Top 10 foods to beat mood swings & promote weight-loss
Debjani M Arora
Senior Medical Content Writer, PG Diploma in Mass Communication and Journalism, BSc Physics, Mumbai University
- Posted On October 05, 2021
Picture this: Two people, Sumit and Amit, are stuck in their house, separately - it is raining outside and they cannot go out. Sounds like a similar situation, right? Sumit craves for the rainy foods - oily pakoras, smokin hot Pizza and hot cups of sugary tea to gulp down the high-fat snacks. After he is done gorging on food he keeps sulking but Amit keeps up an upbeat mood and settles to do things that keep him occupied and to an extent happy. Unlike Sumit, Amit doesn’t wile away his entire day eating and then nurturing a guilt later. He takes charge of the situation and lives to the best of his ability.
Now, if we make a mood report card how will it look?
So, what do you think has made the difference? The weather? Yes, it does have an impact on your mood, but what if we tell you there is a bigger player behind this mood game? Did you take a guess? The cue was there in the headline - food. Of course, there are many things that influence mood - weather, incidents, interpersonal relationships, job pressure, peer pressure, kids and the list is endless. But it is your brain that makes you react to situations the way you do and greatly reflects your mood and energy levels too. And your brain is fueled by the food you eat. So, what you feed your brain with is how your moods are affected.
Your brain on foods
We need to understand that even if the brain is responsible for controlling our moods and energy levels - this super organ does not work in isolation. It needs fuel and a steady supply of it. Foods - read healthy and nutritious foods - are the fuel for your brain. How your brain functions and how you react to certain situations depends on the kind of foods you eat consistently. Studies show that the gut-brain axis is a plausible thing. The functioning of your gut influences the workings of your brain.
Comfort foods are usually high in carb and sugar and their mood lifting effects don’t last for long. Instead, after giving you an instant boost of happiness it can lead to weariness, fatigue and guilt. Alongside, it also raises your blood sugar levels and makes your waistline expand too. So, without giving into the heat of the moment, you should always pick up healthy foods to nourish your gut and brain. Reason: The long lasting effects of nutritious foods boosts secretion of neurotransmitters and happy hormones that tilts the scales towards healthy life, moods and energy levels.
If you are wondering which foods you should pick up that can help you keep your gut and brain healthy and thus improve your mood, here is the list. (The bonus: These foods also keep your waistline in control)
Fatty fish: They are also a good source of healthy fats too - omega 3. But the reason they get to be on top of this list is because they are a great source of nutrition for your brain cells (neurons). Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish help in brain development and cell functions. It also helps in treating high levels of impulsivity and aggression and borderline personality disorders. So when incorporated through diet it can help your brain in better control of emotions and influence your mood. There is evidence that omega -3 fatty acids can lower depression scores. So, fish lovers rejoice, having fish a few times a week can make you happy and merry. Your best picks are: Catla, rohu, hilsa, tuna, koi.
Nuts and seeds: They are high in omega-3 and plant based proteins. They are also high in tryptophan, zinc, and selenium, which may support brain function and lower your risk of depression. Munching on a handful of nuts each day improves your happiness quotient exponentially. Your best picks: Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts.
Green tea: Of course it is a healthy alternative to your regular tea or coffee. Apart from keeping your waistline in check it also helps to boost your brain cells and keep you upbeat. The combined influence of both caffeine and l-theanine present in green tea helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve memory functions. All this has a positive influence on your mood and emotions too.
Whole grains: We know that carbohydrates for long have been the big bad guy of the food world and for a lot of obvious reasons. However, you cannot ban carbohydrates from your diet completely; they provide fuel to your cells to perform all functions - including your brain cells. Studies have linked low-carb diets with a decline in cognitive functions and so the idea is to have the right carb in the right amount. So, choose whole grain foods - oats, quinoa, brown rice, millets, ragi to help your brain stay young and your mood - happy. There are dual benefits to switching to whole grains - they keep your blood sugars and waistline in check. Remember, whole grains are rich in fibre too which reduces postprandial blood sugar fluctuations.
Green vegetables: Remember the time your mother forced you to eat that bowl of palak ki dal or sabzi, which you reluctantly did because - obviously palak wasn’t your favorite ever. But have you ever thought about this - following your mom’s diet pattern you were never unhappy or gloomy. Of course, childhood is a carefree time but the right diet and nutrition is also important. A reason why your moms didn’t spare you from filing your plates with green vegetables. Now, studies say that a lack of vitamin K, lutein, nitrate, folate, found in abundance in green vegetables can lead to decline of cognitive functions and increase the risk of certain mental health conditions like - chronic anxiety, depression among others. If you have been facing mood issues lately and your tummy is expanding too, start shopping your mom’s way. Load your vegetable cart with more greens like - spinach, okra, broccoli, avocados, french beans.
Beans and lentils: Plant-based proteins like beans and lentils are a great source of Vitamin B which play a key role in improving brain functions by improving secretion of certain neurotransmitters.They’re also a good source of zinc, magnesium, selenium, and non-heme iron, which is thought to elevate your spirits and mood. Your best picks: Chickpeas, kidney beans, green peas, lentils like toor, masoor.
Coffee: Ahh! Just the smell of it can make all your worries go away in a jiffy. Of course, that only happens if you are a coffee lover. Even if you are an occasional drinker, coffee has many benefits to offer you. The caffeine in coffee increases the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Need more reasons to embrace that cuppa?
Berries and bananas: No, we are not being biased with these two fruits, all fruits have great benefits to offer. But when it comes to brain health let's prioritise. Berries are rich in antioxidants and are linked with lowering chances of depression. Your best picks: Amla, rashbari, shahtoot, strawberry.
Banana - the curvy fruit actually makes you smile and turn a frown upside down. The reason: It is high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Dark chocolate: Did this make you smile? So, if the name can bring a smile to your face, understand how much it can affect your mood? Dark chocolate has many mood boosting compounds, but stick to one or two pieces a day as it is a high calorie food too.
Vitamin D: Do you know why those sunny beach vacations make you smile with joy and fill your heart with happiness? The answer is vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin may increase the levels of serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters that influence our mood. Yes, we cannot go to a beach vacation whenever we please but we can eat foods that are rich in vitamin D. Your best picks: Oily fish, egg yolk, fortified cereals.
Eating these foods or a combination of them regularly can have a huge effect on our mood and weight too. Sometimes our binge eating habits and wrong food choices not only make us gloomy and lethargic but increases our risk of developing other lifestyle oriented diseases like prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and more. Wrong eating habits increase weight and BMI both which can be detrimental to one’s health. Losing weight can be another tiresome journey. At Fitterfly, we have designed a scientific weight loss program Reset 23 that not only helps to lose weight but to attain a healthy BMI of 23 (ideal for Indians). Apart from diet and exercise plans the program focuses on mental well-being and proper counseling. A happy mind will always house a happy body.
- Firth, J., Gangwisch, J. E., Borisini, A., Wootton, R. E., & Mayer, E. A. (2020). Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 369, m2382. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2382
- Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and practice, 7(4), 987. https://doi.org/10.4081/cp.2017.987
- Morris MC, Wang Y, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Dawson-Hughes B, Booth SL. Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study. Neurology. 2018 Jan 16;90(3):e214-e222. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815. Epub 2017 Dec 20. PMID: 29263222; PMCID: PMC5772164.
- Clayton PT. B6-responsive disorders: a model of vitamin dependency. J Inherit Metab Dis. 2006 Apr-Jun;29(2-3):317-26. doi: 10.1007/s10545-005-0243-2. PMID: 16763894.
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