Eat Up, Chill Out: How what you eat affects your mood

Eat Up, Chill Out: How what you eat affects your mood

It’s that time of the year where the jingle of Christmas tunes blare in shopping malls, where the brisk morning air makes it difficult to arise out of bed, and where we find an excuse to wear sweatpants and binge on refined carbs and sweet treats. Winters can seriously affect your mood, but there are ways to boost the amount of serotonin in your body, and that may be through healthy dietary choices.

Michelle R. Smith, MS, RDN, LD, a nutrition counsellor and wellness educator at Concord Hospital’s Center for Health Promotion explains how not skipping meals, eating whole foods, and munching on less unhealthy snacks may benefit your overall mood. She claims, “Stay nourished and focus on having a balance of food choices at each meal so that if you are under a stressful situation, you’ll be less likely to react to it.”

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to boost your mood, regulate your sleep and appetite, as well as improve your memory and digestion. If you are looking to increase the serotonin levels in your body, you may want to consume more foods with tryptophan. Research declares that when you have a limited amount of tryptophan in your body, that the serotonin levels in your brain drop. When tryptophan levels are low, you may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.

However, on the plus side, certain foods will help to improve your mood, which may make these upcoming cold winter months bearable!

Food options that may help to elevate your mood are salmon, tuna, flaxseed, seeds, nuts, oats, eggs, and even cheese! While these dietary options are beneficial, it is important to note that to boost the amount serotonin in your brain, you may have to follow a strategic diet.

One source reveals a problematic suggestion on how to induce higher levels of serotonin into your body - ingest more carbohydrates. They claim that a lot of protein is rich in tryptophan, but protein may hinder the amount of serotonin released into your body. Therefore, you may want to consider consuming a balanced diet with both carbohydrates (potatoes, root vegetables, fruit, rice and oatmeal), and some protein.

This same source highlights a section from Carol Hart’s Secrets of Serotonin: The Natural Hormone That Curbs Food and Alcohol Cravings, Reduces Pain, and Elevates Your Mood which reveals a suggested daily meal plan:

“BREAKFAST: toast with fruit spread, hot cereal with raisins, or fruit salad

LUNCH: large green salad, vegetable soup, vegetarian stir-fry or grilled vegetables

SNACKS: fresh or dried fruit, pita bread or raw vegetables with hummus, tortilla chips with salsa, or popcorn

DINNER: protein source of choice, vegetables, and rice, pasta, potatoes, or sweet potatoes.”

Smith confirms the notion of incorporating complex carbs into your diet, “The key is balancing it and having complex carbs like whole grains with your fats and vegetables.”

You may think that refined carbs and sugar are the quickest way to experience happy emotions, but the feel-good sensation will only last for a short period, which is why it is vital to find a balance between complex carbs, fats, vegetables, and protein!

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