Updated: Dec 21, 2017
There are many simple steps we can take to help keep that ‘blue mood’ at bay. Regular exercise is of course vital, but taking a look at how and what we eat is of equal importance.
"You are what you eat, food can change your mood and the choices you make directly affect the outcome of your life".
Here are four simple steps that can go a long way towards keeping you on the right track.
Keeping blood sugars balanced
Keeping blood sugars balanced is the first and most important step towards improving mood. The more refined sugars you eat, (white sugar, white bread, white flour, etc.), the more insulin is released and the quicker your blood sugar levels fall. This abrupt drop in blood sugar levels can trigger the release of the stress hormone adrenaline, whose job it is to mobilize sugar stores in your liver to stop you from fainting. This is the body’s natural protection response. The downside, however, is that the release of adrenaline into the system produces a flight-or-flight reaction, which can give a sense of anxiety or impending doom.
To sum it up – high sugar diets = increased stress & anxiety.
Reduce stress levels
We have seen how eating high sugar foods can induce a stress reaction (we can call this internal stress). Inversely, an increase in stress from external forces can cause an imbalance in blood sugars – it’s a vicious circle. To sum it up – external stress = sugar released from liver = insulin levels go up = depletion of blood sugar = release of adrenaline. The consequences of this yo-yoing of blood sugar levels are many – but the depletion of magnesium is one of the most important. Regular exercise of any kind, as long as you enjoy it, will have a hugely positive impact on reducing external stress.
Increase levels of Magnesium
Serotonin, the feel good brain chemical that is boosted by Prozac, depends on the mineral magnesium for its production and function. Symptoms of chronic magnesium deficiency include anxious behavior, hyperemotionality, apathy, apprehension, poor memory, muscle weakness, insomnia, lightheadedness, the feeling of a lump in the throat, rapid pulse.
Foods high in magnesium
Wheat bran, Wheat Germ, Millet, wheat grain, rye, brown rice, barley
· Nuts & seeds
Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds. Eat as snacks or incorporate into breakfast.
· Vegetables. All but in particular the following.
Kelp, Kale, peas, potatoes with skins on, sweet potato, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, asparagus, celery, green pepper, squash, aubergine
· Fruits. All but in particular the following.
Figs (dried), apricots and dates, avocado, banana, blackberry, cantaloupe melon.
· Dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa solids.
Increase B Vitamins and Omega 3
Vitamins B3 and B6 can help boost levels of the amino acid Tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted into Serotonin – the feel good hormone, in the brain. Unfortunately it is not easy for Tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier as it is a weak amino acid competing with many other stronger amino acids for the same receptor sites. Its uptake, however, can be improved by reducing the amount of proteins eaten in general and by increasing complex carbohydrates. The addition of a good B-Complex supplement will also be beneficial. Other factors which can improve levels of Tryptophan include exposure to natural sunlight and regular exercise.
Where chronic mild depression or other mood disorders have set in, a supplement know as 5 HTP may be of benefit. 5HTP is a metabolite of Tryptophan which is easily absorbed and converted into Serotonin. (Consult your nutritionist or medical practitioner on this one).
And finally fish
Eat more of it. Particularly the oily types; mackerel, sardines & salmon. And if you really don’t like fish consider taking an omega 3 supplement.
According to the British Medical Journal (2005), studies show that omega 3 supplements are as effective as drugs at reversing depression.
Linda Hickey. BA Dip NT RYT
Nutritional Therapist & Registered Yoga Teacher.