Whether you get your calories in the form of a triple-decker cheeseburger or a spinach salad, food is fuel and we each need a certain number of calories every day to function. The problem is that our bodies suffer when we consume low quality calories, such as foods high in fat and low in nutritional value. An unhealthy diet taxes the body’s organs, weakens the immune system, and opens the door to illness and disease.
Food not only determines your energy levels and health, it also impacts your state of mind. Certain foods contain key elements that help produce powerful brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepiephrine, and serotonin have been proven to enhance memory, increase performance, improve sleep and boost your overall outlook on life. Eating healthier can actually improve your mood.
Here are some examples:
- High-Quality Carbohydrates: High-quality carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, legumes, brown or wild rice, and oatmeal can decrease dramatic swings in energy and hunger. These prompt the release of serotonin in the brain, enhance calmness, lessen negative feelings and improve outlook.
It’s also important to limit your intake of refined starches such as white bread, white rice, crackers and bagels. While these are filled with sugar to provide a quick boost of energy, they’re digested very quickly.
- Vitamin B: Vitamin B12 and folate can play an important role in serotonin production. Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include shellfish, wild salmon, lean beef, low-fat dairy products and eggs. Increase folate levels with fortified breakfast cereals, soybeans, oatmeal, broccoli, sunflower seeds, and oranges.
- Protein: Including heart-healthy lean protein, such as poultry, seafood, round or loin cuts of red meat, tofu, eggs, and low-fat dairy products in your diet provides long-term satisfaction and reduces dips in blood sugar. Digesting protein also helps you feel more alert and focused.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids can increase the gray matter volume in areas of the brain that are linked to mood and behavior. To boost your gray matter, consume oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, soy nuts and fortified eggs are also good.
- Fiber: Flaxseeds, oats, barley, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, peas and beans are all good sources of fiber. Consuming foods high in soluble fiber slows down the absorption of sugar in your blood stream and helps sustain energy levels over a longer period of time.
- H2O: Staying hydrated is important to your overall health. Many of us go hours without taking a sip of water. Keep a bottle by your side to help you stay alert and focused throughout the day. Dehydration can cause extreme fatigue.
- Vitamin D: While Vitamin D may increase levels of serotonin in the brain, foods rich in Vitamin D are hard to come by. Taking a multivitamin to reach the recommended daily allowance can help. Check with your doctor before starting.
- Chocolate: Chocolate releases your feel good hormones and just an ounce of dark chocolate can boost both energy and mood.
If you’re feeling lethargic and cranky for days or weeks at a time, the problem could be your diet. Choosing the right foods can improve your mood and help you enjoy a healthier life.
In cooperation with NAEBAFollow @jpfarleycorp