Each of us is a science experiment. We are all unique and are affected in different ways by all the things that we eat and do. Some people can eat junk food and it never seems to affect them. Some never exercise but they appear to be in good shape. For most of us, what we eat matters. When we really start to pay attention we realize that the connection between what we eat and how we feel, look, and think is huge. Do you feel groggy and lazy after lunch? Do you snap or feel irritable with your coworkers or family when you haven’t eaten in a while?
Food changes your mood.
Look at caffeine and alcohol. They are the ultimate mood changers. The typical person eats a diet that is high in sugar and processed food and that leaves them in a bad mood. Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure states that “junk moods come from junk foods”. All those foods that are so easily accessible – french fries, chips, candy bars and ice cream are loaded with salt and sugar and preservatives. Some can make you feel high for a while, but then you drop like a brick as your blood sugar plummets. Ever notice how you crave different foods at different times? When we are down, we sooth ourselves with a bowl of chicken soup – comfort food. We crave protein when we are looking to be focused. We crave food that enhances romance, like spicy food, avocados, chocolate, and chilies when we are on a date.
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that relay thoughts and actions to the brain. Serotonin can make us feel relaxed. Dopamine makes us feel stimulated. When we eat, food breaks down in our digestive track and creates changes in our system that send messages to our brain via these neurotransmitters. Pasta releases serotonin and thus we feel relaxed after a spaghetti dinner. Eat too much pasta and chances are you will be dozing on the couch. Eating protein releases dopamine and nor-epinephrine in the brain and helps us to be alert. Too much protein and we get short tempered and irritable.
When you eat fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day, you keep your body fueled and your blood sugar level on an even keel. You also are getting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Combining carbohydrates and proteins enhances the availability of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter said to have a calming effect and to play a role in sleep.
So if you're wondering just how food affects you, keep a food journal for a week or two. Write down what you eat, how you feel, your stress level and how your body feels after the meal. This is the first step that I take with each of my clients. It is very illuminating for them to see, what they are eating and how it affects their everyday lives. Once you see what you normally eat and how it affects you then, start to add in foods that will give you more energy, help you to lose weight, and look better. This will keep your moods on an even keel and keep you alert and awake throughout the day.
So what can you do to boost your mood?
Exercise. You don't have to sweat it out at the gym to make a difference. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air.
Get organized! Sometimes clutter can make one feel overwhelmed and mildly depressed. Getting things in place can ease your mind and bring a smile to your face too!
Laugh . The simple act of laughter releases endorphins and is shown to improve your mood. Even smiling will have that effect.
Listen to music . Put on your favorite tunes and rock the blues away. Perhaps you enjoy soothing classical music. Dance around if you can.
Set small, achievable goals . Oftentimes, if our busy lives are broken down into more manageable tasks, we can feel happiness at minor accomplishments.
Volunteer . You may think that you do not have time in your busy life, but I'll bet you can find 2-3 hours a month to make a big difference in a few peoples' lives. That is a sure-fire way to feel great!
I am a digestive health coach. I help my clients have more energy and a eliminate digestive problems by eating food they love!