You understand the impact that healthy eating has on your waistline, but did you know your food choices can also affect the way you feel? The human body is made up of approximately 100 trillion cells, each one of which needs a steady supply of balanced nutrition to perform optimally. The food we consume is the fuel that stimulates and maintains all of these cells, and as a result it affects every single aspect of our being, from our concentration skills to sex drive.
Nature’s Mood Enhancers - How Eating Well Can Make You Happier
Eating the right foods can dramatically boost your mood, increase your energy levels and even help you fight stress. Equally, eating the wrong foods can make you feel sluggish, depressed and interrupt your sleep, making you more susceptible to stress, unhealthy food cravings and weight gain. As increasing evidence emerges about the affect of certain foods on our brain chemistry, it seems the expression “you are what you eat” has never been more apt. Here’s a look at how what you eat can change the way you feel.
It goes without saving that you should try to reduce and eliminate unhealthy saturated and Trans fats from your diet wherever possible. Remember though, not all fats are bad, in fact some, such as Omega 3 -an essential fatty acid found in oily fish-are hugely beneficial for both body and mind. The old wives’ tale that eating fish makes you brainer is actually based on scientific fact. Omega 3 oils have been linked to improvements in cognition, memory and awareness, and are thought to reduce the risk of degenerative brain diseases such as dementia when consumed regularly. That’s not all – research has shown that Omega 3 increases the production of serotonin, the brain’s feel good hormone. This means it could act as a natural mood booster, reducing anxiety and even alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Sugar is perhaps the most obvious mood changer in food. Anyone who has ever witnessed a children’s birthday party will know that indulging in sugary snacks can lead to an almost immediate surge in hyperactivity, which quickly paves way to tiredness and irritability. White, processed sugars in particular cause rapid changes in blood glucose levels, which although useful for a quick pick-me-up, can leave us feeling sluggish hours later. Replace sugary packaged food with unprocessed ‘whole’ foods, such as fruit, honey and starchy carbohydrates like pasta and potatoes. These healthy options contain natural sugars which will give you an instant mood boost while providing slow-release energy throughout the day.
Proteins are essential for cell growth and repair. They play a significant role in the control and production of hormones, and by extension, may have an impact on our daily mood swings. Research suggests that eating a diet which contains more protein and fewer sugars could encourage greater production of serotonin and enhance our overall sense of wellbeing. The key proteins that either create or assist with production or release of serotonin are found in bananas, nuts and turkey.
A surprising amount of people suffer from acidosis, a condition defined by excessive levels of acid in the blood. This is most frequently caused by a dietary imbalance – many of us eat too many acid producing foods such as meat and diary products and not enough alkaline producing foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Along with diet, stress has been shown to aggravate the condition by encouraging the body to hold on to acidic waste. Readdressing this imbalance by incorporating plenty of alkaline foods like apples, pineapple, oranges, broccoli and cucumber into your diet can help relieve stress and promote emotional wellbeing.
When it comes to caffeine, moderation is the key. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, which explains why you feel almost instantly more alert after just one cup of coffee. However, caffeine is also a toxic chemical which the body has no real use for, and consumed in excess, it can exacerbate stress, cause anxiety, dizziness and sleeplessness. Apart from coffee, chocolate, tea, energy drinks and many fizzy drinks contain caffeine – limit your intake of these products and you might feel the benefit mentally as well as physically.