In my last blog I spoke about how changing my diet helped tremendously in my hormonal imbalance/acne fight and I’d like to go into how eating properly also aided in my overall mental health journey.
What I found when I started to eat better was not only did my skin start to clear up more but I felt better mentally. This is what I mean when I say ‘eat better to feel better’.
A lot of people have asked me how I’ve managed to stick to cleaner eating and it’s actually quite simple. I became addicted to feeling better. There’s no hard math involved in working out that what we put into our body affects our mood. I’ve come to realize that a lot of people correlate food with comfort/an emotion. You’re happy you have a cupcake, you’re sad you eat chocolate, you’re stressed you have ice cream for example. ‘Emotional eating’ if not corrected, can lead to serious bad eating habits. If you want to commit to a better eating lifestyle, you first have to change the way you view food. Food is meant to be nutrition for the body and brain, not a blanket for your emotions.
The thing that surprised me the most when I changed my diet was how quickly my body adapted to not needing a lot of salt and sugar in my diet. One of the reasons it became easier for me to carry through with eating healthier was because I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. Not only that, but it dawned on me as well that with my previous poor diet I wasn’t allowing myself to function at full capacity. Trust me, when you realize that you can get all you want done in a day and still not feel completely exhausted just by eating better, it will become much easier for you to choose healthier meal options rather than greasing down your plate.
Now saying that I eat healthy by no means mean that I don’t eat junk at all. I’m human and I love cheese like everyone else. The only difference now is that this isn’t a norm for me. What has worked for me has been following a ‘five to seven’ rule. I eat as healthy as I can for five days of the week and the other two days I eat like the average person i.e. I stop by the doubles man and have a doubles or two. I sometimes tend to get a little lapse in my eating due to PMS cravings but this is where I exercise portion control.
I’ve put together a list of ‘feel good’ and ‘feel bad’ foods that you can incorporate/lessen from your diet to help improve your mood.
FEEL GOOD FOODS
Legumes: Peas, Beans and lentils for example are small protein packed super foods full of the antioxidant, selenium. This nutrient helps reduce oxidative stress in the brain helping to relax your body and mind. These plant-based pods also keep blood sugar levels stable which translates to a stable mood.
Spinach: This leafy green stuff is filled with folic acid, antioxidants and magnesium, all of which are linked to a good mood.
Tomatoes: They contain an ingredient called Lycopene and large quantities of these help keep our brain fit and happy. They are also best consumed when cooked rather than raw since the Lycopene is more present.
Tuna and Salmon: Fish and other foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol; they help to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
Apples: They are full of the antioxidant known as quercetin, which is a powerful mind-boosting antioxidant. Quercetin helps to fuel neurotransmitters in the brain and also reduces inflammation, which can further improve mood. They’re also full of pectin, a fiber that keeps you full so your insulin levels stay more stable, which prevents erratic moods due to low blood sugar.
Enriched/Fortified cereal: This is a great source of B vitamins including folate, thiamin, B6, and B12, all of which help the brain produce serotonin. Studies suggest that eating more foods rich in these nutrients can reduce anxiety.
Berries: Studies have found that blueberries and strawberries, in particular, protect blood vessels in the brain from inflammation, helping to keep you sharp. These fruits contain the plant nutrients (known as flavonoids) anthocyanins, which act like little soldiers in your body, protecting cells from an onslaught of free radicals.
Eggs: Packed with essential nutrients including protein, calcium, vitamins D and A, thiamine, riboflavin, and pantothenic, eggs can serve as a viable treatment option for depressive symptoms.
Tumeric: Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice tumeric, which has many brain boosting properties. This compound increases levels of both serotonin and dopamine.
Green Tea: Green tea has the component polyphenol; this is responsible for giving green tea its bitter taste and is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with preventing cancer and heart attacks. Recent research has also shown they may help maintain positive mood states.
NOT SO ‘FEEL GOOD’ FOODS
‘Bad’ Carbs: These include refined grains like white bread, white rice, white potatoes etc. These are not so much bad in small amounts and should be portion controlled. Too much carbs will overload your system with potential energy it can’t use (unless you exercise) and thus make you put on weight. Refined grains particularly can make your blood sugar levels abruptly spike up and fall which can leave you feeling hungry quicker.
Too much Sugar: A diet high in sugar can raise levels of inflammation throughout the body and brain – and now research is tying inflammation to higher incidences of depression
Processed foods: The list of potentially mood-busting ingredients in processed foods is a long one. Aside from sugar and gluten, they may also contain trans fats, artificial colors, monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners and other synthetic ingredients linked to irritability and poor mood.
Trans fat: Man-made trans fats do not behave as natural fats do in the body. Trans fats can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, low birth rate, obesity and immune dysfunction. They also have serious consequences on brain health. Our brains rely on natural fats to create and maintain cell membranes but trans fats can cause cellular destruction, wreak havoc on hormone production, adversely affect memory and increase inflammation in the brain.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw