As promised, today we’re going to look a bit more closely at the relationship between food and mood – zooming in on the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Did you know you know that eating that piece of cake or pie can make you tired or depressed and that eating carrots and celery sticks can fill you with energy and vitality?
Samantha Heller, a dietician and clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, on an episode of “The Early Show” offers the skinny on how food can affect your mood.
Bodies are like chemistry sets, she says. Everything you put in your body has a chemical effect, which is why food can affect your mood. It gets broken down into elements that can raise your blood sugar or drop it rapidly.
Heller says, “That banana you’re eating, we forget about it but the chemicals in the banana affect us, good or ill. There are chemicals like caffeine that affect the neurotransmitters and affect whether we feel good or bad or energetic or tired.”
A big dose of caffeine might make you feel better in the short term – but that’s not a healthy way to energize yourself. She explains you can become jittery and dependent on that caffeine. (Yes, we know that!)
And beware of white grains and sugars as well. Heller says, “The problem with white grains like white bread, white pasta, white highly sugared cereals is right after you eat it, it spikes up your blood sugar. Then your body compensates by pulling your blood sugar down. A lot of us have to have that bagel (hidden sugar alert!) or pastry and midmorning we get tanked and tired and fatigued and are running off to get more coffee. That becomes a cycle. What we want to do is fill our body with healthy fuel to keep that blood sugar, keep that energy level as consistent throughout the day as possible.”
As you eat healthier and your body does not have to deal with fighting the bad things eat, Heller notes, it is able to run more efficiently and you feel happier. If it doesn’t have to keep controlling your blood sugar by producing insulin, it is not working as hard.
Here is a list of foods to add to your diet and foods to avoid:
Non-fat dairy products
Foods to Moderate or Eliminate
As for comfort food, Heller says if you need it, maybe you’re feeling stress. The issue with comfort food is it tastes good immediately and distracts you from your mood. On occasion, it’s OK to do that, but you can’t do that every day.
But you can eat healthy comfort food. For macaroni and cheese, you can make it with whole grain pasta and non-fat cheese. It will make you feel good – and it won’t have the effect of raising your blood sugar the way regular macaroni and cheese would.
As for chocolate, bitter chocolate has some healthy components. But there’s really not enough of that in chocolate to make a real difference. You need to get healthy fats in your diet like olive oil and flax seed oil.
It may seem like I’m throwing a lot of information at you and hoping some of it sticks. And you’re absolutely right! Change of any kind is a process, with a learning curve and time needed to incorporate new ideas and habits. You WILL eat that piece of chocolate cake. But like Mr. Orange Man, you will then pick yourself back up and carry on…with new, healthier behaviors. I may sound like a broken record, but it’s ok to be gentle with ourselves and patient. A “beeper” tendency, well, a human one, is to want everything RIGHT NOW. But that’s the great thing about goals – they can be modified to factor in “life getting in the weigh”. Pat yourself on the back for your sucesses, learn from your “nots”, and then let them go!