Why So Hangry?

Food can have a profound effect on our mood; ever heard of the term hangry?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, hangry is defined as being “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger”. Some of us suffer from this debilitating condition more than others, and there is only one cure – food. Why does this occur? Why does it affect some more than others? Well it is time for us to turn to science for some answers.

Let’s start with hunger, the part that occurs before the hangry kicks in. When you eat food, your body breaks down all of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) into smaller particles that can easily be absorbed into your bloodstream, allowing your body to use this for energy. Now you may have heard the saying “my blood glucose levels have dropped”, leading to lack of concentration, irritability and a ‘fuzzy’ brain. This is because your brain only runs off 100% glucose, a breakdown product of carbohydrate foods.  Without getting too scientific, when your body has ran out of available glucose, it sends signals to certain organs in the body to release hormones that can increase your blood glucose levels. Now some of these hormones also play a role in regulating anger or aggression in the body, meaning that when we are hangry, the control of these emotions is reduced, causing us to sometimes say things we would normally hold back.

Now to cure hanger, you may instinctively go for that sweet biscuit, packet of chips or can of soft drink to quickly raise your blood glucose (sugar) levels. However this is not recommended, and I can explain why.

Glycemic Index (GI) is the rate at which carbohydrates are broken down and digested into glucose and released into the blood steam. These high sugar, processed, convenience foods are an example of high GI foods, meaning that they get broken down quickly, give you a quick boost in energy, but just as quickly your levels drop down. What we need are low GI carbohydrates, those that get digested slower and give your body a steady release of glucose in the bloodstream, providing you with sustained energy levels. Additionally high protein foods and healthy fats are excellent sources to keep those hangry moments at bay.


Key tips to reduce the likelihood of ruining friendships through moments of hanger:

  • Include small, frequent meals throughout the day
  • Include foods from all of your core food groups
  • Choose low GI carbohydrates (multigrain breads, wholegrain cereals, grainy crackers, legumes, dairy, sweet potato, most fruit)
  • Include adequate protein in our diet (Lean meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, tofu, low fat dairy)
  • Make your diet fibre-rich but choosing colourful fruit and vegetables with the skin on
  • Include healthy fats (avocado, plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, oily fish)
  • Keep hydrated