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The Moody Foodies

by Maura Knowles

How food affects our mood

Do you ever get the MOODY FOODIES?

Or as I call them, Mo’s Hangry Woes. Hangry = hungry + angry.

Feeling tired and sluggish, getting sick more than your fair share, dull looking skin, suffering from constant pain or lacking focus may often be the result of what you put in your mouth and belly.

Food plays a direct role in the way feel. “We are what we eat. From our head down to our feet.”

Our brain chemistry changes when we bite into a bagel or piece of candy. Modern wheat triggers binge eating, according to Dr. William Davis, author of The Wheat Belly. Dr. Judith Wurtman, PhD and former director of the Research Program in Women’s Health at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Clinical Research Center, says, “Carbs set off a series of a chemical reaction that leads to a boost in brain serotonin.”

The higher the levels of serotonin, the more content we feel, temporarily. Over time, binging on too many of these serotonin boosting foods can lead to depression.

Chronic stress creates elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which can increase our cravings. When we feel stressed out, we are more likely to use food as comfort. And what are our typical comfort foods?

Eating a rainbow (again, I note: skittles don’t count) every day or at least striving to eat a rainbow every day will not only improve your mood, but your skin will shine, sleep will improve, energy will thrive. Raw fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, fiber, phytonutrients, micronutrients and good carbs, promoting healthy moods.

Minimally processed foods contain high vitamin content, natural fiber, antioxidants, and lower calories.

Omega-3 foods like wild salmon*, walnuts and olive oil help to feed the brain cells, improving our mood. These healthy-fat foods also improve memory while keeping you sated for hours. (*For those who consume fish, please pay attention to whether or not it’s farm raised or wild. Lots of studies and research show the dangers of farm raised fish. Visit www.seafoodwatch.org for your own peace of mind.)

Julia Ross, a pioneer of the food-mood concept, wrote a number of books on the subject. In her book The Mood Cure, she explains why bad mood foods can create depression and sluggishness and provides solutions on how we can feel better emotionally, without the use of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or anti-depressants. I highly recommend you visit her site and read her book.

Here’s a list of some GOOD MOOD FOODS:

    • Avocados: elevate your spirit

    • Dried beans/lentils: high in protein, fiber, iron

    • Spinach: so nutrient dense, it does wonders for your health, mood and prevention of illness

    • Quinoa: helps reduce depression

    • Apples: “an apple a day keeps the Doctor away” for many reasons, including: detoxifies the liver, high in fiber reducing cholesterol and improving heart health, and contains the antioxidant quercetin, which helps boost the immune system

    • Blueberries: this “superfruit” is chock-full of antioxidants keeping your neural pathways running smoothly, promoting positive energy

    • Oranges: help pump more oxygen through your body and brain to recharge your system

    • Cayenne (one of my personal SPICY favorites!) improves blood circulation, metabolism, digestion and anti-inflammatory

    • Parsley: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, Vitamins A, C & K

    • Turmeric: natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, improves digestion, skin tonic, lowers cholesterol, aids in fat metabolism, blood purifier…and it’s such a pretty mustard yellow color!

    • Green tea: cancer fighting, improved cognition, antioxidants, lowers cholesterol

    • Dark Chocolate/Raw Cacao: high in magnesium, triggers the brains production of natural opioids to make you feel good. The tryptophan in dark chocolate helps to boost the mood-lifting serotonin in our brain.

    • Chia seeds/Flax seeds: Potent source of omega-3, full of amino acids (best to grind flax seeds to reap the benefits; chia are good to go “as is”)

    • Sunflower seeds: Rich in vitamin E, selenium and magnesium, all contribute to a good mood

    • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil): healthy fats, vitamins, protein

    • Almond/Coconut milk: High in vitamins, especially Vitamin D and calcium (watch for carrageenan-best to avoid on a regular basis)

    • Fresh garlic: anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal

    • White onions: help reduce inflammation

    • Cherries are a great source of melatonin, which help promote a restful night’s sleep. Exhaustion is a contributing factor to our bad food cravings. We are less prone to bad cravings when we are well rested.

Processed, chemically and genetically altered foods (GMO’s) wreak havoc on your body, especially when consumed as a regular staple in your diet. Chronic pain, learning disabilities, increased medical visits and bills, fatigue, inconsistent sleep and irritability often occurs when we are overfed and undernourished.

Many animal products, sugar, artificial colors, preservatives and chemical sweeteners have negative, long-term effects on the body. Below is a list of common foods in the Standard American Diet a.k.a. (S.A.D.) and some of the associated negative health effects.

    • Sugar: diabetes, obesity, vitamin loss, learning/behavioral disabilities, mood swings

    • Chemical sweeteners: carcinogenic effects, migraines, nervous system damage

    • Artificial preservatives/colors: promote cancer, liver overload, ADHD

    • Low fiber: increased risk of colon cancer, cardiovascular disease

How can we create new healthier-better-MORSELICIOUS-foods?

My suggestion is my 85/15 rule or Mo’s 85/15:

85% of the time, choose and eat real-clean-whole foods and

15% is for going out, traveling, “guilty pleasure” foods, but try not to make your choices so bad you will end up in a BAD MOOD. :(

Create your own version of a decadent chocolate soufflé or a baked enchilada casserole oozing in a MORSELICIOUSness.

Celebrate yourself instead of punishing yourself.

Some food for thought or thought for food:

Start a Good Mood Potluck Club; The MOODY FOODIES! Kind of sounds like a band, doesn’t it? Maybe we can get groupies! Schedule meetings/parties once a month or every other month and exchange your cleaned up recipes. Make it fun! Combine with your current book club and pick a theme.

What is your favorite GOOD MOOD FOOD?

About the author...

, a.k.a. Mo the Morselist, is a Health Coach with training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In this program she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She is educated in holistic nutrition, health coaching, and the importance of preventive care.

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