We all know that exercise is a great way to improve mood, as our bodies release serotonin, the “happiness hormone,” during exercise. You are also probably aware that eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you lose weight and increase your metabolism. But what you may know is that by eating the right kind of food you can reduce stress and improve your mood. Can you eat yourself happily?
Few people are likely to turn to diet to combat bad moods. The relationship between mental health and diet is greatly underestimated. However, increasing evidence suggests that good nutrition can be vastly beneficial for mental health. The food we eat can affect a number of mechanisms that involve neurotransmitters, hormones, and other biological processes in the body.
To better understand the impact of our diet on our mental health, we asked James Collier, Head of Sustainable Nutrition and Co-Founder of Huel, to explain how food affects our mood and how we can use that knowledge to take better care of ourselves.
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Why do we like bad food the most?
Most importantly, why do we get hungry? Biology class time!
There are two hormones that play an important role in how much and when we eat: leptin and ghrelin. A research paper published in Obesity Review in 2006 states that “Leptin is a mediator of long-term energy regulation, suppressing food intake and thereby inducing weight loss. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is a fast-acting hormone that appears to play a role in the induction of meals. “
Basically, the body makes ghrelin to make you hungry and leptin-like when it is time to stop eating. It is important to understand that ghrelin is a signaling hormone and is activated on a regular basis to remind you to eat. It is important for us to eat, and ghrelin is secreted by the body when we normally have something to eat. That doesn’t mean you have to eat right away: ghrelin levels will drop after a while, regardless of whether you have something to eat or not. Therefore, you can feel really hungry, but you cannot eat, and when you actually come to eat you are no longer hungry.
Leptin has the opposite effect of ghrelin: it signals when the system is “full” so you stop eating. Leptin signals are slightly delayed, so eating more slowly is beneficial to allow the body to respond to nutrients.
Another hormone worth mentioning here is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that induces positive feelings of pleasure. As James explains, “Dopamine causes us to seek pleasure and to look for food. When food is plentiful these days, we must run to the snack cabinet for a chocolate chip cookie.”
Not only that, ”he adds,“ but dopamine makes our brains remember how pleasant the chocolate chip cookie was, which made us want to eat it again and ultimately hunt down foods that give us the highest dopamine boost. Therefore, when we feel stressed or sad, we look for foods that give us the most joy and comfort. “
James’ top tip: Try including turmeric in your diet, e.g. B. in curries or even in a latte. Its active ingredient, curcumin, has been found to increase dopamine levels. And if you reach for the cookies too often while your body is trying to suppress a surge of dopamine, it’s worth looking back at what you are eating more generally during the day. Opting for filling foods at lunchtime can help keep ghrelin, the hunger hormone, in check.
A happy stomach will make you happy too
We mentioned serotonin earlier and it’s time to get back to the “happiness hormone” topic. According to hormon.org, “Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, well-being and happiness,” but “Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating and digestion.”
“It is possible that some of us may have lower serotonin levels because of things like our genes or adverse life events. However, good nutrition can help increase serotonin levels and help stabilize mood,” says James , Low GI carbohydrates, and soluble fiber increase serotonin levels. “”
GI refers to the “glycemic index” and “indicates how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) levels when consumed on its own” as defined by the NHS. High GI foods increase blood insulin levels and are generally recommended to reduce their amount in the diet. Low GI foods are a different story.
James explains, “Low GI foods give you sustained energy and stabilize your mood throughout the day, rather than high GI foods (like cakes and candies) which crash both your energy and mood. Recent research has also shown that most of the serotonin in our body is produced in the nervous system, for example in the intestines. This is in part related to the gut microbiome. So, taking care of it with soluble prebiotic fiber and probiotics can have a bigger impact on your happiness than you might think. “
James’ top tip: For a serving of omega-3 fat, low GI carbohydrates, and soluble prebiotic fiber in one meal, try a mix of chia seeds and oatmeal for breakfast or salmon, lentils, and green beans for dinner.
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Eat stress reliever
In addition to hormones, certain micronutrients can have a significant impact on how we feel and think. One of them is magnesium, and as James explains, “its primary function in the body is energy regulation, muscle and nerve function. However, there is evidence that it also plays a role in regulating stress. Low levels have also been linked brought on with anxiety, while those found to be supplementing with magnesium have shown mood stabilizing effects. “
Interestingly, a study published in 2006 titled “Anxiety and Stress Among Science Students. Study of Calcium and Magnesium Changes,” found that students who undergo stressful examination conditions have more magnesium in their urine, suggesting that magnesium plays a role in the body The stress response and level ultimately stay lower. “Scientists agree that more research is needed, but since the dietary intake of magnesium in Western populations has been shown to be insufficient, it does no harm to increase our intake,” concludes Jason.
James’ top tip: The recommended daily allowance for magnesium in the UK is 300 mg for men and 270 mg for women. A 50-gram serving of spinach contains around 40 mg of magnesium and an avocado 58 mg.
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Get ready for 2021!
This is part of T3 Fit for 2021 Program that will run through 2021 to keep everyone fit and healthy. We would like to give you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you prepare for what will certainly be a challenging year for many. We can guarantee one thing: it will be better than last year. And hopefully we’ll help you get the most of it.
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