Food – How Our Food Affects The Way We Feel

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As human beings, we often eat simply because of the way we are feeling. Perhaps we eat when we are feeling down, moody, or in a state of anxiety, not simply because we’re really hungry. But there is abundant evidence that demonstrates our emotions may also be the result of the foods we eat.

Many people reach for comfort foods like bread and chocolate when feeling down, anxious, depressed, or experiencing fatigue, but some foods also have a direct effect on brain function, brain chemistry and cognitive performance. Carbohydrates do provide increased energy in the form of blood glucose, which feeds the brain, and increases mental acuity and mood balance. But the brain, like the rest of the body needs more than just carbs. It needs healthy fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Becoming more versed in which foods will deliver the best nutrition for your emotions and moods will aid you in nourishing your nervous system and restoring inner vibrancy.
Happy Food, Sad Food
Some foods alter brain chemistry in a way that is similar to some prescription medications. Prozac is one of the best known and most commonly prescribed prescription medications for mood and nervous difficulties such as anxiety and depression, supposedly working by altering serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that powerfully influences how we feel emotionally. It is thought that making serotonin more available to brain will have a beneficial effect on difficulties such as depression, anxiety states, insomnia, over eating and so on. But there are other, more natural ways of increasing serotonin levels, without resorting to chemicals and prescription drugs.
The naturally occurring amino acid ‘tryptophan’ is the precursor, the key ingredient, to manufacturing serotonin in the body. By providing the diet with more foods rich in tryptophan, it is possible to increase serotonin levels naturally. Soy bean and soy bean products, such as tofu and soy milk; lentils, chickpeas and beans, nuts, seeds; fresh vegetables such as beats, kelp, spirulina, potato skins, and fruits such as mangos, dates, bananas all contain tryptophan and are excellent sources of this important amino acid. Including these foods in your diet may be the first step in brightening a low mood, alleviating anxiety, and providing more positive support for the central nervous system.
Your Big, Fat Brain
No one likes being told they have a fat brain, but it is actually a good thing. The human brain consists of high amounts of polyunsaturated fats, including the famous omega-3 essential fatty acids that you find in fish oil and some nut and seed oils. Omega-3 is required by the nervous system so that nerve cells can conduct messages and electrical signals to each other. So it is no surprise that low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, while supplementing with omega-3 directly improves how a person feels emotionally, and how well the brain functions as a whole. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study conducted by the Medical University of Vienna in Austria during 2012, volunteers suffering from psychosis experienced a huge reduction in negative emotional symptoms, including anxiety after they were given omega-3 supplements for 12 weeks. While the participants were using omega-3 supplements, you can also improve the entire diet by including health-promoting omega-3-rich foods such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, chia seeds, flax seeds, and sea vegetables.
In my next article, ‘Food and The Mind – The Gut-Brain Connection’, I’ll discuss nutrients we may be missing that are essential for our mental and emotional wellbeing, and also talk about the important gut-brain connection and its impact on the way we feel and function, emotionally and mentally. Be sure to look out for it!
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information contained in the article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice or treatment. If you have a condition requiring medical attention be sure to consult your doctor or health advisor. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you’re taking prescription medication before attempting to reduce dosage or discontinue its use.
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