Do you crave a bar of chocolate when you are feeling low or weepy? This is not because you have a weak will power, but because you have low levels of certain brain chemicals [endorphins like serotonin and norepinephrine] that make you feel emotionally strong. These chemicals are mainly found in foods that are rich in sugar and carbohydrates such as chocolates and biscuits. That’s why you feel happy when you eat them.
While this high is temporary, here are some healthy ways to boost your mood:
- Include herbal drinks such as lemon, ginger, ice tea or herbal teas in your daily diet. At the same time, limit your caffeine intake. Excess caffeine causes water retention and slows metabolism.
- Drink lots of fluids like water or fruit juices.
- Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids as a dip in these leads to depression. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines; flaxseed; sesame and pumpkin seeds; soy beans, almonds and walnuts. Use oils such as sesame, mustard and olive for cooking as they are rich in poly- and monounsaturated fats. These oils contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and are also heart- friendly.
- Eat a diet rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that increases levels of the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin. Foods like chicken, turkey breast or milk are good sources of tryptophan. To increase the absorption of tryptophan, add complex carbohydrates like oats or whole wheat to your diet.
In addition to the foods, make it a point to exercise. It helps to lift your mood by releasing endorphins. Exercise, in particular, helps women who are feeling low due to excess weight gain.
A healthy mood-enhancing diet should consist of…
- Whole wheat bread with low-sugar fruit spread/mixed fruit jam.
- A bowl of oatmeal with some raisins, or honey-coated flakes in milk accompanied with fruits like banana [rich in antioxidants and minerals].
- Peanut butter or jelly sandwich and reduced-fat milk.
- Use honey instead of sugar. And include whole grain breads while avoiding refined foods like white bread and pasta.
- 4 – 5 servings of green leafy vegetables, rich in B vitamins and antioxidants like agathi [agasthi], amaranth [chauli leaves], colacasia leaves [patra], spinach, cabbage and broccoli.
- People with a low intake of certain amino acids are more likely to feel low. Hence, get adequate amounts of protein by including milk and milk products, fish, egg whites, and beans like soy beans, kidney beans and chick peas in your diet. You could make chapattis of soy flour instead of wheat.
- Avoid heavy and late night dinners as they may cause acidity, gas formation and disturbed sleep, which in turn affect your mood.
- Fruit custard with jelly or a bowl of mixed fruits with honey and yoghurt.
- An occasional sweet, cake, chocolate or piece of fresh bread won’t hurt.
However, follow a healthy eating pattern. It will help you both physiologically and psychologically.
This was first published in the August 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.