I am writing this on April 3rd and it is snowing out! It seems like everywhere I go people are griping about the weather. It is affecting many of us and putting us in a blah mood. Plus it is tax time. This can affect us as well. We can feel dips in our mood, struggle with depression, and be chronically in a bad mood. One of our temptations when we feel this way is to find something that will make us feel better. Sweets, alcohol and processed foods can give us this temporary “high.” But the key word is temporary!
Eating the right foods can help us feel more energetic and less like we’re riding an emotional roller coaster. Foods affect our body chemistry, metabolism, and overall well-being.
Focus on eating high quality carbohydrates and protein. Protein is important for stabilizing blood sugar. It is critical to moderating mood because it is a great stabilizer. It does not add to blood sugar but instead helps slow the absorption of carbs from the blood. I recommend incorporating at least some protein into your meals whenever possible – breakfast, lunch dinner, and snacks. Select lean cuts as well as starchy beans and lentils and various nut butters to enjoy variety.
I like to put carbohydrates in two categories – high quality and low quality. The high quality carbs are full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. These are primarily found in plant foods. Focus on non starchy vegetables (asparagus, leafy greens, onions, tomatoes, etc), lentils, fruits, starchy vegetables (peas, corn, winter squash, and potatoes). Another reason you want these high quality carbs is they contain soluble fiber. This slows the absorption of glucose and helps put a lid on blood sugar.
Low quality carbs have much less nutritional value. They include sugar itself, processed sweet products (candy, soda, cakes, cookies, etc) and refined starches often called the “white” carbs (white rice, white pasta, white bread, crackers, bagels, sugary cereal, etc). Our digestive system breaks down these low quality carbs and turns them into simple sugars. Try to get more high quality carbs into your diet, which allows blood sugar to rise gently, stay even for a longer period of time and then fall off slowly.
People who are severely restricting carbs may end up feeling more irritable than usual. I call it the low-carb crabbiness. Protein is important but it is just one part of the mood balancing equation. You want to combine protein with high quality carbs for the best mood regulating results. Because carbs provide the blood sugar to give us energy and are needed for the conversion of tryptophan and seratonin in the brain.
Omega 3 fatty acids are good to have in our diet as well. It makes up parts of our brain membrane and helps the brain cells work more efficiently. So it makes sense that this may help regulate our mood. Good sources of this: are wild salmon, herring, sardines, rainbow trout, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and edamane. You may want to consider taking fish oil as a supplement as well.
Lastly, there has been research suggesting that vitamin D might help relieve mood disorders. Living in Minnesota right now we are not getting the sunlight to help our bodies make vitamin D on its own. You can try eating wild salmon, fortified yogurt and milk, egg yolks, sardines and herring. A consideration is to take a good multivitamin which will contain vitamin D, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
Try this recipe for a mood picker upper!
Chopped Chicken Salad with Apples and Walnuts
(1 to 2 servings)
2 to 3 cups chopped lettuce
4 to 5 ounces of cooked chopped chicken breast (or you could substitute and use wild salmon)
2 T canned chickpeas
½ or more chopped apple
¼ c chopped cucumber
¼ avocado chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
2 scallions finely chopped
1 T chopped walnuts
2 T vinaigrette dressing (I recommend the brand Salad Girl and I happen to like the pomegranate pear or blueberry basil dressing for this type of a salad)
Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and drizzle with the light dressing. Toss to coat.
If you are on anti-depressants or medication consult with your doctor. Good nutrition can help, but it may not be enough for everyone. Clinical depression is a medical condition that should be taken seriously. See your doctor if you have signs of depression lasting longer than two weeks including sadness, hopelessness, trouble concentrating, and/or a change in weight or sleep patterns.
Here is to seeing the sunny side of life!
Beth Dean CPT, CES, pn1