While there are many external factors that can affect our mood, such as relationships, work, environment or politics, the foundation of our emotional wellness starts internally. Every food you eat causes chemical reactions in your brain and body which can result in you feeling sleepy or awake, stressed or relaxed, focused or distracted, and so on.
Many of us choose what to eat based on cost, convenience, social or emotional reasons. As you start to make changes in your diet and pay closer attention to how you feel physically and emotionally after you eat different foods, it will inform your choices in a new way.
Foods to Avoid
Sometimes there is an instant gratification to eating dessert, having a cocktail or an order of french fries which outweighs the downside you feel afterwards. It’s up to you to decide this, however I would recommend that you start paying more and more attention to the after effects especially if you are tapering off of medication. Eventually you will look at that piece of pie and decide to only have one bite, or skip it altogether because you know you will feel depressed tomorrow if you eat it.
In general you want to avoid highs and lows by keeping your blood sugar stable. Eating foods that take longer to digest can help your body stabilize.
If you needed one more reason to avoid sugar, this is it. Sugar releases chemicals which give us a boost of energy and an emotional high, but at a cost. The crash after eating sugar can cause us to feel lethargic and depressed.
Similar to sugar, caffeine gives us a short term boost but it doesn’t last. Some people find that caffeine also makes them anxious and unable to focus. If you love coffee like I do I recommend trying Four Sigmatic mushroom coffees. They give you the pleasure and boost of coffee without the negative side effects.
It might seem like having a glass of wine or a cocktail after a long week will improve your mood, but alcohol is actually a depressant. You will have to experiment, I have found that I can handle clear spirits better than dark ones, and an occasional glass of wine is worth it. If you’re out with friends, try substituting kombucha, tea, or sparkling water and see how you feel.
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients list on many packaged and processed foods in the grocery store, you have probably seen a long list of ingredients you’ve never heard of before. Chemicals, preservatives, dyes and other ingredients can have adverse affects on your health and mood. A good rule of thumb is to try only buying foods that don’t come pre-packaged, or only buying foods that were directly created by nature.
High GI foods
The glycaemic index is a system that rates how quickly carbohydrates affect your blood sugar. Foods that have a high GI rating will cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar, and your mood. Avoiding white bread, potatoes, sugar and other high GI foods will help you stay stable throughout the day.
Foods to Boost your Mood
Many of us are dehydrated on a regular basis and don’t even realize it. If you don’t drink enough water you can feel grumpy, irritable or sleepy.
Studies show that B vitamins are very important for good mental health. Foods containing folate (folic acid) are crucial to your diet. These include beans and green vegetables, which are best lightly cooked.
Remember all of those low fat diets in the 90s? Please forget (almost) everything they told you. Just like eating collagen doesn’t build collagen, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. You may have heard about ‘good fats’ versus ‘bad fats’ and we will talk more about that, but in general if you eat real foods that come from the Earth, you are on the right track.
Flax, pumpkin seeds, avocados, tuna, mackerel, salmon, rapeseed oil, olives.
Many medications prescribed for depression and mood disorders work by boosting the neurotransmitter serotonin levels in your body. The amino acid tryptophan converts into serotonin in our bodies, and our bodies can’t produce tryptophan on their own so we need to include it in our diet. Chicken, turkey, beans, seeds, chickpeas, bananas, beets, tuna and salmon all contain good amounts of tryptophan.
Depending on where you get your food from, the soil used to produce it may be deplete of minerals it once was full of. Selenium is a very important mineral for mental health, but many of us aren’t getting as much of it as we need, or as we used to. Nuts are a great source of selenium, especially Brazil Nuts.
Luckily, you don’t have to avoid all the good stuff. Studies have shown that chocolate improves your mood by increasing your serotonin levels. Enjoy!