Eat to Feel Happy or Eat to Feel Sad - It’s Your Choice6 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Most of us know that eating healthy helps prevent developing a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. What you may not know is that what you eat may significantly affect your mood. Moreover, what is recommended that you eat in order to prevent mental distress may change as you age.
Researchers from Binghamton University, State University of New York suggest that the foods you eat have an effect on your mental wellbeing. And due to the different stages of brain maturation in young adults (18-29) versus mature adults (30 years and older), it may be extremely important to change what you eat as you age in order to avoid chronic mental distress.
“Brain maturation may not complete until the age of 30 which may explain the differential emotional control, mindset, and resilience between young adults and mature adults. As a result, dietary factors may influence mental health differently in these two populations,” according to a report.
Researchers conducted an anonymous, internet based survey asking people around the world to complete the Food-Mood Questionnaire (FMQ), “which includes questions on food groups that have been associated with neurochemistry and neurobiology,” according to the study.
Data collected revealed that the young adults’ (18-29) mood seemed to be dependent on food, such as meat, that increases availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain.
On the other hand, adults over 30 seemed to be more reliant on foods rich in antioxidants (fruits and vegetables). More mature adults also benefited from avoiding “food that inappropriately activates the sympathetic nervous system (coffee, high glycemic index and skipping breakfast).”
Activating the sympathetic nervous system essentially triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response, also known as the stress response.
“Another noteworthy finding is that young adult mood appears to be sensitive to the buildup of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to the buildup of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood. Regular exercise leads to buildup of these and other neurotransmitters as well,” says one of the lead researchers of the study. “In other words, young adults who ate meat (red or white) less than three times a week and exercised less than three times week showed a significant mental distress.”
Antioxidants help fight chronic inflammation, which accelerates aging and contributes to the development of many types of diseases. So eating antioxidant-packed foods, like fruits and vegetables, is important for everyone but even more important for adults over 30.
“With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases. Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress. Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too many carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress.”
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is obviously important, but sometimes it can get hard to consume as many of these foods as we should be.
Here are some tips to make it a bit easier:
- Spice up your life. Did you know that spices and herbs, like cumin and parsley, are extremely nutrient dense and packed with powerful antioxidants? Add spices to guacamole and soup for added flavor and nutrients. Add herbs, like basil, to sandwiches and scrambled eggs.
- Eat a rainbow. A great way to make sure you are getting plenty of antioxidants is to eat as many naturally vibrant-colored foods as possible. Chop up different colors of bell peppers and other colorful foods, like cabbage and carrots. Store them in your refrigerator and eat them throughout the week.
- Drink smoothies. A smoothie in the morning is a great way to pack in a bunch of antioxidants. Make a berry smoothie and add greens for a delicious, nutrient-packed treat. You can add spices (like ginger) or herbs (like cilantro) for even more antioxidants.
- Don’t overcook your veggies. Overcooking your veggies will zap them of their powerful nutrients. Try to eat raw greens and other raw vegetables. If you can’t seem to eat raw foods, lightly steam or blanch your veggies to preserve their nutrients.
- Drink tea.Teas are delicious and packed with antioxidants. Sip green or white tea in between meals. They may even give you an added boost of energy and aid digestion.
- Watch your drinking. Excessively drinking alcohol not only depletes your body of nutrients, but it may also cause inflammation. Alcohol is also a depressant, so drinking a lot of it may also negatively impact your mood.
It is also important to remember that as we get older, our bodies may have difficulty absorbing nutrients such as certain vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. This is why it is imperative to periodically get a comprehensive nutrient test to determine whether you have any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. If you do, you may have to tweak your diet, take good quality supplements or even consider the use of liposomal technology. And be aware of any medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter), as these may deplete vital nutrients from your body as well.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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