Good Food For a Good Mood
Written by: Gaby Flores
Edited by: Bettina Jose
Let’s face it: we’ve all ordered a banana loaf or two while under lockdown. These are terrible times we’re living in, and many of us see food as a source of comfort. When everything around you seems to be going astray, sometimes a comforting bowl of pasta is all you need to recharge. The question is, how much is too much?
If you’ve ever felt sluggish after pigging out, then you already have an idea of how food can impact our mental state. The problem is that it can be confusing to know just how to start eating well. From Instagram influencers to well-meaning titas, it seems like everyone has an opinion on what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Sifting through this noise gets all the more confusing when you take into consideration the fact that our bodies all work differently, so what works for your friend might not work for you (and vice versa).
Although scientists at Harvard Medical School maintain that there isn’t enough research to draw links between our diet and mental illnesses like depression, there is a general consensus that eating well can generally improve your mood. Incorporating a few good nutritional habits is a great step forward, and one that you can start right now. Here are some tried-and-tested tips to get you started.
Minimize your sugar intake
We rely on sugar because our body quite literally tells us to — a study by researchers from University of California, Davis found a link between sugar intake and decreased stress hormone levels in women, which is where this temporary relief comes from. Because sugar lowers our stress hormones, we’re tempted to reach for another ube pandesal after a particularly long day at work. The problem is that repeating this habit enough times makes your body more dependent on sugar as a way to deal with stress, which can then lead to serious long-term addiction.
Eat before exercising
Those of us who have been busy getting indoorphins know how important it is to fuel up before a workout. Eating a full meal two hours before your workout is your best bet to make sure the food is properly digested. If you haven’t eaten, running on empty might make you feel faint and stress your body out: top up your energy with a banana or a slice of bread and some peanut butter an hour before your workout.
Set fixed mealtimes
According to the Mental Health Foundation, the benefits of eating at the set intervals are twofold. Biologically speaking, eating at regular intervals helps regulate your digestion and metabolic intake. However, taking set times to eat with your family (or even by yourself) also gives you small pockets of time to mentally recharge and really be in the present. Waiting about three to five hours in between each meal gives your body enough time to fully digest. If you find yourself getting hungry in between meals, ask yourself where the hunger is coming from. Wait for 20 minutes, and if you’re still hungry reach for some fresh fruit to satisfy your snacking.
Switch your meals up
Our bodies are complex machines that require lots of different vitamins and minerals to keep functioning. Lack of vitamin B12 alone can lead to fatigue and problems focusing; this is found in animal products like meat and milk, which is why newbie vegans are often warned about making sure they find ways to get enough B12 in their diet. Varying up your meals is a great way to ensure your body is getting what it needs while also ensuring that you’re creating a healthier relationship with food.
Ease up on the caffeine
Last but not least, remember to ease up on your coffee intake. There are tons of health benefits to drinking coffee, but too much of it can start making you anxious and dizzy. One or two cups of (diluted!) cold brew should be fine as long as your body can take it. Besides, since cold brew lasts for about a week in the fridge, there’s no rush to finish an entire bottle in one sitting.
Practicing good nutrition is all about listening to your body and finding what works best for you. Being attentive to what our body needs is a crucial part of self-care, and is a practice that will benefit you for years to come.