Food is not just about nutrition and fuel. It provides pleasure and enjoyment, balance, and also has social aspects such as eating out for celebrations and eating as a family.
We all know which foods are better choices from an overall nutrition perspective. However, it is important to remember that some foods may not be the best choice nutritionally but are providing other benefits in our diet such as pleasure and enjoyment. I believe that we should follow a diet that is balanced and in moderation. Allowing ourselves to eat those foods that bring us enjoyment beyond any nutritional benefit is fine as long as it doesn’t become all we eat. The 80:20 rule is a good way to look at your food choices i.e. 80% of the time you eat foods that are nutrient rich and balanced and 20% of the time you can have the food that you may class as ‘treats’ such as chocolate, cake. It about eating those foods that are less nutritionally beneficially mindfully and in moderation.
Can what we eat affect our mood?
Yes – however, it’s not necessarily about labelling foods that are ‘good’ and foods that are ‘bad’, but more about understanding how our overall food intake may influence our mood.
Improving your diet may help to:
- Improve your mood
- Give you more energy
- Help you think more clearly
What is the best diet for food and mood?
There is not one set diet for food and mood but looking at the overall pattern of our food choices, eating pattern and the variety of food in the diet.
Here are some key points and tips to improve your diet to help give you more energy and improve your mood.
- Eating regularly – eating regular meals throughout the day and choosing foods that release energy slowly and gradually which help to keep your blood sugar levels steady. Keeping your blood sugar levels steady helps to prevent you from feeling tired, irritable and low in mood. Choosing foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals, pasta, rice, oats and nuts and seeds.
- Staying hydrated – It is advised that we aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid per day. These don’t necessarily need to be water, but tea, coffee, juices and smoothies all count. However, I would suggest you avoid sugary drinks to prevent them negatively impacting upon your blood sugar levels.
- Manage your caffeine intake – caffeine is a stimulant which can make you feel anxious & disturb your sleep. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolate and cola drinks. It is important to watch the number of caffeinated drinks and potentially limit the number you have throughout the day or switch to decaffeinated drinks, particularly if this is the main source of your fluid intake. Watch out for caffeine withdrawal if your stop suddenly.
- Diet variety particularly fruit & veg, oily fish & nuts (source of omega 3 & 6 fatty acids for brain health). Getting your 5 a day of fruits and vegetables helps to ensure you that you get mix of all vitamins, minerals and fibre that help to keep us healthy. Oily fish and nuts are an excellent source of fatty acids, particularly, Omega 3 and Omega 6, which are important for brain health. Sources of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are oily fish (examples includes salmon, mackerel and trout), nuts (particularly walnuts and almonds), avocados and eggs
Should I take a vitamin and mineral supplement?
If you are eating a variety of different nutrient rich foods, your body should be receiving adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals therefore you do not need to take a nutritional supplement unless you have been advised by a healthcare professional. However, if you don’t eat enough nutrient rich foods, it is important to try to incorporate more of the foods into your diet so that you become deficient. Nutritional deficiencies can impact on your energy, mood and brain function. The following vitamins and minerals have been shown to have a relationship with our energy, mood and brain function.
- Iron – low intake is associated with anaemia – low energy which can impact upon mood. Iron food sources include red meat, beans and pulses and fortified cereals.
- B vitamins – low intake is associated with tiredness and fatigue – food sources include wholegrain cereals and animal protein foods
- Folate – important in older people – food sources include liver, green vegetables, beans and fortified foods
- Selenium – low levels can increase feelings of depression or other negative mood states – foods include brazil nuts, meat, fish, seeds and wholemeal bread
The way food makes us feel isn’t purely about the nutrition content of the food but also the experience from eating that food such as for pleasure or comfort or for social reasons. However, it is important that our diet contain a wide variety of different nutrient rich foods that support our bodies to keep us healthy. Nutrient rich foods include fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, oily fish and protein food sources.
Looking for help with your diet?
If you want help or guidance on improving your diet and food choices to achieve a healthy diet, please feel free to contact me for a FREE 15 minute discovery call.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.