Hello, Health

The way we feel depends on what we eat and it’s high time we accepted it

The food we eat affects our mood in more ways than one. One should take a protein-rich, carbohydrate-fueled diet to stay happy and cheerful.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   08-06-2019
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Are you feeling down and out? Thinking of popping an antidepressant? Think again! Meds work by stopping the body from boosting a chemical in the brain known as serotonin (that calms, relaxes, and even makes you feel less hungry), leading to a better mood. But on the flip side, the mood-enhancing drugs may land you some unpleasant side-effects like headaches and mood swings. Plus, there’s always a risk of getting dependent on them. So, trust the natural solutions instead.

When you’re feeling blue, help could be as close as your refrigerator. You feel good when you eat right. Sadly, that’s a fact most of us miss out on. You can rectify that now by focusing on the good mood nutrients.

Focus on Protein

protein690_060719051126.jpgLeafy greens, soya and dairy products have plenty of protein (Source: Reuters)

Proteins contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid (the protein that you eat is broken down into amino acids in the body) that converts to serotonin (the calming chemical) in the brain. Plus, another amino acid – tyrosine – found in protein rich foods is also essential for the brain as it increases the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. These are said to promote mental alertness and boost the feeling of well-being. 

Get the power: Ensure that you have 50-60gm of protein each day from fish, poultry, meat and eggs. Vegetarians needn’t fret. To score enough opt for seeds and nuts, legumes, soya (nuggets, tofu, soya milk), and dairy. 

Don’t ban the Carbohydrates

carbo690_060719051111.jpgLess carbohydrate intake can lead to low serotonin levels (Source: Reuters)

Don’t just depend on protein; remember that the much-maligned carbohydrates are equally important. In fact, tryptophan from protein works best when consumed along with some carbohydrates. Why do you think dieters who cut down on carbs tend to become depressed about two weeks into their diet? This is because by that time, their serotonin levels have dropped significantly due to the decreased carbohydrate intake.

Also, complex carbohydrates are broken down slowly by the body, ensuring a slow and steady release of energy into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels constant and your mood upbeat. That’s why curd rice is a perfect comfort food.Get the power: Go for complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, pasta and wholegrain bread and combine with a good source of protein.

Choose good Fats

fatty690_060719051056.jpgA fish diet has copious amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids which help in elevating the mood (Source: Reuters)

Don’t completely cut them off from your diet. ‘Omega-3 fats from fish and flax seeds act upon an area in the brain that leads to improved mood and attitude among healthy people. Eating good fats delivers a feeling of health and vigour.

Get the power: The Omega-3s in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, black pomfret, surmai, singhara, hilsa, rohu have the most potent “stay-happy” effects. But if you’re a vegetarian, get your fuel from plant sources such as walnuts, sesame and flaxseed (alsi). You’ll get more goodness out of them by grinding them first and sprinkling them on cereal, soups and salads.

Get the ‘C’ advantage

Don’t forget THE good old Vitamin C! It’s vital for the production of serotonin, and so IT is a key aid to putting you in a good mood.

Get the power: Amla, guavas, strawberries, kiwi and citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and lemon are good sources of this mood-elevating vitamin.

Collect Choline

B vitamins, especially choline – a super nutrient that transmits nerve impulses from the brain to the nervous system – are vital for our mental health. Low levels of choline are associated with a lack of concentration and poor memory. Choline is a precursor to the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is linked to memory. Get the power: Egg yolk, chicken, soya and liver too are rich in choline. 

Feel for Folate

green690_060719051011.jpg Broccoli, spinach and dark-green vegetables help in stabilizing the levels of folic acid (Source: Reuters)

Deficiency of folate or folic acid causes serotonin levels in the brain to dip – and this has been linked to depression too.

Get the power: Folic acid can be found in lentils; dried beans and peas; dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, bhindi, citrus fruit and juice.

Secure Selenium

A link between low levels of selenium in the brain has been established with increased anxiety, depression and fatigue. This element also acts as an antioxidant.

Get the Power: Get your daily dose by eating tuna, sunflower seeds, wholegrain cereals, wheat germ, eggs and dairy products.

Also Read: Eating insects to save the planet? Research suggests lab-grown insect meat could be the most sustainable way forward

Writer

Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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