Mind Matters, Jeannette Kennedy
SPECIAL TO THE COLCHESTER WEEKLY NEWS
I am a self-proclaimed ‘foodie.’ I love food! A lot! However, food and I have had a rocky relationship over the years.
The wiser (and older) I become, the more I am trying to figure out how to have a relationship with food that celebrates me. I find all of the information available so confusing. Are eggs good for me or not? Is a glass of red wine with supper OK occasionally? Should I give up eating meat/adopt a gluten-free or raw-food diet? What do you mean honey is not a good sugar substitute?
Information provided and research results are contradictory at best.
Personally and professionally, I am well-aware of the impact of food on mood, and the addictive quality of certain foods (e.g. sugar). Interactions with our environment (relationship interactions, exercise and ingestion of food) can influence neurotransmitters in the brain, which in turn influence our mood.
Specifically regarding food, when we eat stimulant food carbohydrates (candy, cereal, pasta) we temporarily influence the brain neurotransmitter called Serotonin. Serotonin produces a calming effect and we look for the quick fix to feel better.
The downfall to this is it develops addictive type behaviours. Once the effects wear off the result is an equal and opposite nose dive in mood (rebound effect), weight gain, fatigue, etc. urging us to get our next fix and can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Therefore, it is better to eat carbohydrate rich whole foods that do not spike serotonin levels. It is best to consult a nutritionist about the right type of foods, however, sweet potato comes to mind as a comfort food that has less negative consequences (not the deep fried ones at your favourite restaurant) and vegetables overall provide stabilizing carbohydrates.
Another neurotransmitter that affects mood is Dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure, alertness, and increased concentration.
Dopamine rich foods include protein or tyrosine. Specific foods recommended include animal (eggs, chicken) and non-animal (cheese, yogurt, milk) sources of protein. Blueberries, avocado, almonds, legumes are reportedly good sources of tyrosine.
This information just skims the surface of the relationship between food and mood, however, it is important to highlight so we can take our head out of the sand for one minute to realize that we have the power to influence our lives (and the lives of our families) quite profoundly through the food we eat rather than rely on pharmaceutical solutions to manage symptoms.
As mentioned above, it is best to consult with a nutritionist who can modify your diet based on your food beliefs (e.g., vegetarian, gluten-free) and your food needs.
One final note. We are creatures driven by immediate gratification and I am just as susceptible as everyone else. When we learn to delay gratification, our success level rises exponentially. There are many times I do not feel like going for a run or doing my favourite workout DVD, and I push past it, push play and feel amazing at the end of my workout.
Alternatively, I occasionally convince myself that I have to have those potato skins (gluten-free, right?) and they taste delicious at first but by the end of the meal I feel disgusting, bloated, icky.
So remember the principle of delayed gratification to make better choices or pick foods that you love that are good for you (homemade wilted spinach salad). Happy eating everyone for happier moods!