What you eat has a big impact on your mood, stress levels and ability to cope. On the other hand, your mood has a direct impact on what you may eat and your nutritional choices! Eat well to support your mental health and physical wellbeing. In times of stress and low mood take steps to use your nutrition to help, it can make such a huge difference to your emotion, and move you into a better place.
3 neurotransmitters are important in the feeling of mood. Serotonin, melatonin & dopamine. These are the chemical messengers that send signals of how we feel and create emotion.
Serotonin – the happy chemical. Source: amino acid tryptophan
Dopamine – pleasure pursuit and alertness. Source: amino acid tyrosine
Melatonin – the relaxant. Source: at night the body converts serotonin to melatonin.
Strategies for good mood:
- Keep your blood sugar stable. Eat regular meals with sufficient protein, slow release carbs and avoid caffeine and alcohol which cause blood sugar swings. Whilst a rise in insulin also raises serotonin, a natural mood lifter, the sugars create an artificial lift in mood. It also then causes a drop. Over time large doses of sugar cause serotonin production to slow right down.
- Consume Omega 3, which directly feeds the brain, keeps tissues healthy allowing the neuro transmitters to flow. It also reduces inflammation, which can cause depression. Omega 3 intake directly affects the levels of serotonin.
- Eat to fight and reverse cellular damage caused by free radicals. Blue and purple foods in particular contain antioxidants that can offer protection against age related brain disorders such as dementia and alzheimers. Blueberries, beetroot. figs, red cabbage.
- Consume foods rich in tryptophan, the amino acid which facilitates the uptake and accessibility of serotonin. Poultry, bananas, milk , soy products are all great sources. Tyrosine is an amino acid so would be present to some extent in all complete protein foods (animal sources).
- Go for foods rich in tyrosine, the amino acid which facilitates the uptake of dopamine. Eating itself triggers a release of dopamine, the pleasure of eating and there is research that indicates this can lead to overeating in the pursuit of the feel good sensation. For this reason it’s important to moderate dopamine production by eating sensibly. Poultry, fish, bananas, dairy products and sunflower seeds are good sources of tyrosine, which would facilitate dopamine uptake without overeating. Tyrosine is an amino acid so would be present in all complete protein foods (animal sources).
- Vitamin D! Studies have shown a link with low vitamin D and depression. SAD syndrome (seasonal affective disorder). Eat oily fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, fortified foods. Get outside!
Diverting low mood, how to avoid getting to that place:
- Be cautious with caffeine. It raises cortisol, which is a stress adrenaline hormone. It raises blood sugar quickly, gets you ready for action ‘fight or flight’ and makes you feel edgy and stressed when your blood sugar drops low as a result of the hit.Avoid alcohol which depletes your B vitamins and energy. It also causes wild blood sugar swings.
- Saturated fats block the flow of serotonin & dopamine so watch your intake and focus on fats from healthy sources (nuts, seeds, fish, avocado)
- Sugar and processed foods. Sugar rich foods are empty calories, lacking the nutrition you need to enjoy stable mood. They raise blood sugar and release insulin, drops blood sugar causing energy dips and cravings, and fatigue.
What about your lifestyle choice?
- Exercising regularly is essential for endorphins which make you feel happy. Use activity to lift you out of that place, it’s proven as a mood boost and for reducing stress and depression.
- Avoid toxins & stimulants which cause excessive free radical damage.
- Sleep! When tired you have higher cortisol levels, less appetite control and will crave sugary quick release carbs. This may prevent you consuming the nutritious diet you need, for good brain health and mood.
Do everything you can to stay healthy, and feel happy!
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