Do you think that your moods are just natural ups and downs of life? Something out of our control? Growing evidence suggests that almost all mood swings are linked to our lifestyle choices.
Caffeine consumption for example, has been associated with anxiety, increased heart rate, nervousness and depression. If you feel terrible when you miss your morning coffee, you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This may be a good time to decrease your intake or ben to give it up altogether.
With all the information that is available to us today, and all that research has to offer, we can begin to select food that powers the brain, modifies moods, and consequently increase productivity, motivation and sense of contentment.
It’s been shown that sugar and starch in carbohydrate-rich foods increase the brain chemical serotonin. Researchers noted that eating foods such as breads, cereals, fruits and starchy vegetables elevated serotonin levels, helping people to feel more relaxed and calm. While high protein foods such as fish, eggs, beans and peas balance out blood sugar and energy levels helping you feel more alert, energetic and feeling fuller following a meal.
Turkey, chicken and dairy contain a good source of the mood enhancing tryptophan, an essential amino acid. The body converts Tryptophan into serotonin which 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 cinnamon bun or a coffee.
I recommend that all of my clients eat high quality protein with each meal and snack, include whole grains, lots of vegetables and some fresh fruit in your daily diet. Also include a good quality multi vitamin/mineral capsule or greens powder. No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to get all of the nutrients you need all of the time. So a multivitamin or greens powder will help ensure you are getting most of your vitamins and minerals on those days when eating well is difficult. Please note that it is by no means a substitute for eating nutrient rich foods.
Now for the best bit! 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. Best to make it the dark variety however (60% cocoa of more) and save it for special occasions. Allowing it to fit comfortably in your 80/20 eating philosophy.
Another important way in which food impacts mood is when there just isn't enough, or even when it’s just 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. It’s been shown that students who eat breakfast fair better in their schoolwork than those who skip it.
And don’t underestimate the importance of water. Dehydration affects your ability to think clearly too. 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!