3s) — A tuna sandwich will make your brain happy
  • DARK CHOCOLATE has mood boosting and feel-good brain chemicals and flavonoids
  • FERMENTED FOODS, including naturally fermented pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut provide healthy bacteria in the gut, which helps to create serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter
  • BANANAS contain B6, which is a big contributor to dopamine and serotonin
  • OLD FASHIONED OATS are a great source of fiber (helps with good gut health) and a good source of iron, which is a common nutrient deficiency, and causes mood issues. Oats also help stabilize blood sugar swings, due to their fiber
  • BERRIES have lots of antioxidants, which combat internal stress, are a lower sugar sweet and pair well with nuts and seeds
  • NUTS & SEEDS are a rich source of plant-based fiber, protein and healthy fats and are a quick and easy pick-me-up

For more info on blood sugar balance, good energy or feeling your best through smarter food choices, please contact our holistic nutritionists. It’s a personal puzzle, but we can assist in figuring out what’s best for your body.

Read more on sugar issues and book a free 20-minute consultation with Healthy Nest Nutrition owner Robin Hutchinson.


Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 6287. Published online 2017 Jul 27. doi: 1038/s41598-017-05649-7

PMCID: PMC5532289 PMID: 28751637. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Anika Knüppel,Martin J. ShipleyClare H. Llewellyn, and Eric J. Brunner

2019 Jun; 11(6): 1250. Published online 2019 May 31. doi: 10.3390/nu11061250 PMCID: PMC6627391 PMID: 31159322. Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study.Maria F. Masana,1,2,3 Stefanos Tyrovolas,1,2,4,* Natasa Kollia,4 Christina Chrysohoou,5 John Skoumas,5 Josep Maria Haro,1,2 Dimitrios Tousoulis,5 Charalambos Papageorgiou,6 Christos Pitsavos,5 and Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos4

Int J Endocrinol. 2013; 2013: 701967. Published online 2013 Aug 20. doi: 1155/2013/701967 PMCID: PMC3762204 PMID: 24027581 Diet-Regulated Anxiety Michelle Murphy* and Julian G. Mercer

BMC Psychology volume 7, Article number: 14 (2019). Possible relation between consumption of different food groups and depression.G. Grases, M. A. Colom, P. Sanchis & F. Grases

Antioxidants 2019, 8(9), 376; Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and Depression. by Qingyi Huang 1,2,3,Huan Liu 1,2,Katsuhiko Suzuki 4OrcID,Sihui Ma 3,*OrcID andChunhong Liu 1,2

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 102, Issue 2, August 2015, Pages 454–463, High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative James E Gangwisch, Lauren Hale, Lorena Garcia, Dolores Malaspina, Mark G Opler, Martha E Payne, Rebecca C Rossom, Dorothy Lane.

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Beginning July 2021, Robin is happy to meet in person again if you're comfortable and vaccinated. Virtual meetings via Zoom are still an option if you prefer. Please let us know your preference when scheduling your session.

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