Have you ever had a sugar fix when you felt stressed and then felt lethargic and irritable afterwards?
There’s no doubt about it: what we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health.
But did you know that those same choices can also influence your mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing?
“The food you eat can be either the most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”-Ann Wigmore
How eating affects your mood
Your brain needs a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat — and the quality of that fuel has an impact on how you feel and function.
What you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.
Food, emotions and food choice
The field of Nutritional Psychiatry is relatively new, however there are observational data regarding the association between diet quality and mental health.
With mounting evidence suggesting that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.
The Gut-Brain Connection to Mood
Your gut reflects how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain.
Since about 95% of serotonin of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.
Improving your diet may help to:
- Improve your mood
- Give you more energy
- Help you think more clearly.
Here are 3 ways to boost your mood with food – what I call “Happy Eating”
Step 1: Mood food awareness
The first and most important step is to understand your personal mood-food connection.
Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just in the moment, but the next day.
Keeping a mood-food journal can be very helpful in providing a clear picture of how your food choices affect your health.
For example: record the following in your journal
- Awareness of your food choices, why you make them
- Assess how you feel mentally and physically after certain meals
Step 2: Eat a Mediterranean diet
A five-year study of the Mediterranean diet, is among the first providing convincing evidence that you can directly alter your brain health by deciding to change what you put in your mouth.
This way of eating includes the following foods to enhance your mood:
Include healthy gut foods like: fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.
- Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep you physically and mentally healthy.
Include high-quality protein like: eggs, organic chicken breast, organic lean beef, fish-all types, turkey breast and legumes (peas, beans and lentils).
- Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings.
Include healthy fats like: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.
- Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well.
Step 3: Make Smart Food Decisions
The aim here is to avoid decision fatigue when it comes to food choices.
Prepare the food yourself, so you can control the ingredients.
- Bring your lunches from home: this eliminates having to make decisions when you are hungry
- If you are going out to lunch or dinner, try and plan what you will have before hand and make this decision when you are not hungry
- Bring your snacks from home: fruit, nuts, protein bars, veggies cut up with hummus
When you eat “clean” you will be amazed at how good you feel not only emotionally but physically too.
I encourage you to start your “Happy Eating” plan today.
Now it’s over to you……
- How will you eat today to reflect the way you want to feel?
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The Carousel would like to thank Irena Geller for her contribution.