The Mood That Comes with Food
Have you wondered if what you eat affects the way you feel? There’s a good reason why ‘mood’ rhymes with ‘food’ and we’re pretty sure it’s more than just coincidence. A lot of food can directly or indirectly support your system by making you feel more balanced or give your body a break from being ‘stuck in fight or flight-mode’.
That’s what we aim to unpack today.
Fluctuation in blood sugar levels are linked to changes in mood. Brain chemicals that influence the way we think and act are affected by our food consumption. So when you don’t eat well, naturally, it affects your cognition and ability to feel energised.
Think of it this way: your body behaves the way it’s told to behave; through the food it’s been given.
But before we start, let’s place a strong importance on the first meal of the day–breakfast! Not only does it give you the energy needed to kick start your day, but practicing a good habit of having breakfast daily goes a really long way in improving your moods.
Research has shown that what you eat in the morning is a precursor of how your blood sugar reacts the rest of the day. So, if you eat a sugary cereal, topped with honey and drink coffee with sugar, your blood sugar will ‘act’ like you have eaten this food all day. As you will read later, a balanced blood sugar is important for a good mood, so I always opt for a savoury breakfast. This will also give you a chance to get more veggies in!
One of my personal favourite breakfasts is: sautéed greens with poached eggs.
While you poach 2 eggs in water (don’t forget to add a splash of vinegar, to set the egg white), melt 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a large frying pan, cook a handful of chopped mushrooms on low heat, some chopped asparagus, courgette, kale (or any other greens you like) and add a handful of spinach when your eggs are nearly done.
Arrange the veggies on a plate, top with the eggs and season with Himalayan pink rock salt and pepper. Enjoy!
Food that perks you up
Serotonin is what other people might know as the ‘happy hormone’, this hormone also gets converted into melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Foods high in tryptophan help converting those brain chemicals into serotonin. So, if you focus on foods rich in tryptophan, you might also experience better sleep, especially if you eat these foods in the evening.
Foods high in tryptophan are:
– Cottage cheese
– Nuts and seeds
– Tofu and edamame beans
– Red meat
Another ‘happy’ food that boosts folic acid (a type of B vitamin) is spinach! It prevents depression and reduces fatigue. Vegetables in general are packed with a lot of nutrients and vitamins that packs a punch and keeps you healthy, happy and energised throughout the day. I opt for as many vegetables a day as possible. Your 5 a day might not hit the target, so try and aim for 7-9 portions fruit/veg per day in as many different colours as possible to get enough antioxidants in your system.
Food high in iron are needed in the production of healthy red blood cells that transports oxygen across your bloodstream; this is the trick in keeping you up and running. Therefore, a low level of iron in the blood often leads to a feeling of lethargy.
Higher sources of iron generally are found in:
– Red meat
– Green leafy vegetables
Why not try this recipe for your next vegetable fix?
Courgette breakfast muffins
( this recipe is naturally gluten free, you may make it vegan if you like by substituting the eggs for 3 flax eggs, and adding a splash of apple cider vinegar)
Ingredients: 1 medium courgette, grated
½ cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 large handful of spinach, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 180.
2. Mix the almond flour with the baking powder and stir. (you may add some salt/pepper/chilli/herbs/garlic if you like)
3. Whisk the eggs with the melted coconut oil and stir into the almond flour mix.
4. Gently fold in the grated courgette and spinach, pour into a prepared cupcake baking tin (lined) and bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the muffins. They are done when a skewer comes out clean.
These buns are great for a quick breakfast, you can freeze them and take out the night before you plan to eat them. I sometimes add a little good quality cheddar, leftover meat like turkey or ham to change things up.
Food that keeps you Zen
It’s a busy life we all lead on a daily basis. Sometimes we give in to the stress a little too much that we sit and watch as our well-being deteriorate. One of many very easy steps you can take towards your mood, is to balance your blood sugar. Don’t wait to eat when you feel like falling over, beyond the point of being hungry. And when you do eat, make sure to get in a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates, to prevent your blood sugar from spiking to high and fast. Think: full-fat yoghurt with some berries, apple with a handful of nuts/seeds
Nuts and seeds work equally as well. Rich in zinc and vitamin B-12, almonds hold the tools necessary to release magnesium. A diet rich in wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat fuels the release of serotonin into your bloodstream, which is really the feel-good hormone you need at all times.
If your level of stress has skyrocketed and you don’t have enough time to stimulate relaxation, here are some ways to sip through those nutrients.
All you need is a blender mixed with all these ingredients and you’re good to go!
– 1 peeled and sliced orange
– 1 medium sized banana
– 1 ripe peach
– 1 cup of milk (or any dairy alternative if you prefer)
– 2 tablespoons of crushed almonds
Food that have a negative effect on your mood.
Lastly, eating too much or too little can be an issue. Eating over your daily requirement could cause you to feel bloated or sick, or lead to weight gain, while eating too little could result in dizzy spells throughout the day caused by blood sugar imbalances, and a lower immune system due to nutrient deficiency.
Therefore, it is important to find a moderation in the type of food we eat, especially since studies have shown that some food could lead to mood swings or depression.
Although sugar can provide you with a feel good stigma, a diet high in sugar can raise levels of inflammation throughout the body and brain (prevention.com). Refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners are also potential factors leading to a risk of depression.
Now, don’t wait to try all the recipes above and work towards the change that you want. Sometimes going back to basics and paying more attention to what you’re feeding your body is the first step to leading a healthier life.
Please note that the above advice can not be used as medical advice. As this topic is one of my big passions, I could go on about it for hours, but I don’t want to bore you. Also, you may have biological differences that require a different approach to others as every individual is unique.
If you have any questions regarding your diet and mood connection, feel free to get in touch!
Co-written by Durrah Taqiah, to check out her portfolio, click here