Mood boosting foods that make you smile! - February 2016

Quinoa Salad
Picture: Matt Turner

September 22, 2015

You might laugh at how hipster this salad looks, but the wholegrains, vegies, fruit and good fats will put you in a good mood. As Kathleeen Alleaume uncovers, food fuels more than your body - it feeds your moody, depressed, irritable stressed-out state!

We should all now be starting to understand that our eating habits play a big role in determining our disease risks. But the link between what you eat and your mood is much less recognised and is far more immediate. Here are five ways you can better your mood with food.

1. Blood Sugar

Fluctuations in your blood sugar levels can have an incredible impact on how you feel. Concentrated sources of added sugar (soft drinks, fruit juice and sweets) or refined starches (white bread, rice crackers) can cause radical spikes in blood sugar, providing a temporary sense of feel-good before sharply crashing into the pit of despair, ultimately leaving you feeling cranky and irritable.

The Fix: Switch to high-fibre carbohydrates (like oats, whole meal, brown rice, whole pieces of fruits and veggies). Combine this with protein at most meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar (and moods) stable.

2. Running on empty

Have you ever noticed that people on diets are really crabby? They're most likely "hangry", often due to erratic eating habits or aggressively cutting calories to lose weight. While many might solely blame low blood sugar or a general lack of pleasure, research has shown changes in brain chemistry, such as higher levels of cortisol (stress hormones) when calories are severely restricted. What's more, excess levels of cortisol causes food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet/fatty foods, so you become crabbier every time you eat something not in your plan.

The Fix: Work on establishing a regular eating pattern that will keep you from getting overly hangry, and reconsider the whole notion of dieting as a temporary fix, but rather a permanent lifestyle shift.

3. Flimsy on the fats

Your brain consist of at least 60 per cent fat, in particular the omega-3 kind. Our bodies can't make these essential fatty acids, so we need to get them from food. These fats play an important role in healthy brain function and research suggests that low omega-3 levels are associated with mood disorders, such as depression.

The Fix: Fear fat no more and think twice about buying "low-fat" snacks. Instead, opt for healthy fats found in oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines), walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and olive oil.

4. Going against the grain

Limiting carbohydrates affects the brain's ability to create serotonin - a feel-good brain chemical responsible for making us feel content. Without that mood-booster, research has shown that low-carb dieters had higher scores on anger-hostility, confusion-bewilderment, and depression-dejection scales. Besides, our brains heavily rely on glucose and there's good reason to believe that having a steady flow of it is crucial for optimal mental functioning.

The Fix: If this sounds like you, it might be helpful to toss some legumes or a wholegrain wrap with your salad.

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