Foods that fuel your mood
We have heard the expression, “You are what you eat”. The foods that we put into our bodies become our blood, our new cells and contribute to how we function on a daily basis. Food can actually affect our moods as well. One way to think about it is that you have two brains: the one in your head and the other in your gut, both of which are created from the same tissue during foetal development. These two organs work together to balance and change your mood through the vagus nerve, which transmits what’s going on in your stomach to your head.
Fuelling your body with foods that promote an optimal connection between these two organs is key to avoiding mood swings, but also helps if you’re feeling a particular emotion strongly. Need energy for that tough Sunday morning? Sure, a coffee will give you that quick boost, but a banana will help you feel energised for a longer period of time. Whether you’re anxious, stressed or tired, there are particular foods you can eat to counteract those feelings.
Here are four moods and the food that can help you deal with or enhance them:
Ever find yourself hitting the wall at 3pm and reaching for a cup of coffee? Eating more fish might actually help you through that afternoon slump. “One way to combat fatigue is to work on increasing, or making sure you have sufficient amounts of serotonin [happy hormone] circulating in your body,” says Rashi Chowdhary, nutrition expert and owner of The Protein Bake Shop. “Serotonin affects our sleep patterns, mood and appetite. If your body produces adequate amounts, it can be one of the best natural appetite suppressants, it keeps your mood uplifted and ensures better sleep and wake-up cycles. All of its healthy effects on our body have a positive influence on our overall body weight and well-being, too. Vitamin B12 and folic acid work very well in sync for the production of serotonin. You can get this from cheese, turkey, eggs and fish.” Other foods such as dark chocolate (packed with magnesium), bananas (vitamin B and potassium), apples, citrus, greens, broccoli, kale and ginger also keep you satisfied and energised.
Between trying to balance family, work and friends, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out. Stress can often lead to overeating and cravings for things that aren’t good for you. “Eating too much processed food will strip your body of vitamin B6,” says Chowdhary. This vitamin is critical for focus, energy and concentration, all of which combat the effects of stress on the body. What can you add to your diet to help naturally bring down those stress levels? “Vitamin B6 can be found in sunflower seeds, brown rice and hazelnuts, all of which can help increase the amount of serotonin,” says Chowdhary. Other foods include dairy, meat, nuts, beans, legumes, fish, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs and cabbage.
Going over things a million times in your head can lead to panic attacks and anxiety. Being in this state can cause people to skip meals, putting their bodies at even more risk of those anxious feelings creeping in. Chowdhary suggests trying food that promotes good circulation in the body, such as eggs, seafood and leafy greens, including spinach, kale, rocket (arugula) and collard greens. The micronutrients such as folate and phytonutrients found in seafood and greens may help reduce anxiety when supplemented by drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Parsnips are another vegetable that are full of potassium, which helps with both neurological functions and curb anxiety.
We’ve talked about how to combat negative feelings, but what about foods that promote positive ones? Relaxation can be achieved by taking a walk, having a warm bath or meditating. Eating certain foods can also help you reach that Zen state and quiet your mind after a long day. “Tryptophan is an amino acid [protein], which is the precursor for serotonin,” says Chowdhary. “The best food sources are red meat, chicken, whole milk, cottage cheese or nuts. These foods also tend to keep you fuller for longer, thus naturally delaying your next hunger pang.” When these foods are combined with whole fats such as nuts or butter, there is a slow release of chemicals that make you feel more tired and therefore more relaxed.
Updated: December 13, 2015 04:00 AM