Better Diet For Better Performance: How What You Eat Could Be Affecting Your Mood And How To Change It
We’ve all surely had a bout or two with “stress eating,” or eating from a place of emotional need. The legendary pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a breakup is a common trope. But even beyond that, it is perfectly natural and on some level logical that we unthinkingly reach for a candy bar or other sweet snack when we are stressed: these foods make us feel good.
But like a drug addict, that taste of sugar and sense of well-being comes with a price: the inevitable sugar crash. Soon after your brief respite of elation comes the logy feeling of low energy, slow thinking, crankiness and even depression.
Luckily, there are foods that are better suited to give us ongoing better moods and higher energy, and which over the long term will put you in a better mood. Here are a few:
• Caffeine – That boost of energy and elation you feel after your morning cup of joe is no joke: a 2011 Harvard study showed that women who drank at least two daily cups of coffee on a regular basis had a 15 percent lower chance of depression than their coffee-less counterparts. The risk of depression decreased by 20 percent for those who drank four cups a day. Caffeine triggers the release of dopamine, which sharpens your focus and improves outlook. Enjoy in moderation being aware that if you drink coffee too late in the day it can and will affect your sleep.
• Fat – Our bodies crave fat, simple as that. Evolutionarily, when we were still roaming the savannah avoiding lions and other predators, finding food sources with plenty of fat was akin to striking the motherlode, as it slows digestion and our bodies can store it for later use. And perhaps because of this physical need the body has for plenty of fat, we experience a calming sense of satisfaction when we eat it. Studies looking at mood disorders found that eating two seafood meals per week high in omega-3 fatty acids was linked to lower rates of depression. This is thought to be the case because these fats help maintain brain function in regions responsible for mood and emotion.
• Afternoon Carbs – Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not the devil. In fact they are vital to our energy levels and brain function. Indeed, if you are someone who experiences that dreaded 4:00 drop in mood and energy, it could be because your brain is running low on seratonin. Try eating a small serving of carbs, say 25 to 30 grams or so, equivalent to about three-quarters of a cup of Cheerios or other unsweetened cereal. It can give you that boost you need without a huge caloric cost or a massive sugar crash after.