There are many correlations between what we eat, how we feel, and how we behave. Many studies suggest that diet is as important to our mental health and well-being as it is to our physical health. Depriving your brain of good quality nutrition is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.
After we eat, our bodies break down what we have eaten, and turn it into glucose. The glucose is either used immediately as fuel for our body or it is stored for later use. The glucose in our bloodstream is our blood sugar, and the glucose stored for later is glycogen. Just like the rest of our body, our brain needs glucose to function properly. If our blood sugar gets too high or too low, we can experience many different symptoms including anxious feelings, irritability, feeling tired, lightheaded, confused thinking, increased thirst, and/or a headache.
Simple carbohydrates are the primary culprit behind this cycle of highs and lows. Simple carbohydrates are added sugars and refined grains including white flour, pizza dough, white rice, sweet desserts and most breakfast cereals. Avoiding or at least limiting the amount of these foods you take in can help your blood sugar remain stable throughout the day.
Research has shown that sugary and fatty foods can increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety and sadly that often means we will crave more sugar filled junk foods in attempt to fight our bad mood; it can become a vicious cycle. Other studies have shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats may help prevent or even cure depression. We are more likely to crave healthy foods, when we are feeling happy.
There are many different foods and ingredients that affect how we feel; sugar isn’t the only ingredient. Many foods have a positive effect on your mood too. For example, chocolate contains serotonin, which is believed to regulate feelings like anxiety and happiness and can also lift your mood. So, if you are craving chocolate, your brain may not be craving something sweet, but something to make you feel happy!
To set yourself up for success, keep things simple. Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Try these strategies below to help you feel good and create a healthier lifestyle.
- Stick to whole grains and fewer refined sugars.
- Include protein at every meal.
- Do not skip meals; this includes breakfast.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of only a few large meals.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay hydrated. Drink mostly water and limit added sugars from drinks like sweetened tea, coffee and juice.
- Exercise Regularly.