Did you know the food you eat can have a dramatic effect on your mood? We’ve all felt the effects of being hangry, but the link between food and mood runs much deeper than simply having a short temper when our tummy starts grumbling!
For example, researchers have found married couples are more likely to lash out at each other when their blood sugar levels dip! In a study involving 107 married couples, individuals were given a voodoo doll and for three weeks, were required to insert pins in the doll according to how angry they were with their spouse each night. At the same time, their blood sugar levels were recorded, and it was found the lower their blood sugar levels were, the more anger they felt towards their spouse, and thus the more pins they would stick in the voodoo doll! Individuals with lower blood sugar levels were also more willing to blast their spouse with a louder noise for longer, compared to those with more stable blood sugars. The study found a direct link between aggression and lower blood sugar levels, providing scientific evidence that ‘hanger’ really does exist!
The brain also needs various nutrients to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine – the chemicals that make us feel happy and calm. When we eat poorly, we deprive our brain of the nutrients needed to make these chemicals and without them, we are more likely to feel anxious, sad or depressed. The foods we eat also affect how well our thyroid functions, how much energy we have and how the body responds to stress, which can all have a dramatic effect on our mood.
Eating for Stable Moods
Nourishing your body with a variety of whole foods is one of the most important things you can do to feel happy and healthy. This includes healthy fats, like those found in avocados, raw nuts, seeds and oily fish, as well as adequate protein, complex carbohydrates and an abundance of fruit and veggies! Protein is found in animal products (such as beef, chicken, eggs and natural yoghurt), or certain plant foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains (rolled oats, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and so on). Protein is needed in small amounts at every meal to anchor our blood sugars, to ensure stable moods, adequate energy levels and minimal voodoo aggression!
While most of us consume adequate protein at dinner (often in the form of meat), many fail to eat adequate protein at breakfast and lunch, resulting in the typical 3pm crash. Toast with jam, cereal and or plain fruit smoothies do not have adequate protein to stabilise blood sugar levels. Some protein rich alternatives include:
>> Oats or porridge with natural yoghurt, a handful of raw nuts and fresh fruit
>> A fruit smoothie with natural yoghurt and a handful of raw nuts
>> Homemade baked beans on rye bread
>> Lentil or bean soup and curries
>> Lentil Dahl (or other leftover dinner options)
>> Hummus on rye bread (or Strange Grains GF bread, for those who don’t do gluten)
>> Scrambled eggs, with spinach, onions and tomatoes
>> Veggie bean patties with a side salad
Zinc, magnesium and B vitamins are also especially important for good moods! Again, the best way to consume enough of these nutrients is to base your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, like fruit, vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains and some animal products. Processed and packaged foods are low in zinc, magnesium and B vitamins, and usually high in sugar, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and other nasty additives, like preservatives, flavours and colours. The less packets you open, the better! Home-cooked, healthy meals, like those in our Recipe section, are most ideal for ensuring a broad range of nutrients in your diet.
Our naturopaths work closely with their patients to optimise their diet and ensure they are consuming the nutrients needed to feel happy and well. This goes for children too – Aggression and mood swings due to low blood sugar levels are particularly common in children and often contribute to poor behaviour! We’ve seen incredible changes in children once their blood sugar levels are stabilised and they begin eating well and sleeping well.
For more info, the infographic below (from the Food and Mood Centre) has some great information on the topic. Otherwise if you’d like to know more, or would like to explore how your diet might be affecting your mood, contact us to book an appointment or follow us on Facebook to find out when our next Food and Mood Seminar will be held 🙂