Your food choices can either make you anxious or inversely help you cope with everyday situations. Food, by changing the chemistry of your body and brain, can affect your cognitive functions and your mental health. Here are 5 essential tips to reduce your stress, balance your energy level and improve your mood.
1. Eat a balanced diet
Research indicates that in order to regulate your energy level and balance your mood, you should eat a diet rich in whole, natural foods, such as the Mediterranean style diet.
It is also important to learn how to balance your blood sugar. Loss of glycemic control is linked to stress, anxiety, and even depression. If eating well can positively influence mood, making poor food choices can have the opposite effect. A study by researchers at the University of Binghamton in New York, USA, found that young adults under 30 who ate fast food more than three times a week scored higher in their level of mental distress (1).
2. Avoid stimulants
Excessive consumption of stimulants (tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar, energy drinks, chocolate, tobacco …) can cause nervousness, anxiety and sleep problems. The excessive consumption of caffeine from coffee, but also energy drinks or cola drinks affects on the nervous system and represents a stressful event for the body. One to two hours after taking two to three cups of coffee, we see an increase in the production of stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol).
3. Consume omega-3 fats
Omega-3s are the most essential fats for your mood and brain function. There are two main types that we can only find in our diet: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA allows the manufacture of neurotransmitters and has beneficial effects on depression and mood disorders while DHA is the main fatty acid present in neuronal membranes.
Many studies have shown that optimal intake of omega-3 improves mood and brain function. A study conducted in the United States on patients on antidepressants was to give them a supplement EPA. After three weeks, the depressed patients already showed a major improvement in their mood versus the placebo (2).
Few of us consume enough omega-3s in our diet. Oily fish such as sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel, and salmon are the richest dietary sources of EPA and DHA. There are also omega-3s in plants such as nuts, flaxseed, and chia, however, our body has a harder time synthesizing them.
To feel your best, it is important not to let
stress govern you, and to cultivate your wellbeing on a daily basis.
4. Be aware of your sleep needs
Mood and sleep have a lot in common. Lack of sleep has a significant impact on your wellbeing and your performance. The amino acid tryptophan, is a precursor to serotonin, and also melatonin, the sleep hormone. In the evening, when you relax, your serotonin level increases and your adrenaline level decreases. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin in the brain and allows the sleep/wake cycle to happen. The production of melatonin can be completely slowed down, or suppressed, by light. Prolonged exposure to the light of a smartphone, computer or TV can disrupt the production of melatonin by the brain and keep you awake longer at night.
To improve your quantity and quality of sleep, you can also provide your body with the building blocks needed for serotonin production. Tryptophan is present in most protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, and milk. You will also find tryptophan in bananas, legumes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
5. Leisure time is soul food
Do something you enjoy every day, like listening to music or dancing. Get moving. Exercise boosts the production of feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Any form of exercise can reduce stress. Practicing “relaxing” activities will allow you to break the vicious cycle of stress and will put you back on the virtuous circle of wellbeing. These have a calming effect not only on the mind but also on your hormonal and immune balance. To feel your best, it is important not to let stress govern you, but to cultivate your wellbeing on a daily basis.
Periods of low mood can be almost eradicated by following those 5 simple steps. If you would like to find out more about how a nutrition & lifestyle programme can help you balance your mood…
Click below to book a COMPLIMENTARY 30-MINUTE CALL with me. I will share my best tips and let you know which foods you should be eating more (or less) to support mental health.
(1) Begdache, L., Chaar, M., Sabounchi, N. and Kianmehr, H. (2017). Assessment of dietary factors, dietary practices and exercise on mental distress in young adults versus matured adults: A cross-sectional study. Nutritional Neuroscience, [online] pp.1-11. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1028415x.2017.1411875 [Accessed 3 Jan. 2019].
(2) Nemets, Stahl et al. : Addition of omega-3 fatty acid to maintenance medication treatment for recurrent unipolar depressive disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Mar;159(3):477-9.