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December 13, 2016

Beat the blues with bananas

Do you often feel sad, de-motivated or have mood swings? You may need to start eating more of the right type of foods to support your brain chemistry. Mood foods provide the body with the nutrients it needs to enhance your feel-good neurotransmitters.

When you are low in brain chemicals, you may begin to crave foods for emotional reasons. Forget heroin, your brain chemicals are much stronger! If you are low in them, you may become addicted to sugary foods or start over-eating. Depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, irritability, tension and cravings are a sign that your brain is deficient in mood enhancing chemicals.

All aboard the depression express

Think about how you feel throughout the course of a day. Do you ride high and low on an emotional roller-coaster unable to find your equilibrium?  Everybody at some stage in their lives will experience low moods, be it because of stress at work, relationship challenges or simply feeling demotivated and apathetic. This is a normal part of life’s challenges, however if your mood swings are consistent or you are feeling low on a regular basis, you may wish to begin looking at what is making you unhappy and taking positive steps to improve the way you feel. It’s important not only to look at lifestyle factors, like relationships and work, but also to consider the effect your diet is having on your moods.

Sweet misery

It’s not just pre-menstrual women that are affected by cravings, mood swings and emotional outbursts. Diet and mood effects men as well as women. We’ve all seen children who have been fed sugary foods or drinks go from excitedly high to crazy monster in the blink of an eye. Sugary foods will have the same effect on adults as in children. Being more emotionally free and uninhibited a child will react by screaming, crying and throwing a tantrum, where adults are more likely to feel sad, irritable, demotivated and unhappy. So what exactly do we need to eat to avoid mood swings and make us feel happier?

The biochemistry of happiness

It’s possible to eat foods that boost a substance in our brain called serotonin, our “feel-good” neurotransmitter. This feel good chemical is made out of an amino acid called tryptophan, so feeding the body with tryptophan-rich foods will make you feel happy naturally.  Carbohydrates can improve your mood as they also boost serotonin in the brain. Avoid the white carbohydrates however as they will play havoc with your blood sugar regulation leading to more mood swings!

Protein not Prozac

Another brain chemical, dopamine motivates us and keeps us interested in things. It is made from protein-rich foods containing an amino acid called tyrosine. It’s interesting to note that tyrosine is also needed to make thyroid and stress hormones, so if we are stressed or have sluggish thyroid function, it is likely that we will also be depressed and demotivated.

Nature’s helpers

B vitamins, zinc, vitamin C and essential fats help to improve our brain chemistry and function, as they work as cofactors in the production of our “happy chemicals”.

Top ten mood foods

  1. Turkey & chicken
  2. Oily fish like salmon, sardines & tuna
  3. Vegetables, especially green leafy ones like spinach
  4. Bananas
  5. Cashews and other nuts like almonds
  6. Wholegrains, like brown rice and oats
  7. Eggs
  8. Pulses & beans like lentils & chickpeas
  9. Sunflower seeds
  10. Not forgetting chocolate (the dark stuff, not the sugary one!)

It’s all in the balance

Like the crazy kid at the party who ate too many sweets, we are constantly affected by our body’s blood sugar levels. Avoiding the sugar rushes is the most effective way to avoid the resulting sugar lows. It’s during those “sugar lows” that our moods drastically drop contributing to mood swings and irritability. The drop in blood sugar levels will also lower our energy, creating even more demotivation and apathy, graze regularly on healthy foods to keep your levels even. Find joy in your food, bring awareness to what you pop in your mouth and watch yourself transform. Outrageous joy. It’s your birthright!

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