Ask Mira

Food and Mood

Ask Mira: Eating Right to Live Happy & Healthy

Although a low-carbohydrate high-protein diet can be an effective dietary approach for weight loss, its long-term effect on psychological functions, including mood and cognition, could be detrimental.

I have personally seen this in people who changed their balanced diet ( 50% carbs, 25 % protein, 25 % fat) to a pure protein one. They were always stressed and temperamental.
You can also see this in the premenstrual carbohydrate cravings, experienced by 70 percent of women and the usual binging of those who are on high-protein diets for more than Two weeks.

Carbohydrates make us feel relaxed, focused, and always in a good mood.

Here is a short mechanism of why carbohydrates bring about a relaxed mood.

After consumption of a carbohydrate-rich meal, the hormone insulin is secreted. Insulin lowers the levels of most amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in the blood, except for tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin). When there is a larger proportion of tryptophan in the blood, it enters the brain at a higher rate, thus boosting serotonin production.

Protein-rich food has been found to prevent serotonin production. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for elevating our mood. This also explains why we feel sleepy, relaxed and satisfied after a rich carbohydrate meal.

If you look at a food guide pyramid, you can see that the base layer of the pyramid is formed of starch and bread, which signifies that foods that fall in the layer must form the highest consumption. So a well balanced and varied diet of 50 percent carbohydrates is the best dietary approach to take.

Another benefit of carbohydrates is their impact on wakefulness. High-carbs breakfast for example improves mental acuity, decreases fatigue, and makes you generally feel positive about life throughout the day.

The best choices of carbohydrate foods are always those that are high in fiber to prevent constipation. So go for whole grain breads, bran flakes, whole fruits, brown rice and pasta.

And do not forget to limit fat consumption. Choose the unsaturated fat containing meals rather than fried fatty meals. Fatty foods make you feel tired and cause abdominal discomfort.

Some of the foods that boost your mood include:

Avocado: helps in keeping the receptors in your brain sensitive to serotonin.

Pineapple: The manganese and thiamin in pineapple helps to relax and increase concentration.

Oatmeal: Triggers the release of serotonin, a hormone that relaxes you.

Whole grains: Improve alertness, concentration and memory.

Chocolate: a stimulant that triggers the release of serotonin and endorphins

And remember, do not follow any diet because it is the latest trend, always check with a nutritionist or your dietician who can recommend the right diet for you. Diets are highly specific and depend on the physical makeup of individuals and any health-related issues they may have.

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