Can your diet improve your mood?
As with many proverbs, there is a lot of truth in the saying “You are what you eat” and the benefits of a healthy diet on your physical well-being cannot be denied. Can your diet also have an effect your mood?
There are many good reasons for saying "you are what you eat". Even in conventional medicine, a method called diet therapy is suggested in some cases and alternative medicine uses this treatment to a much greater extent. However, as prevention is better and easier than cure, it is worth taking some steps to keep healthy and in a good mood for many years. Furthermore, they are not at all difficult to follow. What should we do to make sure that we are bursting with vitality and optimism?
The sun vitamin
We must start with vitamin D3, otherwise known as the "sun vitamin". It is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. A deficiency can lead to a decrease in immunity, general weakening of the body and a deterioration of our mood. Until recently, it was only recommended for children but today we can confidently say that the world is crazy about this vitamin and the benefits it brings to our body. Its importance for the skeletal system in the prevention of osteoporosis has been known for a long time. The effect of this vitamin on the immune system and its anti-inflammatory effects are also known. Many years ago, vitamin D3 was given to people suffering from tuberculosis, and people living in areas lacking in sunlight consumed cod liver oil. Scientists have also proved that its level is also important in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes (it affects the functions of the pancreas, including normal insulin secretion), cardiovascular diseases (arteriosclerosis, ischemic heart disease or hypertension) and in autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis). In addition, it turns out that it is also crucial for our well-being. It is worth doing a blood test, to find out how much of this beneficial vitamin we currently have in our body. The 25 (OH) D3 test is not too expensive and is readily available for each of us, more importantly there is no need to prepare for the examination by fasting.
Vitamin D3 is also present in some foods. Its sources are: full-fat milk and dairy products including mature cheese, eggs, liver and vegetable oils. However, oily sea fish such as eel, salmon, herring and mackerel provide the greatest amount. Exposure to the sun is of great importance for its synthesis. However, living in northern latitudes is not favourable, particularly during the dark winter days. So what should you do? There is nothing else we can do but take supplements. However, the question arises of which vitamin to choose and in what doses? The safest option is to look for ones classified as medicine. This classification means that it contains exactly what the manufacturer says on the packaging. Drugs have a huge advantage over supplements as they undergo a series of rigorous tests before they are approved for distribution. Regardless of whether you choose drops or tablets, always consume them with a meal. Vitamin D is absorbed into the body through the help of fats. Before starting to take supplements, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They will certainly help in choosing the right dose.
Another commonly forgotten aspect is hydration. Lacking the right amount of fluids may also lead to a lowering of our mood. Water is present in all cells, organs and tissues of the body and does so much for us. It stimulates the body, flushes out toxins, helps to oxygenate and reduce headaches, it enables metabolic processes, and facilitates the absorption of nutrients. It's also worth mentioning that most of us confuse feeling thirsty for feeling hungry. This is because the brain's hunger and satiety centres are in the same area - the hypothalamus. Our body is used to the fact that we provide it with fluids with a meal. Often times, the signs we feel as hunger are actually signals about thirst. So, rather than reach for a snack, have a glass of water instead. There are several types of water: mineral, spring, table and healing water. Recently, tap water is being enjoyed by more and more people. It is cheap, available and more often than not drinkable. It is worth finding out if we can safely drink such water where we live. Our planet will surely feel the difference in the amount of plastic produced. If, after 15 minutes, the hunger has not subsided, your body is really craving food. Then we can prepare a meal.
Balance is what counts
A diet that positively affects the mood is also a balanced diet, providing the right amount of energy and nutrients. However, our culture and traditions may not be conducive to this at all. We eat a lot of simple carbohydrates, which cause a rapid release of insulin in our body and then its equally rapid decrease. Recently, more and more people are having problems with sugar levels. Insulin resistance, reactive hyperglycaemia or type II diabetes - all these metabolic disorders are related to the work of the pancreas and insulin metabolism. What exactly is insulin resistance? Simply put, it is the body's decreased sensitivity to insulin, which is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Although the risk of this disease is higher amongst people who are overweight and obese, it can affect anyone. If you struggle with migraines, feel sleepy and tired, and have difficulty concentrating, these could be symptoms of insulin resistance. Fluctuations in sugar levels therefore have a number of effects on our mood. It is especially visible in the case of hypo and hyperglycaemia. With low sugar levels we can be apathetic, sad and lethargic. On the other hand, hyperglycaemia can be a cause of irritation and nervousness. We can also feel the effects of these fluctuations at night. Nightmares, waking up, and excessive sweating may also be related to sugar levels.
There are many publications on this issue on our market such as "The Insulin-Resistance Diet-Revised and Updated: How to Turn Off Your Body's Fat-Making Machine” by Cheryle Hart (MD), Mary Kay Grossman (RD), which is worth a read. You will be surprised at how small modifications are enough to make well-known dishes acquire completely different nutritional values. The simplest test to find out if our glucose and insulin levels are correct is the so-called HOMA-IR. It is a laboratory test for which we need to fast beforehand. Remember not to enjoy a liqueur or anything else containing a lot of sugar the day before the test as it will certainly affect the result. Given these two parameters, we can calculate HOMA-IR. Such calculators are available on the Internet and we can use them free of charge. Once you have the results, consult a general practitioner who, if necessary, may refer you to a diabetologist. Pharmacotherapy is undoubtedly effective, but at some stage we are able to avoid it thanks to a healthy diet and exercise. Therefore, pay special attention to the ubiquitous sugar and its derivatives and try to eliminate it from our diet. If we really need a sweet taste, replace sugar with erythritol. It does not cause insulin bursts, its glycemic index is 0 and the caloric content is negligible.
Don't forget about other micronutrients that affect our mood. B vitamins relieve tension, add energy, and (mainly vitamin B6) participate in the synthesis of serotonin. Their sources include: yeast, groats, fish, dark bread, green vegetables and shoots. Magnesium, which helps nerve cells, can be found in grain products, seeds, nuts and green vegetables. Calcium regulates and supports the work of the nervous system, influencing our good mood. Its source is, of course, milk and its products.
Time for breakfast
To finish with, here's a breakfast recipe to ensure you start your day in a great mood, and remain feeling full for a long time. The ingredients are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients.
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 1/2 an avocado
- 1/2 a red pepper
- 80 g Chinese cabbage
- lemon juice
- 10ml olive oil
Eggs are low in calories and contain as many as 13 vitamins (including A, E, D, K and B2, B9 and B12), protein and antioxidants. They are also a source of minerals: phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium and iodine. Eating eggs in the morning provides the body with the necessary nutrients for the day. In addition to numerous nutritional properties, avocados also have a magical property - they allow you to control your appetite. Scientists have found that eating half an avocado reduces the urge to snack between meals. Red pepper is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an ideal antioxidant. Chinese cabbage is rich in the aforementioned magnesium and calcium as well as iron and potassium. Do not forget about vitamin D3, which will be perfectly absorbed with such a breakfast.
Enjoy your meal! ;-)