What we eat affects how we feel and think

Did you ever think about how food affects your mood?

Especially now is the perfect time of the year, with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. That means lots of celebrations and lots of food.

The foods we eat influence how we feel, and how we feel determines the foods we choose to eat.

You’re not alone if you feel sleepy, stressed, or have low energy after lunch. This is because your blood sugar levels rise after you eat, and your body suppresses the production of orexin — a chemical in your brain, that’s responsible for making you feel alert.

And when you are really hungry, your blood sugar levels are low and your brain starts taking control, often making you feel impatient and angry.

But that’s really only the beginning. Don’t forget that the food that fuels your body also feeds your brain, and affects how we feel, our thoughts, and our behavior.

When food is broken down in our body, the brain releases some calming and stimulating neurotransmitters which regulate our mood and our thinking process.

New research is increasingly showing a direct link between your diet and your mind. Mood disorders actually change how and what you choose to eat, and there is a very strong connection between what you eat and your success at work, and in your personal life.

So when you choose fruits, veggies, high fiber whole foods, and water, you are stimulating your brain’s neurotransmitters to adjust the chemical balance to improve your emotional and mental health, while providing the right fuel for your body.

In the holiday season we also see increased symptoms of depression because we overeat but under nourish our body.

So what can we do to control our moods?

First, use food as your medicine for your mental health and well-being.

Eat healthy sources of protein, such as eggs, chicken, grass fed beef, or wild fish. You can also add flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, dark green veggies, and even some dark chocolate (at least 80 percent cacao) to your diet.

I know that’s good news with the chocolate!

Add some complex carbohydrates (sweet potato, brown rice etc.) and some healthy fats (olive oil, avocados etc). Limit your intake of sugar, and starchy, processed foods.

Don’t skip breakfast. If you do, then you will be more sensitive to stress. A great, energizing breakfast example would be scrambled eggs mixed with green veggies and topped with pumpkin seeds.

Avoid fast food, fries, soft drinks, and ready microwave meals. Try and avoid packaged and processed food where you can — the best foods have just one ingredient.

And try using relaxing response techniques, self-talk or meditation. Even just 5 minutes a day will really help release your tension and anxiety. You will feel much more relaxed and you will make healthier choices during the day.

A balanced diet is one that provides all the nutrients needed for great health, good mood, and proper growth. Even small adjustments to your eating habits will help you gain more control over your moods and enhance your success in life.

Always read and ask what’s in your food, and start learning about what you’re eating — search online, the more you learn, the easier it gets to make the correct choices. And listen to how your body feels after you’ve eaten.

Take control of your eating habits, and don’t let food control you. You can see it as a diet game — you just need to learn the rules to the game, that’s all!

Mele Kalikimaka!

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

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