You are having a stressful week at work, or it's "that time" of the month (ladies), you haven't been sleeping well, money is tight...and you are craving a big bowl of Baskin Robbins or you found yourself finishing an entire pizza from Franzones all by your lonesome...ever happen to you? Did you connect it to the stress at work or home, over flowing bills, PMS, lack of sleep, a bad breakup???
Interestingly, choosing one food over another can be used to your advantage, helping to offset negative emotions and change the way you feel for the better, at least temporarily. Your diet can also have a less positive effect on the way you feel. It's all about making the right choices.
Scientific Stuff Explained:
The endocrine system affects nearly every cell and organ in the body. It is divided and made up of glands that emit chemicals (hormones) controlling many bodily functions(mood, metabolism, sexual functions, cell growth and development )Metabolism is the process of converting fuel from foods into energy for the body to function.
All of our hormones were designed to be in harmony with each other--(The Endocrine System is often compared to an orchestra, which makes each hormone a musical instrument--when played together, in sync, it sounds beautiful. But, if one instrument if out of tune--it would sound like crap, right?)
How it Happens:
Lack of sleep, certain foods, medications, poor diet, stress, environmental toxins, dieting are all examples of things that will throw your harmony into a screeching halt. When one hormones off balance your entire system will follow in disarray--and can lead to weight gain, mood swings, uncontrollable appetite, fatigue, depression, and impaired memory. It can get even more serious, causing health problems like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, irregular periods, IBS, insomnia, increased allergies, joint stiffness, and so on.
Our hormonal health deserves our attention. What we eat and how we live has a major influence on how our hormones work. The way people eat, in the fast paced, low budget environment of today has had massive impacts on our health and hormones. There are many factors that need to be addressed, today I will focus on one tiny part...
Food-Mood and Weight:
Hormones and neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay vital instructions throughout our entire bodies (such as when you're full, when something is too hot, cold, had a bad taste, ETC.)
Upon eating certain foods, or certain combination's of food, it can influence your behavior, mood, and emotional well being!
When you eat and break down food, your brain releases chemicals (neurotransmitters) known as serotonin, dopamine and norepinepherine. Serotonin is more calming, while dopamine and norepinephrine is responsible for actions and being alert, excited, sharp thinking.
The nutrients in the food we eat will actually act as precursors to the neurotransmitters, deciding how much of each will be produced.
Back to Basics:
I have ALWAYS stressed, eating every 4 hours (3 meals, 2-3 snacks), and eating a (lean) protein, (complex) carb and (good) fat at every meal. It's the combination of these "macronutrients" and the vitamins and minerals ("micronutrients") that affect your metabolism and mood.
Say you feel extra tired after you eat lunch--you probably could of used a another 3 ounces of lean protein at that meal.
Prone to Mood Swings?
If your family or co-workers seem to "walk in eggshells" around you when you are "having a mood" eating foods in their natural state is ideal. Good choices include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy sources.
Breaking Down the Nutrients:
Carbs--Increase serotonin levels (why you think eating that big piece of cake will make you feel better, but it's temporarily) Sugar should only be consumed in limited amounts (stay away from the processed, refined sugars all together), if eaten in excess amounts (greater than 200 calories per day) it will cause individuals to experience the "sugar-high" which is always followed by the "sugar-blues". Stick with Whole Grains, Green leafy vegetables, Colorful Veggies, Berries and Fruit--nothing processed, the button on your jeans will thank you later.
Fats--Adequate amount of Omega 3 fatty acids will increase happiness because consumption will increase the release of opiate-like chemicals that are "feel good" neurotransmitters. Choose the healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, salmon, walnuts, almonds--which may even help ward off depression!
Protein--The amino acid tyrosine, which will increase dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine levels are responsible for alertness and excitement which will give you more energy and be more mentally alert. When you are not eating an adequate amount it will contribute to anxiety. Choose things like Organic Eggs, Organic Low-Fat Dairy, Tofu, Lean Meats, Fish and Legumes to trigger the release of these endorphins.
Caffeine--It can increase mental alertness and concentration..BUT too much of it will increase anxiety, cravings, emotional instability, depression, insomnia, mood swings, PMS. nervousness, and dehydration (2 cups of water for every 8 ounce cup of coffee)
Chocolate (yuummmm)--So, its possible we crave these high sugar foods when we are in need of the instant endorphins kick. This oh so hard to resist little delight has an endorphin-releasing chemical called phenylethylamine. The fat and sugar in chocolate can raise both serotonin and endorphin levels..which is why us women often crave it "that time of the month." Again, too much of it will cause you to crash, over work your insulin levels, and get you into a whole other mess of issues that cause horonal imbalance and weight gain. A square of Dark chocolate is best, in moderation, when eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet as a whole.
Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Folic Acid (folate) and Zinc--All of these are essential "good mood" nutrients that are needed to make serotonin from the tryptophan found in beans, meat and fish. A deficiency in the mineral folic acid (and selium) are linked to mood-related disorders such as depression. Turkey, asparagus, beets, oranges, soybeans and green leafy vegetables are all rich in folic acid. Lackin selium in your diet can cause you to become anxious, grumpy or depressed. To get your dose of selium, eat things like whole grains, eggs, brocolli, sunflower seeds and tomatoes.Vitamin C can also reduce stress and anxiety, and increase sexual desire and mood---lemons, oranges, limes, kiwi, peppers, strawberrys, kale, spinach, cabbage and brussel sprouts are all rich in Vitamin C, and can now be added to the "Love" list ;-)
When eating the right combination of foods, rich in nutrients as opposed to anti-nutrients (processed foods, black-listed foods), your energy will soar, mood will be upbeat, cravings will be under control, and so on. When you are lacking in nutrients, or eat too many refined sugars, moods will shift, energy levels drop and the weight will pack on.
Stay tuned for more on hormones, and how food, environment and your actions effect them!