Are Foods the Secret to Your Moods?
By Joan Kent, PhD
It's no surprise that moods can affect our appetites and our food selections. People often eat for emotional reasons, based on their moods.
But the reverse can also be true. What we eat – and when – can affect our moods, our minds, and our ability to work productively all day, sleep soundly at night, and more.
The foods we eat can bring on low mood states, such as depression, irritability or anxiety. Some foods can exaggerate our tendency to experience those moods.
Much of that occurs through the action of neurochemicals, chemicals in the brain that transmit information. As you read, you might ask yourself if your diet may be preventing you from feeling as good as you could.
Do You Feel "Down" After Your Lunch?
If afternoons are tough for you, you might be eating too many starchy or sweet carbs at lunchtime. Some people experience a stronger reaction to carbs than others.
Protein foods trigger the production of brain chemicals that will keep you awake, alert and feeling good.
Pasta, on the other hand – with or without bread – can raise insulin levels significantly. That rise in insulin helps to transport tryptophan, an amino acid, to the brain.
Once tryptophan gets to the brain, it's used to make serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that typically makes us feel relaxed and calm.
High levels of serotonin, though, can cause lethargy, sleepiness, and, in some people, a "down" or depressed mood. The more insulin we produce, the more serotonin the brain makes.
And some people release a lot of insulin when they eat starchy or sweet carbs. That's part of the stronger reaction to carbs mentioned above.
One of Many Reasons Vegetables Are Good
Vegetables don't raise insulin, so they don't trigger serotonin and won't bring you down. That makes them an excellent lunch food if you need to stay focused and positive, and work well through the afternoon and early evening.
A good lunchtime solution would be to eat a high-protein, low-carb meal, such as chicken and salad, or fish and broccoli. Go easy on breadsticks, baked potato, or other starchy carbs.
Skipping sugary desserts is another way to keep yourself feeling alert and more positive after lunch – or after any meal.
This alternative approach to your mid-day meal should help you stay awake, "even" and productive for the rest of your working day.
Don't miss the next post on foods and moods – right here this week!
If you'd like help with mood swings, anxiety, "blah" mood states, or energy slumps, just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your free Empowered Eating Consult. Find out how just a few easy changes can help you feel great all day long!
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood, and Transform Your Health.