Food and Mood: 10 Steps to Happiness
Nov 24, 2014 by | diet
With all the information that is available to us today, and all that research has to offer, you can begin to select food that can power your brain, modify your moods, and consequently make you a more effective, motivated and likely even more happy individual.
Have you ever wondered how your lifestyle choices can affect your moods?
Well you’re not alone. Caffeine consumption for example, has been associated with anxiety, increased heart rate, nervousness and depression. If you feel terrible because you’ve missed your morning coffee, you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This may be a good time to decrease your intake or for some, give it up altogether.
There are many studies suggesting that sugar and starch in carbohydrate foods increases the brain chemical serotonin. For example: they noted that eating foods such as breads, cereals, fruits and starchy vegetables elevated serotonin levels, helping you feel more relaxed and calm.
High protein foods such as cheese, yogurt, beans and peas, have the opposite effect. They release other substances that cause you to think and react more quickly, feel more alert and energetic and cause you to feel fuller following a meal.
Turkey, chicken and dairy contain a good source of mood enhancing tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which the body converts into serotonin that can be low in people suffering from depression. The next time you’re feeling down, have a serving of plain yogurt and fruit or a whole grain turkey sandwich rather than a brownie or a coffee.
It is important to eat quality protein with each meal and snack, include whole grains, and lots of vegetables and some fresh fruit in your daily diet. Also include a good quality multi vitamin/mineral capsule. No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to get all of the nutrients you need all of the time. A multi will help ensure you are getting most of your vitamins and minerals on those days when eating well is difficult. Remember though, it is by no means a substitute for eating nutrient rich foods.
Now for the good news! Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which can enhance endorphin levels, increase libido, and act as a natural antidepressant. So go ahead and enjoy a couple pieces of chocolate, but best to make it the dark variety (60% cocoa of more) and save it for special occasions. Allowing it to fit comfortably in your 80/20 eating philosophy.
Another important way that food can impact mood is when there is lack of it, or when it is of poor quality. When your body is not well nourished (either through irregular eating patterns or imbalanced eating) blood glucose levels drop, leading to irritability and poor concentration. We know that students who eat breakfast fair better in their schoolwork than those who skip their morning meal.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of water. Dehydration affects your ability to think clearly and to concentrate. By the time one feels thirsty, the body is already 2-3 litres dehydrated. Try drinking through out the day, away from meals keeping in mind the average person requires six to eight glasses of pure filtered water daily to stay hydrated.
Getting sufficient sleep? We have all experienced lower moods, higher irritability and a lack of energy on days following little to poor quality sleep. Make sure you are getting between 6-8 hours of sleep per night in a dark room. Studies are showing that quality of sleep every hour before midnight is equivalent to 2 hours of sleep afterwards. We are best to rise and shine with the sun.
Exercise has proven time and time again to be one of the best prescriptions for moods, depression and stress management. So long as its of the right kind and doesn’t act to burn you out. When one exercises, endorphins are released the same as when one eats carb rich foods or takes part in physical intimacy. Next time you feel like getting an extra dose of feel good hormone, lace up those running shoes and get yourself moving!