Get in a Good Mood by Eating the Right Foods
- Tuesday, 31 March 2009
In a perfect world, parents are patient, understanding, calm and rational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The reality is parents are only human with both good and bad days. The good news is that there may be a reason for those less than optimal days, and it could be as simple as your diet.
Most of us realize poor food choices affect our health. Eat a diet high in fat and you are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, eat a diet low in calcium and you at risk of developing osteoporosis—though we are aware of the link, the physiological effects of these nutritional excesses or deficiencies are not in our immediate future. Most people do not realize, however, the immediacy of the emotional connection between what we eat and how we feel. What you ate last night will undoubtedly affect how you feel in the morning, and what you ate for breakfast will undoubtedly affect how clearly you think in a few hours.
Neurotransmitters, our brains’ messengers, convey information throughout the brain. They can trigger, regulate, intensify or lessen our moods and reactions to situations, and they are influenced by what we eat. They depend on healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and protein. When neurotransmission becomes abnormal—transmitter levels are too high or too low—we become vulnerable to mood, behavior, and/or thinking problems. This is because our brain cells cannot accurately convey what’s going on, leading to responses that may be inappropriate to the situation. We might find ourselves losing our tempers more easily or feeling anxious or nervous.
The best line of defence against mood fluctuations is to eat a balanced, whole foods diet. Use the following guidelines to develop mood-enhancing eating habits:
Do not skip meals. Going for long periods without food can result in a drop in blood sugar levels which could lead to feelings of irritability, nervousness and fatigue. Try to eat three meals and two snacks daily.
Eat a little protein at each meal. Protein stabilizes blood sugar, lessens appetite and reduces the amount of food you subsequently consume. Stable blood sugar levels protect you from mood swings and fatigue.
Eat a variety of high fiber vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and celery. Fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar, protecting you from mood swings.
Eat a variety of high fiber fruits, such as apples and pears. In addition to the fiber found in fruits, the vitamins and minerals are necessary for achieving optimal health and increasing your energy level.
Eat foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseed, nuts, and olive oil. EFA’s such as omega-3 and omega-6 aid in the transmission of nerve impulses and are needed for the normal functioning of the brain. A deficiency of essential fatty acids can lead to depression, hostility, and poor memory.
Drink more water. The human body is composed of about two- thirds water. Water is essential for our bodies to carry out each of its functions. The early symptoms of dehydration include headaches, fatigue, mood changes and trouble concentrating. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. To do so, put reminders on the fridge or add notes to your planner.
Cut down on caffeine. Many people quench their thirst with coffee and soft drinks that contain large amounts of caffeine. The withdrawal effects of caffeine can contribute to impatience and irritability. Cut down by 1/4 of a cup every two days or drink from a smaller mug.
Reduce your intake of sugar. Eating foods that contain sugars (such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) destabilizes blood sugar levels, increases the risk of diabetes and contributes to mood fluctuations. Healthy alternatives include honey, maple syrup, health-e-sweet and stevia.
Exercise and sufficient sleep will also greatly enhance your mood. Exercise releases endorphins which calm us during stress and produce feelings of satisfaction. And of course, a rested parent is always better equipped to handle the emotional highs and lows of parenting. Not to mention the physical energy needed to keep up with our little ones.
The most we can do as parents is to try our best. We may say something we wished we hadn’t, or we may look back at a situation and wish we handled it with more patience. Taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually is the best strategy we have to becoming better parents. And remember, our children love us. They really don’t expect us to be perfect all the time.
Challem, Jack (2007). The Food-Mood Solution, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Somer, Elizabeth R.D (1999). Food and Mood, The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best. New York: Owl Books