Monitoring your mood alongside your diet may sound like a lot of effort, but the payoffs can be well worth it. Learning how your food makes you feel is vital to unlocking a more productive, happier you. If your energy dips after your breakfast of choco-puffs and coffee, or you just can’t keep your eyes open post-pasta in the evenings, you may need to switch things up – and we’re not just talking about adding more fruit and veg into your diet. You may have to swap out some of the things with very little nutritional value, as those foods could be making you tired, lethargic or sick.
According to mental health charity, Mind, improving your diet may seriously help you to:
- improve your mood
- give you more energy
- help you think more clearly
How food affects mood is, on the whole, different for each person and also affected by a range of factors. There are some things you can do to help fuel your body and mind, though…
Keep it fresh, keep it balanced
Eating a diet of fast-food and processed meats isn’t just hazardous to your heart health, it can really contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. The Guardian reported that research carried out by Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton, New York, found that young adults under 30 years old who ate fast food more than three times a week were found to score higher on levels of mental distress, and those who ate meat just three times a week also reported feeling more mentally unwell than those who ate it less. As the Guardian reports; “Fast food is usually high in the saturated, trans- and omega-6 fatty acids that can provoke a low-grade inflammatory response in the body, which, in turn, is linked to anxiety and depression in both animal and human research.”
Keep it regular
Skipping meals or eating most of your calories at the end of the day can cause your blood sugar to drop which means you might feel tired, irritable or depressed. Be sure to eat regularly and eat small meals spaced throughout the day, always beginning each day with breakfast. Choosing slow release foods will also keep your sugar levels steady throughout the day. Some great examples of slow-release energy foods are; cereals, nuts, seeds, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, oats and wholegrain bread. Be sure to also avoid foods which spike your blood sugar level like sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks, and alcohol.
Trust your gut
There’s been a lot of research into how good gut health is linked to better wellbeing overall. Broadly speaking, this is because our gut is full of a collection of organisms such as; bacteria, yeasts, fungi and viruses that live in our digestive system and which are crucial for breaking down toxins, processing foods and helping our immune systems to function. Today, it’s thought that the gut can influence our mental health, happiness, weight, immune function, inflammation, allergies and more. So how can you ensure your stomach is as healthy as possible? Well probiotics – produced and packaged into little yoghurts and drinks – contain “live” bacteria that has been proven to really help, but another study from UCAL in the States has found that both green and black tea has a hugely positive influence on the internal “age” of the gut. Who knew?
Keep a lid on your caffeine
Want to work smarter not harder? You might want to limit your caffeine then. It’s a stimulant which feels like it’s giving you a short burst of energy, but in actual fact it’s just taking you back to the level you were at before you drank your last coffee – a study from John Hopkins University found that caffeine-related performance improvement is non-existent without caffeine withdrawal, meaning that it’s not really helping you with your energy at all. Other studies also show that it really interferes with your sleep, too…
Need some suggested mood-boosters?
According to the NHS, eating more of these foods can help with concentration and mood…
- Sweet Potatoes are full of B vitamins folate and B6 which can help to alleviate premenstrual symptoms and depression. They also help to keep blood sugar levels steady and therefore help to prevent mood swings and sugar cravings.
- Bananas give a sustained energy boost and are packed with vitamins and tryptophan. They are also packed with potassium, levels of which can be depleted by stress.
- Leafy greens such as broccoli are an excellent source of folic acid, a lack of which has been linked to a depressed mood.
- Avocados contain tryptophan, vitamin B6 and folic acid.
- Oatmeal is rich in soluble fibre which helps to smooth out blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the blood.
- Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamin folate, low levels of which have been linked to depression
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