Watch your plate!

Watch your plate!

Your food might be influencing your brain and mood

Had an unnecessary showdown with your senior at work? Was your kickboxing class a waste because you were feeling lethargic and lazy throughout? Rewind a little and recall what you’ve been eating all day! Wonder what food has got to do with your mood or energy level? Let’s make this easy for you.

Our brain is always at work, taking care of every thought and movement and enabling us to breathe, keeping our heart beating and ultimately influencing all our senses and our mood. In fact, it is working hard even when the body is at rest. This should make it amply clear that the brain requires a constant supply of fuel which comes from the foods we eat. So if you are eating crap, you are going to feel like crap!

Like a luxury car, a brain functions best when it gets premium quality fuel. Consuming high-quality foods enriched with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourish the brain and guard it against any oxidative stress. Unfortunately, if the body consumes anything beyond premium fuel, it is harmful to the brain. Processed and refined foods worsen the body’s regulation of insulin, promote inflammation and oxidative stress, resulting in impaired brain functioning.

So how do the foods you eat affect how you feel? Certain chemicals in our brain are the regulators of our moods. Serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), for instance, help in regulating our sleep patterns and giving us a healthy appetite. They are also vital for helping us maintain a mental equilibrium and dealing with pain. Dopamine, on the other hand, is well-known as a mediator of pleasure in the brain. All the chemicals in our brain, therefore, need to be in balance for us to feel good, alert and happy!

The intake of healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish is essential for normal brain functioning and mood regulation. Protein-rich foods like fish, chicken and other kinds of meat, eggs, nuts, legumes and protein supplements fuel our bodies with enough amino acids, which are actually converted into brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. Hence, they affect the brain’s functioning to a great extent.

Studies have shown that there are biological pathways through which a traditional diet of fruits and vegetables can also promote good mood and healthy brain functioning. Such a diet increases the vitamin C levels in the blood, an important co-factor in the production of dopamine that is critical to mood and motivational drive. Meanwhile, vitamin B12 and complex carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables also promote the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin. Research also shows that people with thiamine, folate, vitamin B6, or vitamin B12 deficiencies are at high risk of depression.

Good bacteria for a healthy gut

A bulk of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. The digestive system of our body is clearly doing more than just digesting food. It is guiding our emotions as well. The function of these neurons and the production of neurotransmitters is influenced by the presence of good bacteria in the body that makes the intestinal microbiome. They protect the lining of the intestines by acting as a strong barrier from the toxins and “bad” bacteria. As a result, the body is able to absorb the nutrients from the food, thereby activating neural pathways that get transported directly between the gut and the brain. Studies have also shown that people who take probiotics have low anxiety and stress levels, and their mental outlook is always healthier compared with people who do not take probiotics.

As unbelievable as it may sound, good bacteria not only influences what the gut digests and absorbs, it also controls inflammation throughout the body, the mood as well as the energy levels. After all, an alkaline atmosphere of the gut would always keep us happy than being acidic!

Water works

Water also takes charge of keeping our mood in place. We already know that drinking enough water throughout the day has a significant impact on our general well-being. Now, it’s time to understand that having adequate water is equally essential for the mood and behaviour as it keeps the brain well hydrated to think rationally. Meanwhile, in the digestive tract, it keeps constipation at bay, warding off any uncomfortable situations like irritation and migraines.

Timing & keeping it natural

There is a clear relationship between food and one’s state of mind. It would be smart to pay attention to eating foods as close to their natural state as possible; opt for unprocessed and wholesome foods as far as possible.

It’s also imperative to pay attention to the frequency at which different foods are consumed. After all, frequency makes a huge difference because longer gaps between meals can trigger gastritis or overeating that may lead to sugar spikes. The elevated blood sugar levels plummet down rapidly, resulting in mood swings. Therefore, take your time in combining strategies for eating regularly and mindfully for a positive effect on your overall well-being.

(The author is wellness expert, Oriflame India)