Food can alter your mood and change how your day goes. Find out what to eat to be clear headed, alert, calm and focused. Discover what meals and snacks can give you a natural boost in motivation and concentration and which foods will help you feel happy!
You’ll probably have noticed some of the most obvious food mood connections: perhaps you’ve felt sluggish and foggy-headed after lunch? or you know having some chocolate will make you feel good? We sometimes experience these dramatic and almost instantaneous effects of the food we eat. Other connections between food and how we feel are more subtle but can make a huge difference to how we feel and what we achieve.
We’re going to explore two main ways to influence mood through food:
1. Keeping blood sugar levels as stable as possible
When blood sugar levels rise a brain chemical called orexin is suppressed. Orexin is a chemical responsible for making us feel alert and active so when blood sugar levels rise and orexin levels are lower you begin to feel tired and sluggish.
But if blood sugar levels fall too far you are likely to get irritable, impatient and find it hard to concentrate on what you are doing, maybe even feeling ‘hanger’, anger caused by hunger!
Either way, when blood sugar levels fluctuate too much it impacts on mood and distracts you from enjoying your day. Here I’II give you some tips to minimise fluctuations in blood sugar levels so you have nice steady energy levels and mood throughout the day.
2. Optimising the quality and quantity of the nutrients you eat
The food you eat controls the neurotransmitters, (brain chemicals) and hormones your body produces as well as how well you can utilise the energy you get from food. One example of these neurotransmitters is serotonin. Serotonin makes us happy, it makes us feel like we can achieve anything and feel positive about life, all really important to enable us to be highly productive and ready to take on new experiences and opportunities. In order for serotonin to be produced protein, the building blocks for neurotransmitters, is required as well as carbohydrate and vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, folate and B vitamins. If you don’t eat many magnesium rich foods you may not be giving your body enough of the ingredients it needs to keep serotonin levels nice and high. The resulting impact on your mood could lead to you feeling less optimistic about things as you might, which could influence really important decisions such as putting forward your idea to others in a meeting or going along to a new class with a friend!
So in these ways the meals and snacks we choose affect what we do and how we respond to the everyday stresses of life. Here are my top 3 tips for boosting your mood with food:
- Have protein with breakfast – including protein with your breakfast will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels and reduce cravings right through to the afternoon. Try having eggs for breakfast or including some nuts, meat, cheese, fish or greek yogurt to take control of how you feel for the rest of the day. Adding protein first thing could mean you are less likely to feel like something sweet mid-afternoon so you’ll avoid the slump in energy and mood you might experience soon afterwards.
- Have 3 ‘Happy Eating’ Meals a Day – A happy eating meal is one that is going to nourish your body and give you a great selection of the nutrients you need. It will also help to give you long lasting energy and provide your body with the ingredients it needs to make neurotransmitters. Aim for half your plate to be vegetables or salad, one-quarter to be protein foods and one-quarter to be high fibre carbohydrate foods.
- Include nuts and seeds daily – Nuts are rich in protein and magnesium, both vital for the productive of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Dopamine gives us our ‘get up and go’, makes us feel motivated and excited about life so having more of this will help us make the most of every day. Having a small handful of nuts could help your body keep dopamine levels naturally high.
Seeds are underused and undervalued by most people but are powerful bundles of goodness! Seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in B vitamins which help in energy production, making them the perfect food if you sometimes feel sluggish and tired.
I keep jars of my favourite nuts and seeds on hand in glass jars so I can add a handful to a salad or put a few in a pot to take out with me as a snack.
Making just a few tweaks to the food you eat could really influence your mood and help you feel ready to take on the day! Try these 3 food tips and let me know if you notice a difference. If you’d like to find out more about food and mood please get in touch. I provide nutrition consultancy to individuals and to organisations in and around Portishead and Bristol.