In recent study, individuals who feel blue during the winter and fall months, due to the short days, experience an increase in snacking, craving starchy foods and sugary foods, as well as eating more in the evenings. Tips to help you explore the relationship between what you eat and how you feel.
Foods that can boost your mood
There are plenty of foods that affect your mood in a positive way.
1. Eating regularly
If your blood sugar drops you might feel tired, irritable and depressed. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady. Slow-release energy foods include: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.
2. Staying hydrated
If you don’t drink enough fluid, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel constipated (which puts no one in a good mood).
3. Getting your 5 a day
Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fiber we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients.
4. Looking after your gut
Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion you need to have plenty of fiber, fluid and exercise regularly. Healthy gut foods include: fruits, vegetables and wholegrain, beans, pulses, live yogurt and other probiotics.
5. Getting enough protein
Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Protein is in: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.
The science behind food and mood
The connection between diet and emotions stems from the close relationship between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract, often called the “second brain.”
Here’s how it works: Your GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters, chemical substances that constantly carry messages from the gut to the brain. Eating healthy food promotes the growth of “good” bacteria, which in turn positively affects neurotransmitter production. A steady diet of junk food, on the other hand, can cause inflammation that hampers production. When neurotransmitter production is in good shape, your brain receives these positive messages loud and clear, and your emotions reflect it. But when production goes awry, so might your mood. Sugar, in particular, is considered a major culprit of inflammation, plus it feeds “bad” bacteria in the GI tract. Ironically, it can also cause a temporary spike in “feel good” neurotransmitters, like dopamine. That isn’t good for you either, says Rachel Brown, co-founder of The Wellness Project, a consultancy that works with corporations to promote good health among employees. The result is a fleeting sugar rush that is followed shortly thereafter by a crash “that’s terrible for your mood,” she says.