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Better Mood Through Food

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A well-balanced diet help give you energy, fights fatigue and helps control weight - all of which can lead to positive mental and physical well-being. When life gets busy, it’s easy to overlook the importance of eating a well-balanced diet, leading to irritability, tiredness and lack of focus.  

Certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, can influence how we feel.  Neurotransmitters generate feelings of happiness, mental alertness and calmness.  Low levels of these chemicals can lead to irritability, sleepiness, depression and anxiety.

The way you eat can also affect the stress response and how stress hormones affect the body.  Your body will better absorb and use nutrients when you slow down and enjoy your meals instead of inhaling your food as you run out the door.

Be sure to include the following foods in your diet each day to help increase the levels of these brain chemicals and improve your body’s response to stress.

Complex carbohydrates

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, helping to boost mood, calm you down and aids in sleep.

Candy, cookies, pop and other simple sugars will raise your blood sugar levels quickly which may help you feel better short term but can cause a quick drop in blood sugar, leaving you feeling sluggish and craving more.

Protein-rich foods

Including protein at each meal will help you feel full and prevent snacking between meals. Protein also slows down the rise in blood sugar after a meal. Foods highest in protein include beef, poultry, fish, low-fat cheeses, eggs, beans, tofu, yogurt and peanut butter. 

Essential fats

Certain fats (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) can only be obtained through our diet. These fats are important for allowing nutrients to be delivered to each cell in the body while helping cells get rid of waste.  Research suggests that fish high in omega-3 fats (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and lake trout) appear to help relieve mild depression.  Other food sources of essential fats include dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flax seed, canola oil and olive oil.

Have you ever reflected on how different kinds of food make you feel? Did it help lead to a change in the way you eat?

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Author: 
Sarah Doll, RD