We live in a topsy-turvy world and some days, even the happiest amongst us get into a rotten mood. Luckily with a few smart food choices, we can combat those moody blues, allowing cheerfulness to triumph more often.
Getting off the Roller Coaster
Steady blood sugar is ground zero for healthy hormone balance. When we have an excess of sugar coursing through our blood, our pancreas pumps up production of the hormone insulin to help speed sugar into our cells. However, the stronger the insulin response, the more potential for blood sugar highs and lows. This increases the stress hormone, cortisol. To keep blood sugar steady, avoid refined sugars and starches and include a highfibre source, like whole grains, legumes, fruits and veggies at each meal and snack.
In the Mood for Love
Phenylethylamine is a natural alkaloid found in chocolate that helps regulate the neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, in our bodies. It is considered by some to be an anti-depressant or stimulant and is hypothesized to induce feelings of love. Now we have even more of an excuse to nibble on a square of dark chocolate or curl up with a hot cocoa. To get the mood benefits of chocolate without the sugar highs, choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage and little added sugars.
A Zest for Life
It has long been studied that certain scents can stimulate mood changes. Citrus scents like lemon or grapefruit are thought to decrease anxiety by suppressing dopamine activity in the body. The oil from the zest of these fruits contains the most essence, so next time you need a lift add some zest to your salad, soup or your sparkling water. Other mood-boosting scents include cinnamon (which, when ingested, also has the added benefit of regulating blood sugar), peppermint and vanilla.
Let’s Talk Turkey
Many of us have experienced the utter relaxation (and need for a nap!) after a holiday meal. Although it may be due to eating and drinking more than we normally would, it could truly be the turkey talking. Like many protein foods, turkey is high in the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor for the hormone serotonin. This hormone acts as a modulator for mood, emotion, sleep and appetite and many anti-depressants target serotonin to keep it active longer and boost mood. Adding healthy protein to your meals, especially breakfast, can help modulate your mood all day. So spread some seed or nut butter on your toast, add plain yogurt or cottage cheese to your fruit or get your hands on a hardboiled egg.
Opt for Omega-3
The trendy topic of research studies these days: essential fatty acids and their link to depression. It is well-known that these fats are integral for our brain health but the relationship is not fully understood. Your best bet is to consume oily coldwater fish 2 – 3 times per week plus plant foods like walnuts, flax or chia seeds and soybeans.
The main message for mood boosting is to eat well-balanced meals containing lots of fibre, healthy protein (like cold-water fish), topped with some lemon zest—and don’t forget your chocolate for dessert!
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