Change Your Mood With Food
The latter part of January marks the most depressing time of the year. It’s a time when all the Christmas bills come in and you’re faced with the hard evidence of your (over)spending. Winter has set in with all of the cold, snow and shortened days that it brings. No wonder most people start to feel a bit down. But, there’s a way to change all that. Put an end to those winter blues by switching up your diet.
By consuming mood boosting brain food you can keep the blues at bay this winter, and beyond. That’s right – mood foods = healthy brain = good mood.
Loosely defined, mood foods are foods that are wholesome and natural, and that contain specific vitamins and nutrients that have a direct impact on brain function. When combined with regular exercise most people will experience a noticeable upswing in mood. “Most people make the connection between food and its affects on their physical body but overlook the profound affect it has on their overall mood. People need to shift their mindset and habits and start eating to feed their brain,” says Patricia, personal chef and founder of Mood Food Culinary.
Food for thought: are you feeding your brain?
To determine if you are eating to feed your brain, answer the following five questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Do your eating habits remain fairly consistent throughout the seasons of the year?
Do you have trouble concentrating or feel sluggish after lunch?
Do you consume foods/beverages that are high in sugar or caffeine for an instant energy boost?
Do you wake up tired even after sleeping at least seven straight hours?
Do you eat until your stomach feels full to ensure you are fuelled for the day?
“If you answered ‘yes’ to three or more of these questions, you may not be feeding your brain the vital nutrients it needs to keep your mood and energy levels elevated,” says Patricia. “Eating foods that help
maintain balanced brain chemistry throughout the day reduces the desire for an instant, and temporary, sugar fix and keeps you feeling satisfied, alert and calm.”
“The seasonal drop in sunlight affects our brain chemistry which leads to a change in brain functions, such as concentration and mood,” says Patricia. “The key to healthy brain chemistry lies in knowing how and what foods impact brain health. Mood foods are important year-round, but especially during the winter months when the potential for depression or ‘moodiness’ is much higher.”
“Antioxidants and flavonoids protect brain and neuron function thus heightening thinking ability and alertness while complex carbohydrates and B vitamins are critical for balanced serotonin levels which can increase optimism and improve sleep,” says Patricia. “Drastically changing eating habits, or replacing certain foods with healthier alternatives can sometimes be a challenge. Especially after the holidays, as many people find themselves coming off an eating frenzy of rich, decadent foods. By eating a certain way for an extended period of time, we end up creating an internal blueprint. Our brain comes to expect certain habits, and when it is deprived of those rituals, it sends out a ‘signal’ in the form of an emotion, for example moodiness, or craving.”
It takes an average of 28 days to change a blueprint, according to Patricia. “It is important to gradually make changes without excessively alarming the brain. Eating good mood foods eases the brain from any stress it undergoes while changing eating patterns. It needs the glucose from complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables to keep it going, and any other nourishing vitamins and minerals will further enhance its performance.”
Between the months of October and April, it is estimated that 2 to 3 out of every 100 Canadians (approximately between 680,000 and one million Canadians) suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), episodes of depression that usually occur during winter. Approximately 15 per cent (more than five million Canadians) have the ‘winter blues’ experiencing less severe symptoms including low energy, withdrawal and anxiety. These numbers are based on reported cases only, which suggests that the number of Canadians suffering from SAD or the ‘winter blues’ may in fact be higher. (Canadian Mental Health Association)