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The Nutrition and Mood Connection

Ever experienced a great day at work yet you still feel grumpy?  Look no further. It may have something to do with the food you eat.

Health and fitness experts say the food we consume affect the neurotransmitters in our brain. They communicate between nerve cells and control mood, appetite, thoughts and behaviours.  

According to registered dieticians Jennifer Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky, omega-3 fatty acids,  magnesium, tryptophan, folate,  B vitamins, low glycaemic foods and chocolate have all been studied in terms of their impact on an individuals’ mood. Results are mixed but they seem to point to an indirect link to improved mood.

Nelson and Zertasky emphasise that nutritious eating habits fuel the body in such a way that mood is also revitalised and restored.  For instance, eating fresh produce and whole grains throughout the day are sure to stabilise your blood sugar levels which can help improve your mood.

Another example is ensuring that you also get your recommended quantity of carbohydrates and protein will boost serotonin levels in your body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is said to produce a calming effect.

Fatty acids also play a key role in regulating memory and mood. Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids improve brain function and performance. They are of great help in boosting a person’s intelligence and memory. Studies also show that these help reduce levels of depression.

Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:

·         Oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, herring and sardines

·         Fruits such as avocadoes and olives

·         Raw nuts and seeds

Nutritionist Joy Bauer says the B vitamins folate and B12 are important for mood enhancement. Some studies suggest a deficiency in these B vitamins are sometimes related to depression for no apparent reason. Foods rich in folate include fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, soybeans, oatmeal, oranges and broccoli.  If you want a Vitamin B12 fix, resort to eating shellfish, wild salmon, lean beef, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt and eggs.

Bauer also adds foods which are fortified with Vitamin D may help relieve mood disorders because of their ability to boost serotonin levels. Vitamin D-rich foods include fish with bones, fat-free and low-fat milk, fortified soy milk and egg yolks.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a deficiency in essential nutrients can cause the body’s nerves to perform differently which results in mood swings and behaviour changes.

These mood swings are mainly brought about by poor food choices, overeating or following certain diets which are flawed in nature.  For instance, an imbalance in serotonin levels because of bad nutrition habits can result in some behavioural problems such as hyperactivity and even violence.

 A bad nutrition choice would be in the form of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and chips.  Loading up on empty calories such as these may result in fatigue, mood swings and reduced physical activity.

As a simple parting shot, your food choices do matter in terms of improving your mood. With this in mind, make sure to stock up on fresh produce and food sources which are rich in whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D to be one step ahead of any unwanted mood swing.   




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