What you consume has a big impact on your mood. Can you eat yourself happy?
So while Bridget Jones was consoling herself with the contents of a biscuit tin and guzzling a bucket of white wine, she might actually have got over her broken heart a lot quicker if she had sat down to grilled salmon with leafy green vegetables and wholemeal rice.
If you look to food for comfort then it’s worth being aware of which foods can really help to lift your spirits and which foods make you feel worse in the long run. This is due to a complex range of factors – from the way certain foods affect the chemicals in our brains and the way they are digested to how they react with our immune systems. Food can also have a surprising psychological effect that can alter the way we feel. Fish – A majority of scientific studies have focused on omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) which are found in fish and seafood. These fats are found in high quantities in the brain and are well known to be essential for help brain development in infants and children and for good brain function in adults.
One of the main feel good chemicals produced in the brain is serotonin, and it seems the more omega-3 fats you consume, the more serotonin you can make, and the more receptive you become to its effects. What is interesting is that levels of depression are much lower in countries where they consume a high amount of seafood. After taking a high dose supplement of one particular omega-3 fat, EPA studies have proven to show positive effects in people who suffer with mild to moderate depression and certain other mood disorders. This is based on evidence taking a 1 gram supplement high in EPA and a diet of oily fish 2 to 3 times a week. Other seafood and lean meat are also good. Omega-3s are also found in plant foods such as flaxseeds and leafy greens. Other mood-affecting nutrients are folic acid which is found in green vegetables. Trials have shown folic acid supplements can help improve symptoms in people taking antidepressants. Other B group vitamins which are found mainly in animal foods and wholegrains, people lacking in B2, B6 and B12 have all been linked to depression. Blood glucose levels also play a part in our moods, the brain needs a slow and steady stream of glucose to work properly. Sudden mood changes are caused by high GI carbohydrates and will make changes to the brain’s chemistry. If you fuel yourself on white bread, processed breakfast cereals, cakes and other processed carbohydrates all day long, your mood will go up and down to match your fluctuating blood sugar levels. So why do we seek out cakes and pastries when we feel blue? It is due to blood sugar levels – after eating carbohydrates we release more feel good hormones in the brain. We get a quick buzz from this sugary treats but the high does not last long and will bring you down much harder and faster than you think.
Food to help you spirits soar are Salmon, trout, sardines and other oily fish, Oysters and mussels. Walnuts and flaxseeds. Barley, quinoa and bulgur. Free-range eggs. Broccoli, kale, watercress, rocket and spinach. Dark chocolate (two squares only). Free-range chicken. Brown rice and grainy bread. Cocoa with cinnamon and low-fat milk. Green beans, peas and sweetcorn.
If you are feeling sluggish then we recommend you include more Fiber. A new study has just revealed that including more fiber in the diet can reduce fatigue. Professor Andrew Smith of Cardiff University, tested a group of volunteers over a month and those who ate a high fiber breakfast cereal reported a 10% reduction in tiredness. ‘This is linked to the fact that if you are feeling even slightly constipated it will make you feel lethargic, bloated and generally under the weather. ‘Eating fiber prevents stops constipation.’ 8 out of 10 of us do not eat enough fiber. The recommended daily intake is 18g per day. The best way to include more fiber in your diet is replacing white bread and pasta with the wholemeal versions. Snack on fruit and include more fresh vegetables in your diet. For breakfast eat a high fiber cereal, add avocados to salads and include lentils and beans to soups and stews.
Water – If you are even slightly dehydrated it will affect your physical and mental performance, dehydration leaves us feeling tired and irritable. Try to drink at least 2 liters of water a day, approx 8 glasses this will leave you feeling more alert and energized.