Most of us realize poor food choices affect our health just as much as healthy food. 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. Although 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 and less often in a good mood.
The best line of defense against mood fluctuations is to eat a balanced, whole foods diet. Use the following eight tips to develop mood-enhancing eating habits.
1. 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.
2. 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.