Squash Anger and Food Swings: Becoming “Good-Mood Food” Fortified
Dec 30, 2013 06:19PM
By Paul Huljich
Don’t let stress and bad moods bring you down
Foods can affect our moods chemically with regard to alertness and our emotional states. My research concerns a holistic approach to nutrition, paying added attention to how what we eat affects our neurochemistry. It is very important that we support a healthy neurochemical balance, and it is vital to take a proactive step toward managing our stress. When we are stressed out, emotional eating is triggered like an automatic response. Every one of us has a different tolerance for stress and stress threshold and respond in different ways—38 percent of Americans cope with stress by eating.
A balanced and healthy diet is crucial to maintaining good health and overcoming stress. Maybe you crave specific foods because of a certain mood you're in. For example, when stressed, you probably crave either more carbs or sugars, or both. Your brain depends on a number of vitamins and nutrients to keep itself balanced. The basic principle is that the nutrients in food act as precursors to metabolize neurotransmitters in our brains; the more precursors there are, the more neurotransmitters are produced. The foods you put into your body can directly affect your stress and energy levels and help relieve depression, even momentarily.
"Food swing" is a term used to describe the dangerous intersection where hunger and anger collide. One of the primary causes leading to this crash is low blood sugar. Marjorie Nolan, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, explains that “When [blood sugar] is low, the hypothalamus is triggered and levels of several hormones such as growth and hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin are affected. This imbalance then causes a shift in neurotransmitters and suppresses serotonin receptors.” Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate mood and appetite. Cut off your body’s ability to process it, and prepare for some wild mood swings. Anger and extreme frustration are common responses. Serotonin is synthesized within the body with the help of an amino acid called tryptophan; tryptophan is not formed in the body and needs to be supplied by diet. It is one of the 22 standard essential amino acids in the human diet. Thus, boosting your daily diet with foods that are good sources of tryptophan is very important to produce serotonin.
Handling food swings by eating small amounts throughout the day is a remedy recommended by most nutritionists; however, choose to snack on healthy foods or else the effect will be contradictory. There are certain “mood foods” that can help to lift negative moods and fill you with a feeling of happiness and well-being; a diet that is rich in protein, fat and fiber will not only help improve mood, but will also help to stave off hunger and ultimately help you lose weight.
Foods such as bananas, almonds, Brazil nuts, spinach, asparagus, oranges, dark pure chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, turkey and salmon will help improve your mood in two ways. First, they deliver several key nutrients that play a vital role in supporting the brain’s neurochemistry to reduce the risk of anger, fatigue and irritability. Second, they do something equally important: Powerful combinations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help you build up your energy and capacity to handle life from your body’s metabolic and energy pathways from a cellular level.
We as a society should cut out or eat in strict moderation all the C-R-A-P (an acronym for caffeine, refined food, alcohol and processed food). I do not advocate the use of fad diets, counting calories or choosing to eat certain food groups over others. My approach to a healthy diet—outlined in detail in my book Stress Pandemic—is a balanced and practical approach, which first identifies then lists diets based on the “Good-Mood Foods” and eating patterns in your life, while eliminating the bad ones.
In life, we should all aim for healthy eating habits rather than a quick burst of stimulation from a sugar, carb or caffeine fix that ultimately leaves us feeling tired, cranky and depressed.
Paul Huljich is the author of Stress Pandemic at www.stresspandemic.com