We all have an understanding of ‘you are what you eat’. So by eating a healthy diet we know that it will make us feel more energised, healthier and happier. You may be currently following a healthy eating pattern and still feeling low. There are many factors that can account for low moods; these could be external factors and stress, or fluctuations in hormonal levels and chemicals in our bodies. If you have been over restricting your diet this can also influence your mood if you are feeling deprived, or by skipping meals you may be allowing your blood sugar to get too low.
Making sure you are eating well is even more important when feeling miserable. If your diet is low in certain vitamins and minerals this could affect your mood and we know there is an association with a poor diet and depression. We all know that there are certain foods we reach for when we are feeling low.
How does healthy eating influence the mood?
The body produces chemicals called neuro-transmitters that help the brain communicate with the body. Electrical signals are sent across the nerve endings with the help of neuro-transmitters. The body makes these from the foods that we eat. So if you are not eating enough of the right foods for the body to manufactures these chemicals it can lead to depression, or anxiety.
Quite often ‘dieters’ make the mistake of skipping meals in the hope of losing more weight, and this tends to cause blood sugars to dip. When this happens a dieter is likely to feel low and irritable. You also may find that you crave sugary white carbohydrate foods when you are feeling low. This will cause highs and lows in your blood sugar which will make the situation worse. One possible reason why people crave carbohydrate foods when they are miserable is that a high carbohydrate low protein meal helps in the production of an amino acid tryptophan which enters the brain and makes the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for sleep, appetite and mood. Many new antidepressants work by increasing availability of serotonin. Therefore, eating healthier carbohydrate could help with mood. Dietary sources of tryptophan can be found in milk, cheese, eggs, turkey and chicken.
A recent study showed that when women were deprived of tryptophan they showed signs of depression within hours. There is also more research coming through linking low intakes of omega 3 fatty acids and high levels of depression. Good sources are oily fish, or flaxseed, linseeds, pumpkin oil and pumpkin seeds. Research has also shown those with diets low in B vitamins tend to have more mood swings and are less happy. Vitamin C also helps in the production of serotonin and in times of stress this vitamin gets depleted so ensure good sources of vitamin C from fresh vegetables and fruit.
Top tips for healthy eating habits
- Make sure that you’re eating regular meals that contain low glycaemic index carbohydrates to stop the highs and lows in blood sugar such as; oats, porridge, granary and seeded breads, wholemeal breads and cereals, pasta, yogurts, beans, pulses, apples, pear, berries.
- Don’t be tempted to skip meals, or follow any ‘fad diet’ or diets that cut out main food groups e.g Carbs.
- Eat a good breakfast like porridge/oatmeal with skimmed (1%) milk, and mixed berries with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds (omega 3).
- Take plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables for vitamin C.
- Eat wholegrain cereals, wholegrains, eggs and fish to help provide B vitamins.
- Try to include plenty of oily fish like mackerel, sardines, trout or salmon regularly in the diet, or vegetarian sources such as flaxseeds or linseeds. Or take a daily omega 3 supplement.
- Take plenty of tryptophan rich foods such as chicken, turkey breast, milk and low fat cheese.
- Limit your coffee or caffeinated beverage intake.
- Avoid alcohol as it is a depressant and can have adverse effects on those who are prone to depression.
- Try to get outside in the daylight particularly in the winter and get 20 minutes of daily exercise.
- Discuss with your doctor if symptoms continue.
For more diet, health, food and fitness information and tips on healthy eating habits visit www.weightplan.com
Tags: daylight, eating habits, fad diets, healthy eating, low glycaemic index, mood, tryptophan, winter blues