As we continue to celebrate the holiday season, our intake of less desirable foods is certainly part of the menu plan. Don’t get me wrong I am the first in line when it comes to sweet treats. Of course, when you eat a sweet snack you’ll get a spike of energy, soon followed by a crashing low. Sugar highs and lows are just one of the many ways food can affect how you feel. So can our limited hours of daylight.
There are plenty of foods which affect our mood – for better or worse. Have you considered which eating habits and specific foods might help you to feel happier and more energized? Let’s illuminate the role food plays in influencing your mood.
Eating regular meals and snacks at the same times every day helps keep your blood sugar levels steady. Eating at regular intervals helps to ensure that your body has a continuous source of fuel, and this may assist in keeping your mood stable. If you feel like your blood sugar might be dipping frequently, talk to your doctor. This could be a sign of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a health condition that causes people to need to eat frequently.
Don’t skip meals.
Though it may be tempting to rush out the door without breakfast, the Mayo Clinic says that this is a bad idea. Skipping meals actually makes your body less able to assimilate food, and you are more liable to overeat at the next meal. If you keep yourself from getting too hungry, you may be able to avoid a bad mood.
Know what to avoid.
Before you can eat mood-boosting foods, it’s important to know which foods to leave off, or limit, at the holiday buffet. The biggest bad mood culprits are refined carbohydrates, such as sugar. The simple sugars that are in junk foods, such as candy and soda, as well as in everyday foods, such as fruit juice, syrup, and jams, can cause your blood sugar to go up and down like a roller coaster. Refined white starches such as white rice, white bread, and crackers can have the same effect.
Blood sugar spikes and drops can leave you with a short-lived burst of energy followed by a tired, cranky feeling. For best mood results, you should also limit alcohol. Don’t shoot the messenger! Alcohol may help you get to sleep but because it is a depressant, it can disturb the pattern.
Foods that will boost your mood.
Here are some of the best foods to eat to stay healthy and happy:
Protein: Adding protein to your meals can help slow the absorption of carbohydrates in your blood and increase the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which may improve your mood and energy for several hours after eating. Try adding these smart protein choices to your diet: farm fresh eggs, free-range poultry, sustainable seafood and organic Greek yogurt.
Vitamins: There are a few specific vitamins that may brighten your mood. For example, vitamin D is said to help relieve mood disorders, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sunlight, before sunscreen application, is often the best source. But we’re fairly limited with those bright hours this time of year. To get your daily dose of vitamin D, you can also try the following foods. Or supplement a multivitamin that contains vitamin D as well.
The vitamins folate and B12 may help ease depression. To add folate to your diet, try these foods: broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, oranges and dark leafy greens (like kale, of course!).
Vitamin B12 can be found in cottage cheese, grassfed beef and wild salmon.
Fiber: Foods, like complex carbohydrates, that contain soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and increase serotonin, the “feel good” chemical, both of which decrease mood swings. You can find healthy amounts of fiber in oats, beans (Rancho Gordo – local), pears, peas and Brussels sprouts.
Since this is also the season of giving, I present you my favorite dessert recipe of all time, and it’s free of dairy and refined sugar. It may be of the sweet variety, but I bet your mood will be greatly enhanced with every bite. Plus, a little dab’ll do ya.
Avocado Lime “Cheesecake“with Kiwi and Pomegranates
2/3 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
4-5 organic dates, pitted
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons melted coconut oil (Nutiva is my favorite brand)
3-4 large avocados
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. Simply Organic pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup melted extra virgin coconut oil
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
4-5 kiwi, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
Mix the crust ingredients in food processor. Press into 8 or 9-inch spring-form pan. Chill while making the filling.
Blend the avocado, maple syrup, and vanilla in a high speed blender until completely smooth. Add the coconut oil and salt. Blend again. Pour the filling over the crust. Chill in the fridge for 6-8 hours.
When ready to serve, arrange kiwi in a circle on top of pie and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Editor's Note: This recipe has been updated from its original form to correct the ingredients list, which was rendered wildly incorrect by a production error.