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Eat Your Blues Away

Understanding how food affects your moods

We all know that decadent treats instantly boost our moods. Although we all have different preferences when it comes to our “happy foods”, ice cream, cakes, chips, and pasta are generally on top of our list. But do these food really boost our mood, or does our palate simply play a trick on us?

“Yes, there is a connection between the food you eat and your mood,” explained Ms Lauren Ho, Dietitian and Nutritionist at Singapore Heart Foundation. “Food contains a myriad of nutrients and compounds which can bring about changes in our brain chemistry, leading to altered behaviours and moods.”

Some comfort foods, usually those that are high in fat and carbohydrates, help us to alleviate negative moods and help us to feel good. This could be due to the relationship of carbohydrates with tryptophan and serotonin. The oral-sensory response to sweet/sugary food may stimulate the release of endorphins in the brain, inducing a sense of well-being, improving mood and alleviating pain.1

Eat Happy and Stay Healthy

Unfortunately, we usually equate unhealthy, rich, yummy foods with happy mood. How many of us reach for that pint of chocolate ice cream to pick us up whenever we are down and depressed? But it shouldn’t always be that way.

“According to some researchers, eating breakfast regularly may improve our mood and memory, increase our energy, and reduce our risk for overweight and obesity,” shared Ms Ho. A healthy and balanced breakfast consisting of whole grains, with a small serving of good fats, lean protein and fruits is a good way to start your day and boost your mood.

Serotonin or most popularly known as “happy” hormone is believed to be responsible for our mood changes. A brain chemical that relay messages between neurons, serotonin is known as a mood regulator. It is found to help improve our general mood, making us feel happier, relaxed and calm. Serotonin is synthesised in the brain from tryptophan, an amino acid. As more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesised in the brain, and this improves mood.2 To increase serotonin production, include tryptophan-rich foods such as fish, eggs, bananas, walnuts, sesame, sunflower seeds, and poultry in your diet. “We can also increase our tryptophan levels by eating more carbohydrates (e.g. wholemeal bread, brown rice, chapatti, oats), as they help to eliminate the competition by other amino acids to enter the brain,” she added.

Chocolates (especially dark ones), our favourite indulgence, have also been linked to an improvement in mood and concentration. Chocolates trigger the brain to release feel-good neurotransmitters, such as serotonin.

Nutrition Deficiency and Bad Mood

The same way that certain nutrients in foods help to boost our mood level, a deficiency of the same nutrients can deflate our energy, which causes our moods to take a nosedive. “The connection between food and bad mood is mainly due to nutrient deficiencies, which may lead to depression,” confirmed Ms Ho.

Many studies are linking the connection between vitamin B12 deficiency and depression. One of which was a 2009 study done in Pune in India, where it was found that “81% of urban middle class men were vitamin B12 deficient, and it was taking a toll on their neurosystem, leading to growing cases of depression.”3

A deficiency of magnesium, vitamin D, and selenium is also linked to depression. Magnesium deficiency may result in neuronal damage, which could manifest as depression. Stress, excessive dietary calcium, as well as a diet lacking in magnesium, may cause magnesium deficiency. On the other hand, vitamin D is needed to maintain adequate serotonin levels in the brain. One study showed that people who were suffering from depression improved as their vitamin D levels increased over a year. There are also studies reporting a link between low Selenium intakes and depression.

Do you Know?
There is evidence that caffeine intake is associated with various moods and feelings, e.g. an increase in energy, self-confidence, alertness and ability to concentrate. However, excessive caffeine can keep one awake and this can lead to bad mood.

References:

1 www.scq.ubc.ca/comfort-food-and-you/

2 www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/how-food-affects-your-moods

3 http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-10-10/pune/28112309_1_deficiency-vitamin-urban-middle-class-men

by Maripet L. Poso

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Posted by ezyhealth on Dec 10 2012. Filed under Mental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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