Foods can affect our moods chemically in regards to alertness and our emotional states. In his forthcoming book entitled Stress Pandemic, lifestyle and stress expert Paul Huljich shares a simple and holistic approach to nutrition, paying added attention to the effects of what we eat on our neurochemistry. “Ensuring that we are supporting a healthy neurochemical balance is a vital and proactive step toward managing our stress”, Mr. Huljich asserts. “When you are stressed out, emotional-eating is triggered like an automatic response. That’s especially so if your body reacts strongly to stress-released hormones”.
Our bodies possess an often overlooked “Second Brain” which is a vast network of neurons lining our guts. This “Second Brain” is a guru of intestinal intelligence that influences our moods, what we eat, the kinds of diseases we get, as well as the decisions we make. These “gut instincts” reveal that what we eat greatly influences our “Second Brain’s” digestion; this little brain in our innards (which produces 95% of serotonin the body needs) partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.1
A balanced and healthy diet is crucial to good health and overcoming stress. Maybe you crave specific foods because of a certain mood you’re in. For example, when stressed, you probably crave either carbs or sweets. Your brain depends on a number of vitamins and nutrients to keep itself balanced. The basic principle is that the nutrients in food act as pre-cursors to neurotransmitters in our brains; the more precursors there are, the more neurotransmitters are produced. The foods you put into your body can directly affect your stress and energy levels, greatly reduce stress levels and even help relieve depression and other mind conditions.
Mr. Huljich believes that as a society we must revolutionize the ways in which we eat beginning with cutting out or minimizing all the C-R-A-P (an acronym for coffee, refined sugar, alcohol and processed food and drinks). He also does not endorse the use of fad diets, counting calories or choosing to eat certain food groups over others. His approach to a healthy diet, which is outlined in detail in his forthcoming book Stress Pandemic, is a balanced and practical one, which first identifies and bases his diet on the good foods and eating patterns in your life while eliminating the bad ones.
“Food swing” is a term used to describe the dangerous intersection where hunger and anger collide. One of the primary causes leading to this crash is low blood sugar. Marjorie Nolan, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, explains that “When [blood sugar] is low, the hypothalamus is triggered and levels of several hormones such as growth hormone, leptin and ghrelin are affected. This imbalance then causes a shift in neurotransmitters and suppresses serotonin receptors.”2 Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate mood and appetite. Cut off your body’s ability to process it, and prepare for some wild mood swings. Anger and extreme frustration are common responses. Serotonin is synthesized within the body with the help of an amino acid called tryptophan; tryptophan is not formed in the body and needs to be supplied by the diet. Thus, boosting your daily diet with foods that are good sources of tryptophan is very important.
Handling ‘food swings’ by eating small amounts of food throughout the day is a remedy recommended by most nutritionists, however, choose to snack on healthy foods, or else the effect will be contradictory. There are certain “good mood foods” that can help to lift negative moods and fill you with a feeling of happiness and well-being; and a diet that is rich in protein, fat and fiber will help to stave off hunger and ultimately help you lose weight. Good mood foods help to promote the following as well as helping you to not only look great but feel good too!
Key foods that are high in serotonin such as bananas, salmon, almonds, spinach, blueberries, mandarins, kiwi fruit, and green tea can help improve your mood in two ways. First, they deliver several key nutrients that play a vital role in supporting brain chemistry to reduce the risk of anger, fatigue and irritability. They also do something equally important as well: powerful combinations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help you build up your energy and capacity to handle life from your body’s deepest levels (your cell’s metabolic and energy pathways). This is what we should all aim for, rather than a quick burst of stimulation from a sugar, carb, or caffeine fix that ultimately leaves you feeling tired and cranky. 3
So remember next time you sense your inner Incredible Hulk emerge and you begin to feel inexplicably angry, treat yourself to a healthy snack before losing your cool. States Huljich, “If you’re waiting for a more convenient time to begin behavioral change, it won’t happen. It’s almost never convenient to change ingrained habits; now is just as good as any time to make simple, manageable lifestyle changes. And if you begin now rather than later, you’ll have a head start on a more meaningful and healthy tomorrow.”