Mood and food – how does it affect our lives?

MoodWhat we heat and how much we exercise has a huge impact on our overall mood.  So, what can we do to ensure we’re always in a good mood and feeling great about ourselves?

Firstly, when it comes to our general well-being, it’s important to note that sleep is essential to good health; it allows the body and muscles to repair (over 70% of our daily growth hormone is released whilst we sleep). We also regenerate our immune system, so with reduced sleep we are more vulnerable to infections and illness. Sleep is also vital to our concentration levels and mental ability (our mental ability to work reduces by 25% for every 24 hours we get no sleep).

Mood and Food

Here are some tips to help you achieve those sublime levels of happiness…. Or at least to generally feel better about yourself:

  • Avoid rich heavy meals late at night. The process of digestion raises the body temperature and increases energy levels. Foods which are low in fat and can aid the making of Serotonin are good, Tryptophenes, the building blocks of serotonin are contained in milky drinks (served hot is best) and also in bananas.
  • The milky fluid in the stem of a lettuce contains a natural sedative and will help you to sleep.

Chemicals in Food

There are many chemicals released in our brains that affect our mood, tendencies and behaviour. Here are some facts about these chemicals and potentially how we can manage them:

  • Beta-endorphins: this brain chemical can have increased affects in a small number of the population making them more susceptible to addictions, including alcohol (due to its sugar component). The hypersensitivity to risk increases, if you are over-weight, female and have a family history of alcohol. You are more susceptible to sugar, alcohol cravings during pre-menstrual days due to reduced levels of Beta-Endorphins. So avoid alcohol prior to your period because it will have a greater effect on your
  • Seratonin: this brain chemical is best described as our “satisfaction” chemical, when we have higher levels we feel good and with low levels we feel lousy. Tryptophan is an amino acid (the building blocks to Serotonin). Tryptophan rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, yoghurt, nuts and legumes (beans, lentils and peas). Extra rich sources are cottage cheese, pheasant, partridge and turkey. The controversial theory believes that combining is tryptophan rich foods with complex carbohydrates forces the body to convert these chemicals into the feel good chemical serotonin. Try to combine food like cottage cheese on a baked potato or a wholemeal bread and turkey sandwich. Research from Iceland and Japan show that these countries may suffer lower population depression due to their high fish intake. The protective factor is believed to be the essential fatty acids that guard against heart disease and boost serotonin production.
  • Dopamine: this brain chemical can affect our motivation and mood levels. Some people with low dopamine levels utilise stress to raise adrenaline (energy chemical) by stressful work, dangerous sports and stimulation from sugar, alcohol and coffee. Dopamine is made from tryrosine, another amino acid found in protein rich foods. Tryrosine is also essential for the production of adrenaline, the chemical we release when we are frightened, excited or stressed. Try to eat protein rich foods to encourage dopamine production and be aware of the pull of sugar and alcohol and their addictive nature.*

Importance of Eating Regularly

Breakfast is exactly what it says it is, a meal to break the fast of 8 or more hours sleep. Miss it and your memory may be affected, and you’ll be more likely to snack on fatty snacks or sugary foods mid-morning to stop you feeling hungry and from having low energy levels.

Eat small healthy snacks regularly to keep energy levels stable and prevent feeling low in energy and therefore motivation.

Foods to Avoid

  • Caffeine: found in Tea, Coffee, Chocolate and Coke, this stimulant makes you temporarily feel alert but in large quantities causes insomnia and mood swings. Reduce gradually to prevent side effects.
  • Alcohol: cut down on your alcohol intake as it is full of sugar, is a depressant, is expensive and is addictive (enough said)!
  • Sugar: eating sugar rich food causes mood swings of irritability and tiredness because it raises and lowers blood sugar levels rapidly and regularly. For example, missing breakfast and having a chocolate mid-morning will raise blood sugar, produce insulin and potentially lower blood sugar to less than prior to eating the chocolate. This is called rebound hypoglycaemia and may be responsible for mood swings.

Enjoying Your Food

Here’s our advice on how to enjoy your food without putting on weight or breaking the bank!

  • Use treats as treats, reward yourself infrequently for achievements!
  • Cook for friends and family (social activity is essential).
  • Experiment with your healthy cooking (occupying your time with a tasty result).
  • Share recipes or food facts as conversational icebreakers (most people like food).
  • Picnics and barbecues get you outside and enjoying the benefits of sun therapy.
  • Cooking meals or packed lunches can be much cheaper than takeaway foods.
  • Buy your fruit and vegetables in the market or the green grocers it’s cheaper.
  • Buy white meat and fish in large economical packs (freeze portions in separate bags or containers).
  • Buy shops own economical brands or discount products.
  • Buy near sell by date foods and either eat that day or freeze.
  • Shop at cheaper shops E.g. Aldi or Lidl. heck the packets for quantities of fat, carbohydrate and protein (prepared to be amazed).

Free E-Book

The team at Vitality has developed a free e-book entitled, The 14 Best Things to Eat After a Workout.  Click here to get your free copy.