Food and January Blues
We all have days when we feel good or bad. However, the month of January lends itself to put more of a damper on our mood than any other month. Hence the phrase ‘January Blues’ and the lyrics from Pilot’s song ‘January sick and tired you been hanging on me’, but why has January been singled out? It could be the come down from the party season or the long dark cold days. Who knows!
However, there is a connection between healthy eating and emotional health, this means that your diet can stimulate either good or bad moods. Our ability to concentrate and focus comes from a steady supply of blood glucose to our brain. Foods can help us maintain blood glucose levels in three different ways:
- By providing a good source of energy such carbohydrates
- Acting as a stimulant like caffeine
- Driving our metabolism to burn energy efficiently
Various studies suggest that our mood can be influenced by different types of foods which stabilise our blood glucose levels and trigger feel-good brain chemicals, such as serotonin.
Healthy body healthy mind – a healthy mind thrives in a healthy body, we can look after our body by eating regular nourishing foods which can bring about a reduction in mood swings.
3 food components for good mood:
Carbohydrates may be deemed as the bad guys of fad diets, but they are vital as a good source of glucose. This is our body’s preferred and most effective choice of energy and it can raise serotonin levels. By opting for high sugar foods this will produce a spike in our blood glucose and then a fall in energy levels, which ultimately can cause fatigue and moodiness. I would suggest going for wholegrains like wholewheat bread, brown rice and cereal. Wholegrains are classed as low- glycaemic, which means they supply an adequate steady release of energy into our bloodstream, this is ideal for keeping us alert throughout the day. Fruit and vegetablesalso provide a source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals which can boost memory, cognitive functioning and mental agility.
A fad diet also dictates that we should consume low amounts of fat. However, with 60% of the brain being made up of fat, restricting ourselves to low levels of fat can lead to anxiety, depression and the poor absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. If we eat foods which are rich in polyunsaturated Omega 3 fats such as salmon, linseed (flaxseed) oil and pumpkin seeds these are not only essential for the heart, joints and general wellness, but also provide healthy brain functioning.
Proteins are broken down into amino acids some of these have a direct effect on levels of chemicals in the brain that can help you feel more alert and focused. Kidney beans, cheese, pulses, skinless chicken and fish are healthy sources of the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine boosts levels of dopamine and noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine) which can nourish the brain and improve our mood state.
In addition to the 3 aforementioned components, keeping Hydrated is vital for good mood. Water can have a profound effect on the way we feel. Being dehydrated increases the likelihood of being fatigued. Some studies suggest even mild dehydration can slow down our metabolism and sap your energy. The simple solution is to drink water or other unsweetened drinks regularly. In addition to keeping us hydrated, water flushes out toxins and can also speed up our digestion and aid in our absorption of nutrients.
Finally, common herbs and spices such as basil, chamomile, cinnamon, ginger, lemon and peppermint can also have a positive effect on our minds. These can be either added to our food or infused as an herbal drink, they have been used as traditional remedies for years refreshing, stimulating and calming us.
As a footnote, be aware that certain food ingredients can have a double-edged sword effect. For example, caffeine can be consumed to overcome mental fatigue or provide a feel-good factor. However, after the initial mental ‘pick me up’ has gone, our bodies will crave for ‘another hit’ or enter a withdrawal state of anxiety.
In our endeavour to eradicate January blues, let’s give a thought to food and January blues.