How Food Affects Mood
Just like the heart, stomach and liver, the brain is an organ that's sensitive to what we eat and drink. For it to remain healthy, it needs different amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water.
So if you smoke, drink a lot of liquor or eat fast food regularly, your brain and body will be deprived of valuable nutrition. The result? "As soon as we get away from eating what the earth provides and start eating processed foods, we're headed for trouble," says Tristaca Curley, a Halifax-based registered dietitian and the owner of the nutrition-counselling company Fueling with Food. "Our body was meant to live off what's grown on the land."
To keep your brain happy and stabilize your mood, follow these tips.
Get familiar with the glycemic index
Curley points to the glycemic index (GI), a measure that looks at the impact that food has on blood sugar. A high-GI diet includes one full of white sugar, flour and pasta, which enters the bloodstream quickly. "This produces a jittery spike in energy for about 30 minutes to an hour after eating, followed by a low, during which your brain moves slower and you feel lethargic and irritable," says Curley. "And the spike isn't good productive energy."
Aim for a low-GI diet consisting of foods such as brown rice, which has fibre, to slow the rate at which the sugar enters the bloodstream. "It produces more sustained energy with no peaks or valleys," says Curley.
Eat foods high in iron
Red meat, fish, egg yolks, beans, spinach and dried fruit are some of the examples that will help keep energy levels stable. "Without enough iron in your system, your brain and body will become fatigued," says Curley. "You'll lose interest in the activities you used to enjoy because you'll no longer have the energy for them."
Eat your omegas
Research is being conducted on the connection between mood and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds, algae and omega-3-enriched eggs. They appear to increase the serotonin, or "feel-good hormone," in the brain or improve its transmission. Plus, there's evidence to indicate that deficiencies of folate, found in dark-green leafy vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds, may lead to an increased risk of depression.
In a nutshell, if you eat a variety of foods that are good for you every day, it'll help make you happy.