We've heard the expression “you are what you eat.” So if you find yourself cranky, tired and even clinically depressed, you may be able to boost your mood by changing what you eat and when you eat. Nutritionist Joy Bauer explains how to do it.
If you find yourself cranky, irritable and quick to snap at friends, family and coworkers, a better eating plan may be just what you need! The following strategies will stabilize your blood sugars and hopefully level out your mood.
Strategies to control blood sugars
Eat every 4 to 5 hours: Eating consistently throughout the day provides your brain and body with a constant source of fuel. This 4-5 hour eating strategy can dramatically prevent dips in your blood sugar levels. Some people with diagnosed hypoglycemia may need to eat even more frequently (every 2-3 hours).
Limit refined carbohydrates to help lessen volatile blood sugar swings: Concentrated sources of sugar like soda, candy, fruit juice, jam and syrup can create radical spikes (and drops) in your blood sugar, which leaves you feeling cranky and tired. And although refined, white starch like white bread, crackers, bagels and rice do not naturally contain sugar compounds, they are metabolized into sugar very quickly and can often create the same effect.
Instead include high-quality carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruit, beans, peas, lentils, brown and wild rice and oatmeal.
Incorporate soluble fiber: Foods rich in soluble fiber have the ability to slow down the absorption of sugar in your blood and therefore, potentially lessen blood sugar and mood swings. Incorporate oats, brown rice, barley, apples, pears, strawberries, oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas and beans into your diet.
Incorporate protein with meals and snacks (whenever possible): The addition of protein to a meal will help slow the absorption of carbohydrate in the blood. This can help leave you feeling upbeat and productive for hours after eating. Smart protein choices include poultry, seafood and fish, veal, pork tenderloin, tofu, eggs and low-fat yogurt.
Three specific nutrients to incorporate
Significant work is being conducted in the area of omega-3 fatty acids on mental performance. omega-3 fatty acids are present in the brain at higher levels than any other part of the body, and although this area has not been thoroughly researched, several review papers fully support the omega-3 use in psychiatry. Of particular interest is the ability of omega-3 fats to be mood lifting and to help possibly alleviate depression. Certainly a nutrient worth considering, but always speak with your physician before starting with supplements.
Foods rich in omega-3 fats include: oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), ground flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs.
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Folic acid and B12
Two B vitamins — folate and vitamin B12 — seem to be important for mood. Studies have shown that low blood levels of these vitamins are sometimes related to depression, although no one is exactly sure why. Some scientists believe that these vitamins are used by the body to create seratonin, one of the key neurotransmitters that help normalize mood.
If you suffer from a mood disorder, it is important to continue to follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations, but you may want to consider taking a multivitamin with appropriate amounts of folate and B12, in addition to your antidepressant medications. Of course, eating a diet rich in these nutrients is important for maintaining mood, even if you are not clinically depressed.
Foods rich in folate: fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, oatmeal, mustard greens, beets, broccoli, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and oranges.
Foods rich in vitamin B12: shellfish (clams, oysters, crab), wild salmon (fresh or canned), fortified whole-grain breakfast cereal, lean beef, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, milk (skim, skim plus, 1% reduced-fat) and eggs.
In the past few years, research has suggested that vitamin D might help relieve mood disorders because it seems to increase the amounts of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters responsible for mood. In particular, vitamin D seems to help the type of depression called “seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” or the winter blues.
Foods rich in vitamin D: fish with bones, fat free and low-fat milk, fortified soy milk and egg yolks. Because vitamin D-rich foods are so limited, it’s often beneficial to take a daily multivitamin which provides 400 IU.
For more information on healthy eating, visit Joy Bauer’s web site at http://www.joybauernutrition.com/.
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