Think cake will cure your crabbiness? Or baked goods will beat the blues? Probably not
Whether you're suffering from an irritable mood, a case of the blues, or even full-blown depression, you may benefit from incorporating certain foods into your diet while avoiding others.
Studies have shown that food affects the chemical composition of the brain by altering the production or release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry information from one cell to another. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that motivate or sedate, focus or frustrate.
Similarly, blood sugar levels directly impact our moods. We feel good after we eat, because our blood sugar increases. However, when blood sugar levels sink, we get hungry and our mood takes a dive as well. Classic symptoms of low blood sugar are feeling impatient, irritable, angry and aggressive until we can eat again.
Despite the complexity of the relationship between food and the brain, following a few simple rules will help to provide your body with stable blood sugar and mood mellowing nutrients.
Five Tips to Avoid the Blues:
1. Eat fruit and vegetables that are high in fiber and low in sugar/starch.
Fiber provides stable blood sugar and consistent energy by slowing the rate at which nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. Choose apples, blueberries, cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, dark green lettuce, and red bell peppers. Limit sugary food and alcohol since both are low in nutrients and cause rapid blood sugar swings.
2. Eat lean protein at each meal.
Protein stabilizes blood sugar and provides the brain with the amino acids essential to feeling alert. Choose fish, lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, nuts and legumes (beans and peas).
3. Drink water.
Choosing water over sugar-laden soft drinks and fruit juices will keep you hydrated and stave off food cravings. Drink eight to ten glasses of clean water daily. Replace soda and fruit juice with herbal tea and sparkling water.
4. Consume "good" fats, like olive oil and those containing omega 3's.
Studies have shown that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to depression and mood swings. Restoring the body's natural balance of omega-3s may help alleviate (and prevent) many types of depression, even for those who don't respond to traditional antidepressants. Consuming healthy fats also reduces the release of leptins, hormones produced by fat cells that signal hunger, thereby reducing food cravings. Choose avocados, nuts, olives, olive oil, fish, grass-fed beef, nut butters, and omega-3 enriched eggs.
5. Avoid fast food and chain restaurants.
These are stocked with highly processed, sugary foods containing "bad" fats that can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and mood. When you do eat out, try to make the healthiest choices available. Choose greens and proteins, a turkey burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun, lemon juice and olive oil over commercial sauces and dressings, a fruit plate instead of a sugary desert. Avoid white bread, potatoes, rice and pasta.