Eat your way to feeling fabulous
At this time of year it can be hard to feel energised and ready to face everything with vim and vigour. With the festivities behind you – including all that fabulous food – it pays to take stock and start 2015 as you mean to go on, feeling energised and happy.
Our mood is affected by chemical production in the brain – and the naturally occurring chemicals in food can have an influence on this process – so what you eat is an important factor…
Foods to choose
Serotonin is a brain chemical that can promote calmness and ease depression. Although foods don’t contain serotonin, some do stimulate its production because they contain tryptophan, the amino acid (a protein building block) from which serotonin is made. These foods include turkey, chicken, milk, cheese, eggs, bananas, nuts and seeds. To maximise their effectiveness, tryptophan-rich foods should be eaten at the same time as carb-rich foods, as the carbs help tryptophan to enter the brain. A carbohydrate-rich diet is one high in bread, pasta, rice and other cereals, and potatoes. ‘Whole’ natural carbs, such as wholegrain bread, brown rice and wholewheat pasta, should be chosen rather than refined ‘white’ versions, as these are rich in B vitamins (see below) and fibre to help stabilise blood sugar.
These fats, found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel and also in flaxseeds, rapeseed oil and walnuts, with small amounts in dark leafy greens, are now known to improve mood because they play a vital role in the function of the central nervous system and are an important component of the brain. It’s thought they can be as helpful as the drug Prozac for some people.
B vitamin-rich foods
Found in whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds and greens as well as meat and poultry, vitamin B6 can improve mood in pre-menstrual women, while B12 and folate are often deficient in people with depression, and B1 is vital to help the brain and nervous system function properly.
These contain capsaicin, a plant chemical that helps to release ‘happy chemicals’ – endorphins – in the brain.
This treat contains phenylethylamine, another ‘feel good’ chemical, which also increases production of endorphins in the brain.
Foods to avoid
After temporarily improving mood, it later has the reverse effect, producing low blood sugar. It also acts as a natural depressant on the brain.
Sugar and refined carbs
These cause fluctuating blood sugar levels, a prime trigger for anxiety. Instead choose ‘whole’ natural carbohydrates.
Eating regularly and having small or medium-sized meals helps keep moods stable, mainly by ensuring blood sugar levels don’t dip. It’s also important to eat a varied, healthy diet to ensure you get adequate amounts of all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that can help keep you healthy and happy.