Foods to improve your mood
Feeling tired, irritable and cranky? Then it’s time to change what and how you eat!
Follow these simple strategies to stabilise blood sugar levels and help produce the right brain chemicals to energise your body and lift your spirits.
Ever notice how cranky you can be when you miss a meal? Fluctuating blood sugar levels often result in irritability, poor concentration, fatigue, depression and food cravings. However, if you consistently provide your brain with the right fuel throughout the day, by eating every four or five hours, then blood sugar levels remain stable. Of course, if you have a blood sugar condition you may need to eat more frequently. Never skimp on breakfast! This important meal “breaks the fast” from the night before and sets you up for the rest of the day. A nutritious serving of porridge, eggs, wholemeal toast or yoghurt and fresh fruit will also stop you from snacking on sugary, high-energy snacks mid-morning.
Become aware of the type of foods you are consuming. Are you getting the right amount of proteins and carbohydrates? Are you eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables? Are you consuming too many highly refined or processed foods? Highly refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, bagels, sugar-loaded soft drinks, crackers and sweet biscuits can cause swings in blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling tired and irritable. But don’t ditch the carbohydrates altogether, since too much protein and not enough carbohydrates can also cause moodiness. Instead, be selective: opt for low GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates that release energy slowly, such as oats, unrefined wholegrains, brown rice and lentils. Also, ensure high-protein foods, such as chicken, fish, nuts, yoghurt, eggs and beans are a part of your diet, since these are rich sources of amino acids that form the building blocks of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals responsible for mood).
- Folic acid and vitamin B12
These two B group vitamins are important for regulating mood. Research shows that people suffering depression have low levels of these vitamins, so make sure you are getting enough of these in your diet. Foods that are high in these nutrients include leafy greens such as spinach and kale, lentils, asparagus, fortified breakfast cereals and breads, wheat germ and sunflower seeds.
- Vitamin D
Ever notice how a walk in the sun makes you feel better? The reason could be linked to vitamin D. This vitamin is made in your body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. It is also found, in limited numbers, in foods such as sardines, egg yolks and fortified soya milk. Research suggests vitamin D may help to relieve mood disorders, particularly Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as “the winter blues”, by increasing levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for happy, positive feelings.
These are rich in the trace mineral selenium and may help boost mood, as low levels of selenium have been linked to anxiety, irritability and fatigue. They are a great choice for vegetarians as they’re also an excellent source of protein.
This stimulates the release of serotonin and endorphins in the body, which combine to produce a relaxed, some say euphoric, feeling. This may explain why we reach for a bar of chocolate when we feel down, or in need of quick comfort boost.
Rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, this fish has been shown to help alleviate depression, anxiety and stress. Research has found that people who eat fish less than once a week have almost a third higher incidence of mild-to-moderate depression when compared to people who eat fish more frequently.
A good protein source, sunflower seeds also contain tryptophan, which helps in the production of serotonin. A handful of these seeds daily will keep your moods in check!