Sunday, 14 February 2016

Feature: In The Mood For Food

Written by Vineeta Sathiamoorthy

The insatiable hunger for a cream-filled éclair come 4pm is a feeling many of us know. The satisfaction of a sugar coated pastry touching your lips, plunging you into a momentary bliss, only to leave you later with the energy of a sloth.

Whether you’re happy, stressed, anxious or tired, it may be down to what you eat.


Carbohydrates are often associated with feelings of happiness. Maybe it’s that gorgeous muffin giving you the dough eyes or the sensational smell of freshly baked bread. Yet, while you may prefer the simple life, it’s time to go complex with your carbs. “Carbohydrates that release sugar steadily are better for a stable mood,” says dietician Helen Bond.

Caffeine, found in tea, coffee, cola drinks and chocolate, is probably the most widely used behaviour-modifying drug in the world says research done by mental health charity, Mind. It suggests we often choose to drink it if we’re feeling tired and irritable, because it can give us a boost and help us to concentrate. However, too much caffeine (which is a different amount for each of us) can cause symptoms, such as anxiety, nervousness, depression and possibly dehydration.
Scientists at the University of Connecticut found that dehydration can have also have an impact on mood. As well as experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches and body fatigue, participants of their study also experienced emotional changes in mood such as anxiety and a lack of concentration.
If you’re only having a coffee for breakfast on stressed mornings, think again. “Stress can increase eating generally (emotional eating) especially junk food,” says Andy Smith, a director at the Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology at Cardiff University. “It is also associated with less frequent breakfast eating and a reduction in eating of healthy foods.” While, “caffeine ingestion is associated with greater alertness and reduced fatigue, large amounts of [it] can lead to an increase in anxiety,” says Smith.
“The best ‘mood-boosters’ are fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Anjali Shah. “They are filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help boost your energy and mood, and also have lots of fibre and nutrients to help keep you full longer, which can help with a number of health related issues like weight loss, sleep and digestion.”

Limiting your sugar consumption can prove beneficial. “Both my mood and overall health has improved dramatically since I moved away from processed foods, started cooking more at home, and significantly limited added sugars in my diet,” says Anjali Shah, a certified health coach and author of food blog, The Picky Eater. “I have more energy throughout the day, I don't experience ‘sugar highs/crashes’, and I'm sleeping much better at night. Health wise, my cholesterol and digestion improved and I've been able to run longer and farther than I have before,” says Shah.

If nothing brings a smile to you than a hearty bowl of carbs, then you might want to choose wisely. “ Where possible choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats, wholemeal pasta and brown rice, rather than white refined varieties which send your blood sugar levels soaring, following by a sharp crash and slump in energy levels and mood,” says Anjali.


Your early mornings aren’t the same without a cup of your regular brew. Yet could it be the reason your mood suffers throughout the day?

Instead, stick to good old plain water. Two litres of water (that’s 8 cups) a day is recommended. Finally a great excuse to getting that cute water bottle you’ve been eyeing up all week.


Foods such as wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables include vitamin B and folic acid. These foods are digested slowly by your body, which helps to control the rate at which glucose is supplied to your brain. “The most important thing is to eat regular meals and a balanced diet to ensure we’re getting the nutrients we need,” says registered nutritionist Jennifer Rosborough.

This can be vital in managing your mood especially omega 3 fatty acids (linked to lower levels of depression) and minerals thiamine (to defeat tiredness) and iron (to counteract lethargy).

“Extreme tiredness, poor concentration and low mood can all be attributed to anaemia – an energy zapping condition caused by low blood iron levels,” says dietician Helen Bond. “In the UK, 41 per cent of women aged 25-34 years have seriously low iron intakes and would benefit from eating more iron rich foods.”

If you want to see an improvement in your mood, then watching what you eat can make it a little easier. “Think about food as an investment for your body and overall health,” advises Anjali Shah. “The effects of the food you eat today multiply over time to either set you up for a healthy body and happy mind, or the opposite (if you're eating junk food all day/every day) in the future.”

The virtuous cycle can also go round as an article by the University of Delaware found that being in a certain mood could also influence your food choices. Findings in the study showed that people who were in a positive mood, were inclined to make more healthier food choices than those in a negative one.

“The study showed that negative moods induce a present-focused mindset, and positive moods, a future-focused mindset,” says Dr. Menna Price, a research officer at the Nutrition Appetite and Cognition Group at Swansea University. When we are presented with a choice between healthy and unhealthy (but tasty) foods, our mindset (which may be mood related) can determine what and how much food we choose to eat.”

In other words, that slice of apple pie could look more attractive when you’re in a bad mood.“Just as overeating day after day will lead to weight gain, eating healthy day after day will help to detoxify your body and mind over time, leading to a healthy weight, a fit body, and a calm mind in the future,” says Anjali Shah. Pass us the Kale now“Just as overeating day after day will lead to weight gain, eating healthy day after day will help to detoxify your body and mind over time, leading to a healthy weight, a fit body, and a calm mind in the future,” says Anjali Shah. Pass us the Kale now!

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