Food for your mood

Can your diet really help put you in a good mood? 
The answer is YES! What you choose to eat or drink can also encourage bad moods or depression. 

When we are stressed because of a new school year starting or because of deadlines or exams, the irrational emotional side of our personalities can come out. Our emotions influence the way we behave. It is during these emotionally charged times that feelings can trigger emotional overeating.  Almost instinctively when we feel stress, anxiety, loneliness or depression, it is a natural human impulse to turn to food.
How you can use food to boost your mood

Incorporate as many of these tips as possible, because regardless of their effects on mood, most of these changes offer other health benefits as well.

1. Don't banish carbs - just choose the 'Smart' ones
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is all about an amino acid called tryptophan. As more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin (your happy brain hormone) is synthesized and your mood tends to improve. Serotonin, known as a mood regulator, is made naturally in the brain from tryptophan with some help from the B vitamins. 

Foods thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain include fish and vitamin D. Get your daily dose of Vitamin D by being exposed to about 10 minutes of sunlight a day. Here's the catch, you can actually boost your tryptophan levels by eating more carbohydrates as they seem to help tryptophan enter through the blood brain barrier. 

Food for thought: It's important to make smart carbohydrate choices such as whole grain high fibre breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes. 

So what happens when you follow a very low carbohydrate or high protein diet? Research has shown that low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets increase fatigue and reduce the desire to exercise in overweight adults after just two weeks, therefore in some cases worsening moods! 

2. Get more omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed and walnuts) may help protect against depression. There are other health benefits to eating fish a few times a week, so it's worth a try. Aim for two to three servings of fish per week and add pumpkin and flax seeds to smoothies or breakfast cereals. Omega 3 supplements are beneficial, especially for those who are not fish fans. Aim for about 1000mg of EPA/DHA per day (salmon oil).

3. Eat a balanced breakfast
Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood and memory, more energy throughout the day, and feelings of calmness. It stands to reason that skipping breakfast would do the opposite, leading to fatigue and anxiety. And what makes up a good breakfast? Lots of fiber, some lean protein, good fats and fresh fruit.

Breakfast balance: Have a fruit smoothie on the run, use berries, a handful of oats, low fat milk and a handful of walnuts or a tablespoon of flax seed oil for the perfect mood booster. 

4. Keep exercising and if you want to lose weight do it slowly and safely!
Research shows that exercising definitely improves your mood because some of the feel good hormones are released in your body.

If you want to lose weight, fad dieting isn't the answer. Cutting too far back on calories and carbohydrates can lead to irritability. Research has also shown that people who lose weight too quickly will gain it all back, plus some! When children want to lose weight they should always do this with the help of a registered dietician. 

5. Move to a mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes and fish. All of which are important sources of nutrients linked to preventing depression and uplifting mood. 

6. Don't overdo caffeine
In people with sensitivity, caffeine may exacerbate a bad day or depression. (And if caffeine keeps you awake at night, this could certainly affect your mood the next day.) Those at risk could try limiting or eliminating caffeine for a month or so to see if it improves mood. Remember, caffeine is not only found in coffee. Tea, chocolate, energy drinks, fat burners, cola type drinks and medications all contain caffeine too. Read more about how you can kick the coffee habit.

7. What about supplementation? 
The following supplements may be beneficial for assisting with mood control. Always speak to a health professional before embarking on any supplement regime.

  • A high-strength B Complex formula
  • The amino acid l-tyrosine 
  • 5-HTP (precursor to serotonin)