What you eat can affect many areas of your health from your mood to how well you sleep. As you’ll see in this blog, your body needs a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep you in great physical and mental condition so it’s important to nourish it with the right plant foods and drinks. Here’s how your food can affect your mood, sleep and your chances of developing depression and how this can affect your ability to lose weight.
How Food Affects Your Mood
If your blood sugar fluctuates too much, it can leave you feeling tired and irritable and making you want to reach for a sugary snack. Ideally, you want to be eating foods that keep your blood sugar stable which includes complex carbs such as brown rice, oats and whole grains. Nuts and seeds are also great for this.
Some foods can have a direct effect on your mood too. Omega 3 fatty acids affect the production of neurotransmitters in your brain, especially serotonin and dopamine. Both of these have a really strong link with your mood and low levels are linked to mood disorders. Good plant-based sources of omega 3 include flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts. For dopamine, make sure you’re eating plenty of different types of fruit and veg, especially leafy greens and nuts, such as almonds and walnuts.
Protein is another nutrient that can affect your mood. A lot of foods with protein contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help your body to produce more serotonin and dopamine. Beans, lentils and quinoa are good sources.
What you’re not eating can also be important. According to studies, not getting enough folate or B vitamins in general can make you more prone to depression and have a negative impact on your sleep and energy levels. Greens are a great source of folate so be sure to include plenty of leafy greens, broccoli and peas if you’re struggling with low mood. Low selenium levels are also linked to fatigue, anxiety and even depression. Snack on walnuts or a handful of Brazil nuts to get your selenium levels up. I know how tempting it can be to reach for the chocolate biscuits if you’re feeling like this!
Depression may be linked to chemical imbalances in the brain, but some nutrients are thought to make this more likely, especially if you’re deficient in them. For example, low levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk of depression and experts believe that getting enough vitamin D can be crucial for a healthy mind. Natural sunlight is the best option but in the UK we are advised to supplement through the autumn and winter months. Look out too, for mushrooms grown under special conditions to increase their vitamin D levels.
Low mood, anxiety and depression can all make it harder to stick with your weight loss efforts. Exercising and making healthy meals can be the last thing you feel like doing but as you can see, what you eat can have a huge impact.
How Food Affects Sleep
You might not realise it but what you eat can have a big impact on how well you sleep. Some foods are known to encourage sleep because of the nutrients they contain and anything containing magnesium is a good bet, according to studies. Need a magnesium boost? Go for leafy greens (especially spinach), almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and a high-quality dark chocolate.
Another important nutrient is vitamin B6, which your body uses to make both melatonin and serotonin. If you’re not aware of melatonin and its role in the body, it’s known as the “sleep hormone”. This gives you an indication of how important it is for sleep! Our melatonin levels can be disrupted by “blue light” from screens and devices and as low levels of melatonin can make it hard to sleep well, it’s definitely something you want to be producing a decent amount of.
When it comes to melatonin, tryptophan helps here too (not just with mood!) as it helps your body to make more melatonin. Spinach, soy products such as tofu, nuts and seeds all contain tryptophan and can help more melatonin be produced.
As you have probably discovered, if you’re not sleeping well or not getting enough sleep this can have a huge impact on your food choices, making it much harder to stick to healthy plant-based food and not reach for highly processed sugary or fatty snacks.
If you would like help to finally stop yo-yo dieting, lose weight and keep it off whilst eating real, whole plant-foods and by changing your relationship with food then book a FREE call with me today. Clicking on this link takes you to my online calendar where you can choose a time to suit you. Once you have booked your call you will receive a confirmation email and further information about what we will cover on the call. I look forward to talking to you!
How Food Affects Concentration
If you find yourself struggling with concentration and focus, it’s time to look at your diet and whether you’re eating foods that are known to help.
A 2013 study found that people who were drinking 2 cups of cacao every day for a month were able to improve blood flow to their brains, which led to better results in memory tests. If you’d rather not drink a cup of cacao, a square of high-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao) can have a similar effect as long as there aren’t high sugars or other additives.
In a 2012 report, drinking blueberry juice daily for two months also led to better performance on memory and learning tests. This means that snacking on blueberries can be perfect if you need a focus boost!
And of course, there’s always water! Dehydration can cause tiredness and concentration problems, even if you’re only slightly dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water could be all you need to get more focused, if dehydration is the problem. Hunger can often be confused with thirst too so it’s a great idea to reach for a glass of water first to work out if you’re actually hungry.
Food wise, omega 3 fatty acids can reduce cognitive decline and keep your brain sharp and focused.
Now that you know how food impacts your mood, what did you notice you might need to add to your diet this week to counteract your nutritional imbalance?
Why not try my chocolate pudding – a tasty way to eat cacao, chia seeds and brazil nuts.
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