Mood & Food - Why feeling down could pile on the pounds
Article by Rebecca Weller - a practicing Nutritional Therapist in the south of England, and a member of The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy
Some days it can seem there is little to feel happy about. When you take into account the current worldwide economic crisis, and combine this with the day-to-day stresses of juggling work and family life, no wonder we can end up feeling overwhelmed and disheartened, and heading for the fridge. Everyone has their own ways of lifting their spirits, whether it’s a family size bar of your favourite chocolate, some retail therapy or a glass or two of wine. However, before you splurge on an expensive feel-good treat, why not try changing some of the foods you eat, you may be surprised how great an influence food has over the way we feel.
So just how does food affect mood? There are many explanations, including fluctuations in blood glucose, or blood sugar - the body’s main source of fuel. Changes in levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), allergies or sensitivities to certain foods can all affect our mood, as can low levels of vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids. Also the monthly fluctuations of hormones can affect how we feel on a daily basis.
Cravings for carbs?
Sometimes when we are feeling a bit low all we want is sweet comfort food, biscuits, chocolate, pasties or cakes – but could our body be actually trying to tell us something? Eating carbohydrate actually allows a substance called tryptophan to be more easily absorbed, and it is tryptophan which makes the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. However we know that sweet comfort foods can pile on the pounds, so this is why eating wholegrain carbohydrates is so important. Not only will this help to balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings, but it will also help to boost serotonin levels. Interesting another function of serotonin is to control appetite, and low levels of serotonin have been associated with pre-menstrual cravings, so “good mood” foods and whole-grains are especially important if you suffer from PMT. Next time you do your grocery shop try to choose wholegrain bread instead of white, whole-wheat pasta in place of the white variety, and high fibre cereals instead of an overly processed sweetened option, and you should be on your way to success.
GOOD MOOD FOODS
Prawns and other seafood
Have you noticed how difficult it can be to eat healthily or stick to your exercise routine when you are tired and lacking energy? Eating foods rich in the B group of vitamins can significantly help. They are needed for the release of energy from our food, the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and to help balance female hormones. Vitamin B6 is often called the “female” vitamin as it has such a key role in preventing PMT. Try to include watercress, turkey and bananas daily to increase your levels of this powerful nutrient. Vitamin B6 also helps prevent water retention, so this vitamin is especially important if you are prone to monthly bloating. The best sources of B vitamins are brown rice, eggs, oats, and fish and seafood. Prawns and other seafood are a great source of zinc, a key mineral for drive and focus, and also for a healthy libido - no surprise that oysters are one of the best sources!
Talking it over
Sometimes despite all your best efforts, low mood or depression can become more of a long-term health concern. Don’t be afraid to talk about your worries to your GP or Nutritional Therapist. There are many medications available, both prescribed and complimentary which may help boost your mood. Counselling or joining a self-help group can also be amazingly beneficial
Top Tips to keep you feeling fabulous
Include at least three of the good mood foods per day; this will lift your levels of serotonin.
Keep up your levels of exercise If you cannot get to a gym or organised exercise class, try for a 30 minute walk at least three times a week. Exercise releases those feel good endorphins, and improves muscle tone.
Invest in a digital photo frame; this is the quickest way to view your precious memories. Reminders of happy occasions or pictures of family and friends can have an immediate influence on mood. Just the physical act of smiling releases serotonin.
If you tend to feel more depressed in the winter months, you could be suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues”, one of the classic symptoms is a craving for sweet carbohydrate foods, and a tendency to gain weight in the winter months. There is a very effect treatment available called Light Therapy. Check out the following website for more information: http://www.sad.org.uk/
Smell can have an amazing influence over how we feel, - try a beautiful scented candle in your living room or bedroom, it is almost guaranteed to lift your mood and enhance your environment. Choose a relaxing scent such as vanilla or lavender.
Rebecca Weller is a practicing Nutritional Therapist in the south of England, and a member of The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy.
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