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Food and mood
Have you ever felt “hangry?” That is, hungry and angry. According to the American Heart Association, you must understand how food and mood interact to make good nutritional choices and avoid emotional or impulse eating.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that food and mood are just a letter apart; the two are peas in a pod. Think about it, you stick to a giant dinner salad on a “winning it” kind of day and reach for a tub of ice cream after a frustrating day at work.
Let’s look at the food-mood relationship, and how to set it right when it goes wrong.
The First Craving – Even if you maintain a healthy diet, it’s normal to desire unhealthy treats when stressed or depressed. Your body wants to fuel up for fight-or-flight mode. There’s a reason it’s called “comfort food.”
Vicious Cycle – A cheat meal every now and then can be okay, but if you use food to battle the blues, you’re going to lose the war. Research shows that foods full of fat and sugar only increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety. This cycle is a feedback loop.
The Downward Spiral – If the consumption of fats and sugar goes on too long, your body will adapt to it and think it’s normal. Then, when you try to start eating right, you could throw off your system and further increase anxiety and depression, trapping you in a cycle of bad eating to try to maintain happiness.
Breaking the Cycle – There’s a way to avoid the downward spiral; you’re not trapped. In the same way that unhealthy comfort food can keep you feeling low, healthy food can boost you up. In one study, the happiness that came from eating eight portions of fruits and vegetables a day was equal to the joy experienced by an unemployed person finding a job. That’s huge!
Things Keep Looking Up – When you’re happier, you’re more likely to crave healthy foods. In one study, participants watching a happy movie opted for grapes, while those watching a sad movie reached for the popcorn. And don’t forget, eating healthier helps you stay happier. Another cycle.
Up, Up, and Away! – The best part? There are long term mental health effects to eating well. Research has shown that healthy choices, like the Mediterranean diet, full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, can help keep depression at bay, stabilizing mood and keeping you out of the cupcake danger zone.
Good Mood Foods – There are some specific foods to keep an eye on to boost your mood.
• Fruits and Vegetables: An apple a day keeps the doctor away… and maybe the psychiatrist, too! Along with apples, other fruits and vegetables have the same effect.
• Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This is the good stuff, found in foods like fish and nut oils.
• Chocolate: As a special treat, dark chocolate may have properties that improve mood and even reduce tension.
Advice? Start now, stock up on convenient and healthy snacks, like bananas or individual bags of nuts or carrots, and keep them within easy reach at home, work and in the car.
Eat healthy now, and you’ll be in the mood to eat healthy for life!