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  • Angelique Smith

Reducing Stress and Improving our mood through Food

What is the first thing that you do when you are stressed or feeling sad?

Often, we tend to reach for unhealthy snacks when we are feeling down or very stressed or for some they tend to rather skip meals.

Thinking back to a time when you were feeling sad and ate a bar of chocolate, how long did you feel better for?

Often that feeling of happiness doesn’t last very long, it actually can leave you feeling worse than before and leave you feeling tired. Unfortunately, there are no foods that you can eat that will improve your negative mood, but certain foods can assist us in reducing the intensity of those negative feelings we experience which is why it is important to eat healthy as part of your lifestyle and not just for a week or two.

Managing your blood sugar levels, getting in enough omega 3 and magnesium as well as gut health all has an influence on your mood.

Now you might wonder why your blood sugar levels are important to monitor and the reason for this is that when you consume a lot of sugar, your body’s glucose levels spike and then rapidly drop. If this is happening regularly during the day, it will affect your mood, increase your irritability, cause moodiness, tiredness, worsen your concentration levels and can also cause more cravings. Therefore, it is important to maintain constant blood sugar levels without those sugar spikes and dips. The best way to maintain healthy and constant blood sugar levels is to keep your caffeine intake to below 300mg per day because it is a stimulant, eat smaller and more regular meals, avoid skipping meals, limit foods that are high in added sugar and rather choose complex carbohydrates that are high in fibre than refined carbohydrates that are processed.

Omega 3 is another important factor because omega 3 decreases inflammation in your body, including neuroinflammation which also improves certain mood disorders like depression. Omega 3 is found in oily fish which includes sardines, pilchards, mackerel, trout and salmon. Oily fish should be consumed a minimum of three times a week if it is a 90g portion. Due to oily fish being so expensive, sometimes it is difficult to reach that amount which is when an omega 3 supplement is then recommended. Not all supplements have enough EPA and DHA which is crucial for decreasing inflammation. The supplement should contain minimum 1000mg of EPA and DHA combined.

The next factor that influences your mood is magnesium. Magnesium helps you to sleep better at night and often helps you have a deeper and more restorative sleep. This maintains a healthy level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a neurotransmitter that reduces mental and physical stress, anxiety and induces sleep which in turn improves your mood. Certain foods contain magnesium naturally and these include pumpkin and chia seeds, wholegrain cereals that include barley and buckwheat, nuts, green leafy vegetables, pulses and dried figs.

The last factor and something I’m sure you have heard of is serotonin which is known as the happy brain messenger. It stabilizes our feelings of well-being, mood and happiness. When individuals have low levels of serotonin, they often suffer with mood disorders such as depression.

About 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut which is why gut health is so important because your gut health has a huge influence on your mood. To improve your gut health it is important to ensure that you drink at least 6 glasses of water a day, consume fruits and vegetables and foods high in dietary fibre, take a probiotic supplement regularly or consume fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, mageu regularly. Certain foods can also support and increase the natural production of serotonin such as bananas, avocado’s, tomatoes and small doses of about 1g of the amino acid tryptophan. 1g of tryptophan is found in 300g of fish, 200g of ricotta cheese/lean protein and 200g of soya beans which is then converted to molecules which increase the serotonin levels in the body.

These days, a large amount of people suffer with mental health issues and are depressed, extremely stressed and anxious. It is important to avoid that quick mood fix from eating a chocolate and rather consume a healthy balanced diet that will support your mood regularity in the long term through following the tips provided above.

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