Food & Mood 

Food and mood are intrinsically linked.  We are what we eat. More specifically, what we eat and drink can change how we feel. This relationship works both ways.

1) “Yin and Yang” Foods

An excess of what can be described as very “yang” foods – such as meat, eggs, cheese and salt – can cause cravings for very “yin” foods such as alcohol, juices, coffee and sugar. This is our body’s way of trying to redress the balance. Eating more “balanced” foods, such as wholegrains, beans, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, can keep cravings under control.

2) “Acid and Alkaline” Foods

We also need a balance of acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods. Generally, acid forming foods include: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, grains, and legumes.  More alkaline forming foods include: most fruits, green vegetables, peas, beans, lentils, spices, herbs and seasonings, and seeds and nuts. It is generally easier to become over-acidic in our bodies so most people benefit from getting a good proportion of the more alkaline foods.

Squeezing the juice of half a lemon into warm water and drinking this every day (first thing in the morning is ideal) is a great way to keep up your alkaline balance. Chronic over-acidity corrodes body tissue and can interrupt all cellular activities and functions. It is the root of ALL sickness and disease. Don’t wait until you get ill to make some positive changes to your diet, prevention is so much better than cure.

3) Tryptophan

Serotonin is a brain chemical associated with enhanced mood, reduced appetite and better sleep. To boost serotonin production in our brain, we can eat more “tryptophan” containing foods, such as: chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, lentils, pumpkin / sunflower seeds, walnuts, and avocados. However, to increase the absorption of tryptophan into the brain where it can be converted into serotonin, we need to eat carbohydrate-rich foods.

Obviously, the type of carbs that we consume are also relevant – to avoid a rollercoaster sugar high followed by a low, choose “whole” or “brown” foods, instead of refined or “white” ones. Wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread and wholemeal rice are all much better for your blood sugar and therefore your mood.

4) Caffeine

Not all mind-altering drugs are illegal. Many people enjoy tea and coffee daily, and caffeine has some pleasurable and useful effects. However, too much caffeine can lead to anxiety, depression, mood swings, nervousness and “jittery” feelings. It can even give you palpitations, worsen PMS symptoms, and temporarily raise blood pressure. Caffeine has more recently been shown (in some studies) to have a negative effect on fertility.

I have known people who think that they have an anxiety and/or panic disorder until they cut out caffeine, and suddenly their symptoms either reduce dramatically or disappear. If you’re not feeling as good as you’d like to, try cutting back on / cutting out caffeine and just see how you feel after a week. Beware of “de-caf” tea and coffee which still actually contain some caffeine, because the process to remove caffeine still leaves some behind.

The exception is rooibos (or red bush) tea which is naturally caffeine-free and enjoyed by more and more people recently. Unfortunately, 50% of people get caffeine withdrawal headaches, but these tend to subside after a few days. Panax Ginseng (red ginseng) and camomile tea have been reported to help with caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

5) Fats and Omega 3

Fats are very important to emotional and mental health. The brain is more than 60% fat and these fats are essential for the proper functioning of the brain. Unsaturated fats are considered to be better for us and so it is fine to eat plenty of these. Unsaturated fats are found in: fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Furthermore, omega 3 essential fats are important for emotional, mental and brain health.

These omega 3 fats are plentiful in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, pilchards, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna. For non-fish eaters, linseed (flax) oil, pumpkin and hemp seeds and walnuts are all excellent sources of omega 3. It is recommended that these essential fats are consumed at least 3 times a week or taken daily as a nutritional supplement.

6) B-vitamins

These are essential for a healthy nervous system, energy, mood and mental functioning. Some good sources of B-vitamins include: avocados, bananas, beans, carrots, eggs, fish, lentils, meat, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

7) Zinc

It is common to be deficient in zinc, yet it is a critical nutrient for good emotional health. When stressed, our need for zinc increases. Good sources of zinc include: brazil nuts, herring, lamb, meats, oysters, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and whole grains.

The information was taken from The Food and Mood handbook  by Amanda Geary.  For more details and to buy the book, click on the link.


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