Mood Food- What to Eat for Happiness and Vitality
Throughout our lives, most of us have formed strong emotional attachments to food. We often crave the comforts of home cooked meals, such as mac-and-cheese, chili, and homemade desserts that remind us of childhood. During celebratory occasions, we typically reach for libations and delicious appetizers that are tied to fond memories. Digging into a pint of your favorite ice cream after a particularly stressful day is not completely unheard of. That’s just me? Oh.
Since the bonds we have with these foods are so strong, it’s no surprise that when trying to migrate to a more natural and healthy lifestyle, our bodies undergo a withdrawal period that quite frankly sucks. You may begin to feel tired, irritable, cranky, unfocused, and even nauseated. While these symptoms do go away if you’re able to push through your first couple of weeks, they’re often enough to deter folks away from their lifestyle change, and back into the land of cheese fries and powdered donuts.
As with everything in life, your diet is about balance. I’m not of the rigid school of thought that you should never enjoy the less-than-healthy foods you love, but I do believe that you should strive to provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs way more often than not. I’m also moving away from associating food with guilt which is very unhealthy, and a topic that I will continue exploring through my writings and research.
So, what are we to eat when experiencing tiredness, crankiness, cravings, and withdrawals? These feelings can be indicative of lack of certain nutrients in our system. When you’re feeling:
The number one things that has improved my energy levels has been dramatically reducing and nearly eliminating the amount of starch and processed sugar/carbohydrates in my diet. That’s because these foods spike your blood sugar and inevitably lead to an energy crash. These highs and lows are hard on your body and make it difficult to maintain consistent energy. Think about how you feel after a Thanksgiving meal and dessert: sleepy, bloated, and ready to fall asleep on the couch (pants unbuttoned) while a game of football watches you. While you may not be eating full holiday meals on a regular basis, plenty of foods we consume daily (sugary cereals, candy, pastries, white flour) can lead to the same crash.
Try incorporating high fiber foods into your diet that slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, slows down digestion, and can lower cholesterol.
Cranky & Depressed
Studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids can boost your mood, help relieve anxiety, improve the quality of your sleep, and ease inflammation in the body. Try to add some of the following to your weekly meals to experience the full range of health benefits. The healthy fats will also help keep you fuller longer.
Other things that I find extremely helpful when feeling out of sorts and low-energy are:
Staying hydrated (plenty of water, green tea, infused water, unsweetened beverages)
Yoga and stretching
Getting plenty of sleep
Of course, there is no “one size fits all” approach to health and wellness so experiment and listen to your body. It will respond and let you know what’s working and what’s not. Your approach does not have to mirror anyone else’s as long as you’re happy and healthy.