How food affects your mood
Food plays a critical role in hormonal communication, and in turn influences our moods, stress level, energy, food cravings and sleep habits. The good news is, correct nutrition is a survival technique under our direct control. All of our hormones interface with our environment and with all of the thoughts and reactions produced in our central nervous system. All information gathering seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and thinking produces a hormonal response. So does everything we eat. The more fresh, seasonal foods we have in our diets, the greater the chance of getting the nutrients the body needs. Surveys indicate that the average person has a very set and narrow pattern of eating that becomes even more entrenched with age. As a result, some people may develop deficiencies that eventually cause disease. But by eating smart we can increase our anabolic capacity and drive and return the hormonal system to a fully operational level. Far too often, emotions manipulate the diet. If we are stressed or depressed, we reach for comfort food that is typically rich in carbohydrates. The truth is, we are hardwired for the sweet taste. We all acquire a "sweet tooth" at an early age. Our first food, mother's milk, is 50 to 60 per cent glucose (sugar). As soon as sugar touches the tongue, endorphins (feel-good hormones) gush into the system and we instantly feel better. That is why it's easy to eat the whole package of cookies or container of ice cream. The acute influx of carbohydrates gives a temporary increase in blood glucose levels to the brain and also triggers increased insulin secretion. The bad news is that chronically elevated insulin levels will promote the increased production of "bad" prostaglandins (PGE2), which generates more depression. If you indulge in comfort foods, you might solve the emotional problem temporarily, but you have set in motion a cascade of hormonal events that leads to food cravings coupled with emotional trauma. On the other hand, fish or algae oil supplements rich in DHA and EPA fatty acids, and the addition of more protein in the diet, will lead to better health and emotional stability. This is why I recommend protein at all three meals and one of your two snacks every day. Look at young children whose emotions are not as sophisticated as those of adults. Give them two chocolate bars and they are initially very happy and respond favourably. But within one to two hours, they become unco-operative and are bouncing off the walls. In comparison, feed them lean protein with fresh, organic vegetables and fruits and they are a pleasure to be with for the following four to six hours. Meals and snacks should be eaten five times daily to avoid the peaks and valleys of moods that can accompany big meals. The idea is not to "graze" but rather to eat three planned and well-timed meals, plus two planned and well-timed snacks, and never after 7:30 pm. Avoid skipping meals or snacks as much as possible. The "mind-body" connection really is the "mind-body-diet" connection. A hormonally correct diet becomes our primary tool to improve emotional control. Conversely, a hormonally incorrect diet is the passport to emotional chaos. So choose wisely!
Next month's issue will feature Part Two of Sam Graci's meal plan for good hormonal health, in which he discusses in depth the best foods to eat and when to eat them.