Moods. What can we do? Sometimes you’re up and then for no reason whatsoever, your down. Can food help? Most people realise that moods affect what we eat, but does it work the other way. Do foods effect our moods?
There has been much research into the matter which has shown a link between moods and the food we eat. A recent survey has shown that a large proportion (over 80%) of people felt better when they changed their diet. Eating healthier makes us feel better inside and out.
From what we can tell this is down to serotonin, the happy chemical, produced in our brains. Serotonin cannot be produced without tryptophan (an amino acid), so its a good idea to eat foods high in trypophan to make us happy. Simple enough!? Low serotonin levels are blamed for anxiety, cravings, mood disorders and IBS. The concept of eating foods high in trypophan is similar to that of taking an anti-depressant like prozac. Holistic anti-depressants.
Moods cannot be gotten rid of, but can be brought under control. The extremity of the ups and downs can be lowered, meaning you feel more centered and grounded in a good place. Eating and living well can be essential in maintaining not just our physical, but also our mental health.
TOP 5 GOOD MOOD FOODS
1) mung beans
Taken from the e-book The Serotonin Secret, Dr Caroline Longmore
WHAT MAKES THEM FULL OF ‘HAPPY’?
Foods high in fibre, wholegrains and protein can also help boost moods. Food with a low glycemic index, like oats for example will help the brain absorb all of these happy amino acids. Tryptophan absorption is boosted by carbohydrates.
These foods should be combined with lots of clean water and fresh fruit and vegetables. Eating regularly and not skipping meals also boosts our mental health. A balanced diet is always the best way forward.
Foods that have the opposite effect are sometimes called ‘Stressors’, the main culprits are listed below:
– Wheat-containing foods
– Saturated Fats
Provided by the ‘Food and Mood Project’, backed by the mental health charity ‘Mind‘.
A diet heavy in the ‘stressors’ can lead to all sorts of problems including anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, panic attacks, lack of concentration and unfortunately, many more…
Sugar has a powerful effect on our sense of well being, if we eat too much, we can get into a sugar roller coaster, which is never nice. Our blood sugar levels are all over the place and we feel drained and fatigued when the sugar is lessening and high as a kite when its peaking.
If you do over indulge (who doesn’t?!) one of the worst things that you can do is feel guilty about it. Feel great about it! You have just treated yourself and you deserve it. Move on and make efforts to eat better and feel better, step-by-step, slowly slowly. It’s a long road without any fixed destination.
Apparently we all have ‘triggers’, foods that can take us up and down. This depends on you, have a little experiment. If you are feeling a bit sluggish and down, think about what you have eaten that day or the night before. Trends will inevitably form. We found it really helpful to take the plunge and go for a full raw, vegan diet. Just for a month or sometimes just a week or so. Our bodies became sensitive to what we ate and we learned alot about what makes us feel good and otherwise. There seem to be definite trends in the foods that take the shine off things, and in our experience, most of them are all noted above as ‘Stressors’. You don’t have to go this far of course, just cut out certain foods for a period of time and see how you feel. Many people are doing this with gluten at the moment and feeling the benefits.
Eating well is one thing, but thinking well is another level completely. They both tend to rise inclusively. Once we are feeling more stable and peaceful in the mind, our eating habits seem to change. We become more aware of how we are fueling our bodies, the effects that the foods we eat have a profound effect on health, both mental and physical. We all have a good idea of how to make our bodies fit and lean, but how is our mind shaping up? Are we happy and content?
Thinking positively is the key, a good place to start. If we can practice thinking only positive thoughts for a minute at a time and build on that. If this is done whilst meditating, even better. Meditation doesn’t need to be done on a Tibetan cushion, you can do it anywhere. On the bus or train or even when walking or simply sat in a waiting room. The days are filled with moments of potential mediation, windows of unexplored peace and rejuvenation. In our opinion, meditation is the most important practice in creating/ maintaining a more peaceful mental outlook. Once your thoughts are flowing in the right direction, the body tends to follow. The cookies you crave one day are the carrot sticks you cannot live without the next. Habits change very quickly. It is really surprising. We have been through all of this ourselves and being ‘mindful’ requires discipline and dedication. But it does have incredible, trans-formative rewards. Add that to your new found passion for mung beans and you’ll be shining away for all to see.
Here is a meditation clip for those interested. Jane and I recently attended a Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat up in Dharamasala, India. This is there style of doing things, but there are so many styles and methods of meditating. The most important thing is feeling a sense of peace. That’s it! Whatever works for you is the way.
We have a very soft spot for Tibetan Buddhism, so here’s how they focus the mind (this Rinpoche has the most lovely, smile-inducing voice):
If meditation is not your thing, how about some good exercise, get the blood pumping; a long walk in the countryside or a park, turning the computer off and doing some gardening, turning the mobile phone off and cooking your loved one the most beautiful feast, painting, writing, putting up a shelf with care and attention. Anything that gets you away from the tidal waves of thoughts and ‘thinking’ will no doubt rejuvenate. Taking care of ourselves, being gentle with ourselves, nourishing mind and body.
For more information on mood foods, check out the‘Mind‘ site. There is information here for Brits on how to contact dietitians and nutritionists to get started on a new diet plan and lifestyle.
Take it easy, have a handful of sunflower seeds, meditate peacefully and shine onX
This piece is a revised version of something we wrote a few years ago. We just love the idea that foods can have such a profound effect on our sense of wellbeing, or otherwise…