Have you ever sat in front of your laptop and cried into your coffee for no reason??!
You are not alone! I’ve been there too. Moods all over the place, irritability and crying over a broken biscuit.
When we talk about our mood its quite a broad term but generally I’m referring to how we feel on a daily baisis. Ideally we would love to be in a good mood all the time but through a number of contributing factors our moods can fluctuate like the weather. Good mood, sad mood, irritability, PMS, angry, happy, excited, depressed, anxious , stressed and crying into our cup of tea for no apparent reason.
If your moods fluctuate like the weather then you are not alone.
This can happen to a lot of people partially women around a certain time of the month and yes, we can help boost our moods through food.
But its not just about what you eat but how you eat AND also understanding whats going on in the various systems in the body as well.
We also can’t discuss this topic without also addressing the fact that our moods can also be dictated to by external things beyond our control, like grief, separation, stressful situations and so on.
What we can do to help reduce the severity of this is to eat in a way that helps the body cope with these various stresses.
How to eat to boost your moods
Many people who experience mood swings also experience fluctuations in blood sugar. This often occurs when we eat some carbohydrate food and this releases glucose into our blood stream quite quickly giving us a surge in blood sugar and triggering the hormone insulin. And we know what goes up must come down and this is when we get the low in blood sugar we get hangry, irritable, craving sugars, our mood changes and we could literally bite someone’s head off.
Another way this can happen is if we are stressed. In stressful situations the body reacts as if its being chased by a tiger and yes if your being chased you need energy and we get that from glucose. So the body triggers this and indirectly contributes to imbalances in our blood sugar! Go figure. Stress can also lead to poor digestion and absorption of vital nutrients needed to support our energy, hormone synthesis and neurotransmitter development.
So if we want to eat to boost our moods we need to first eat to balance our hormones (i.e insulin and cortisol in this case)
You can already see a connection between these 2 hormones and our mood, well all of our hormones are connected so if one is out of sync then it has a domino effect on the others and can also contribute to mood issues such as PMS and crying spells and irritability around the time of our periods.
So what can you do to balance your hormones?
- Eat small and often – This can help keep hunger at bay and balance your blood sugar so that you don’t end up with that “hangry” feeling!
- Make sure you have protein with your complex carbohydrates – Protein such as poultry, lean meats, eggs and fish slow down the release of glucose giving us longer more sustainable energy and keeping our blood sugar levels maintained
- Eating a low GL diet – GL or Glycemic Load of food determines how much sugar is in each food and thus how it affects our blood sugar and our moods (see examples below)
- Support your stress – through some stress management techniques, whether its deep breathing, exercise, walking in nature you need to find something that is both enjoyable and relaxing to help balance your stress hormones and thus your moods
You will be doing yourself a disservice by just increasing these foods and not eating in a way that will help balance your hormones, your blood sugar and looking after your stress in your life.
There are certain nutrients that are needed in the body as co-factors for neurotransmitter and hormone development and if we are deficient in these because either were not getting them through food or were not absorbing them because of issues in our digestive system these can also have an impact our moods.
5 foods to eat to boost your mood are:
- Wholegrains such as brown rice, oats and quinoa – consuming low Glycemic Load / Complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and wholegrains as these will help slow down the release of glucose and balance your blood sugar. Ensuring to have them with protein will go another step further to support this balance. They are also packed full of B vitamins which are necessary cofactors for neurotransmitter health
- Green Leafy Vegetables such as Spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choi and Brussels sprouts- eating a wide variety of colourful vegetables can help increase a lot of the nutrients that may be deficient. Particularly Green leafy vegetables are particularly high in folate, magnesium and calcium which are beneficial for neurotransmitter health.
- Dark Chocolate – we have all heard that chocolate can contain certain nutrient to support mood and dark chocolate particularly those above 85% have a good range of magnesium which can aid relaxation and support hormonal balance .
- Oily Fish – Omega 3 fatty acids have been widely studied for their effect on mental health functioning and it is also believed that it can aid the release of “feel good” chemicals in the brain. It is richest in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and fresh tuna as well as flaxseed, nuts and seeds.
- Eggs – Serotonin is often described as the “happy” neurotransmitter and is made from the amino acid tryptophan found in eggs, soy foods, spirulina, fish , cheese, pumpkin and sesame deeds, beans, pulses nad re meat. You are likely to get all you need if you eat some “complete” protein every say such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and soy or a combination of beans and grains for vegans.
Eating a range of these foods will not only provide important cofactors for brain health but also eating a range of raw and lightly steamed vegetables is great for gut health. There is a lot of research out there now referring to our gut as “the second brain” and they have identified that there are signals from our gut to our brain that can also influence mood. So by eating a good range of vegetables as well as perhaps including some cultured foods like yogurts or fermented products can not only help gut health but our brain health and moods also.
So there you go, boosting our mood through food is not just about what you eat but how you eat also so eating to support hormonal balance ile our blood sugar, eating slowly and mindfully can help support our stress hormones and also our gut. Think of the body as a chain reaction of systems. Imbalance in one system have a knock on effect on the other.
So to balance or moods its not a one size fits all approach its a systematic combination of diet and lifestyle support as well as system support so you need to support the hormones and digestive system as well.