Gut Feelings: Boost your mood with food!
How many times have you sat in front of a salad wishing it were a doughnut?
It’s time to start thinking about that doughnut like it’s a bad boyfriend that gives you all the manic highs and all the bottoming out lows, and that salad a long term loving partner* that nourishes your soul, fuelling your body and your mind.
Right now, you need more good food to keep you from getting down.
Our favourite nutritionist and holistic lifestyle coach Suzan Terzian gave us some insight into the ingredients we need to eat to boost our mood, and what’s in them to make us feel good!
*husbands can’t always be perfect but we allow for the odd hiccup!
Admit it, we all know how good it feels to peel open that foil wrap on a fresh chocolate bar after a long, exhausting meeting or the irresistible aroma of popping a fresh bag of chips when we’re feeling too tired to make a healthy snack.
Sure, it feels good at the moment to fill ourselves with junk food, but eating these foods just gives us a short-term term high, and we usually feel pretty bad afterwards knowing we should have made a better choice.
But what should we eat?
The perennial question. The shelves of the supermarket can be a bit confusing these days with just about every single item marked “super” or “fortified with” and listing endless vitamins and nutrients that we think we all must need. But just how super are all these foods really, and what does food have to do with mental health and moods anyway?
Your intestines produce 95% of the body’s serotonin supply, a chemical that’s essential to healthy digestion and to making you feel good. So, that gut feeling that you get when you’re elbow-deep in that bag of chips or facing off with the fridge is more than just intuition—it’s science.
Understanding how our diet interacts with our mental health as much as do our physical health is imperative when understanding the value of ingredients, and how we can use that information to control our moods and improve our overall mental health.
The science behind food and mood
Many of your body’s activities are controlled by neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters carry signals between nerves and other cells to help manage your heartbeat, sleep, sexual function, breathing, emotions, concentration levels and much more. When you eat certain foods, you can help stimulate the production of some neurotransmitters; thus, what you eat can influence your mood. So, let’s get to know the foods that make you feel good.
Aka the “feel good” chemical that helps manage sleep and appetite, balance your mood, and reduces pain and anxiety.
Serotonin is made in the brain from B vitamins and the amino acid tryptophan and found in many dietary proteins. Boost your levels by eating: Salmon, eggs, pineapple, turkey and poultry, tofu and soy, nuts and seeds, even a small amount of high-quality dark chocolate in moderation.
Help reduce feelings of pain, promote calmness and serenity, and relieve anxiety and depression. Boost your levels by eating: Spicy foods, gingseng, strawberries, oranges, grapes, nuts and seeds, animal proteins and chocolate. They all help to stimulate endorphin production. Also, try more exercise.
Helps to activate your sense of pleasure, increases alertness and concentration, and improves your reaction time. Boost your levels by eating: protein-rich foods like meat, fish, tofu, beans, milk, eggs, and lentils.
Helps you feel relaxation, social connection and love. Boost your levels by eating: Eggs, bananas, salmon, nuts, beans, and legumes.
A Balanced Diet = A Balanced Mood
It’s common to reach for “comfort foods” during times of stress instead of making nutritious choices. Starchy, sweet and heavily processed foods can feel emotionally satisfying in the moment, but the pleasure is usually short-lived. That’s because they elevate your blood sugar and trigger the same pleasure receptacles in the brain as addictive drugs.
Inevitably, processing carbohydrate-laden or sugary foods will cause an unpleasant crash, leaving you feeling lower than before you ate them. Meanwhile, eating healthier, fibre-rich foods helps keep your blood sugar stable to maintain your mood throughout the day.
We’re not saying don’t eat the carbs or the sugars, just manage everything in moderation, and choose good quality products and ingredients.