Mood Foods

Improve Your Mood with Food

I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I’m happy. I eat when I’m sad. I eat when I’m feeling depressed and I eat when I’m celebrating. You get the picture……

When you’re an emotional eater like me, it’s so easy to reach for everything that’s not so good for you which usually means highly processed food full of fat, salt and sugar. And it’s no use telling us not to eat is there? We’re going to anyway, right? So that being the case, I think what makes the difference is what we eat.

I truly believe that food makes a big difference to your mood and that it can help make you feel better. I don’t know about you, but I certainly notice how I feel when I eat all the wrong things as opposed to when I eat well.

So I’ve done loads of research and had a nutritionist’s input to help you make good choices when you’re feeling emotional. I hope it helps and if nothing else, you’ll feel pretty good about yourself for eating right.

Foods that help when you’re:

Premenstrual

Let’s face it, if you’re a woman you’ve experienced PMT (premenstrual tension/syndrome) at some time. I, for one, suffer big time with PMT (or should that be my poor family suffer…..). Bloating, cravings, tiredness, tummy pain and mucho mood swings are just but a few of my symptoms from the monthly hormonal fluctuations. Here’s what you need to help you assuage the swings:

Vitamin B
B stands for bestie when it comes to PMT. Research has shown that good levels of vitamin B (especially B6) helps with symptoms of PMT. Try to include:

  • Tuna
  • Chicken breast
  • Lean turkey
  • Potatoes (with the skin on)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts
  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Capsicum

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: mashed avocado with vege sticks, home-made muesli with sunflower seeds, capsicum sticks or small handful of unsalted nuts.

Cook with: replace meat with a can of tuna, swap out the steak for a tuna steak, add chicken or turkey breast to a stir-fry, bake a potato and stuff it with low fat cheese and tuna, add shredded spinach to your salads.

 

Complex Carbohydrates
Wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables help to improve mood through the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that is known to help lift our mood. Try to include:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-wheat (wholegrain) pasta
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Veges – all veges are good and try to make it colourful so you get a wide range of vitamins and minerals, but specifically make sure you’ve got: cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and kale.
  • Fruit – apricots, avocado, banana, kiwifruit, navel oranges, pineapple, plums, watermelon.

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: raw vegetables, home-made hummus, roasted chickpeas, fresh fruit.

Cook with: Replace white rice with quinoa or brown rice, replace white pasta for wholewheat pasta or go half and half, throw some chickpeas into a soup or curry, replace meat with chickpeas and lentils in a casserole or curry, up the vegetables in everything you eat making sure half your plate is filled with a colourful range, eat fruit for dessert for a sweet treat.

 

Calcium-Rich Foods
Calcium is known to reduce moodiness, water retention, PMT pain and depression. Try to include:

  • Reduced fat cheese
  • Low fat milk
  • Low fat natural yogurt
  • Low fat fruit yogurt (just watch the sugar content)
  • Chia seeds
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Kale
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Almonds
  • Oranges

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: low fat yogurt, reduced fat cheese, home-made tzatziki (low fat natural yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, chives), make a smoothie (90g banana, ¾ cup low fat milk, 2 tsp honey, 1-2 tsp chia seeds).

Cook with: encourage a meat-free Monday and do a tofu stir-fry with almonds and chia seeds, add a natural yogurt sauce made with garlic and lemon juice to your next barbeque, slice up kale finely and add it to a salad or stir-fry.

My tip:
Try to incorporate these into your diet on a daily basis. Every little bit helps and it may lessen PMT symptoms in the first place.

Some of my go to foods when I’m cranky and emotional every month:

Brekkie:

  • Smashed banana on multigrain toast
  • Smashed avo on multigrain toast (also lovely with a bit of sweet chilli sauce!)
  • Big bowl of fresh fruit salad with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of home-made muesli or toasted nuts/seeds
  • Bowl of porridge with strawberries

Lunch:

Dinner:

  • Panfried chicken or turkey breast with loads of steamed veges, a little olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Tomatoey chicken with olives  – big and soupy which is comforting
  • Chicken kebab – chicken with salad and garlicky yogurt wrapped in warm bread – big on taste, low on calories
  • Lentil soup – oh so filling and tasty
  • Stir-fry with lean turkey or chicken, tofu and loads of sliced vegetables (the recipe calls for pork but you can replace it with turkey, chicken and/or tofu)

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Sad, Down or a little Depressed

We all feel drawn towards salty chips or chocolate or ice-cream when we feel a little sad or down but it won’t help us in the long run. For one, it makes you feel bloated, dehydrated and just plain blugh. We also feel guilty that we’ve indulged in so much processed food that we know isn’t great for us and will just intensify our sad state of mind.

But don’t despair, there are some great choices that will not only taste good but also help lift our mood. Although clinical depression is a serious illness that requires treatment beyond nutrition, making the right choices can help beat the everyday blues.

Vitamin B
Especially vitamins B6 and B12 can help lessen the severity of sadness and depression by improving your neural function that helps determine mood. Great options include:

  • Lamb
  •  Beef
  •  Prawns
  • Scallops
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Wholegrains
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Avocado

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: slices of avocado on wholegrain crackers, banana, raw carrot slices with a little low fat hummus, a boiled egg.

Cook with: mix it up for lunches and dinner adding ingredients from the list that you wouldn’t normally use, make a chicken salad or soup, stir-fry with some prawns and tuna, replace white bread for wholegrain, replace all or some of your normal lettuce with spinach, enjoy a poached egg with wilted spinach for brekkie.

Lean Protein
Protein helps to stabilise blood sugar and keeps you satisfied for longer; but be sure to keep it lean and light. Great options include:

  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • Lean turkey breast
  • Chicken breast
  • Pork fillet
  • Lean beef
  • Fish
  • Low fat cheese
  •  Tofu
  • Low fat/low sugar yogurt

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: a hard boiled egg, a small can of tuna in springwater, cottage cheese, low fat cheese with some vege sticks, a tub of low fat/low sugar yogurt.

Cook with: Pump up your use of quinoa (it’s a powerhouse) anywhere you would use rice or pasta, choose lean meat options, eat one or two meals with fish per week.

Omega 3
Omega 3 helps brain function. There is an established link between people who have depression and low levels of Omega 3 although much research still needs to be done. Good sources of omega 3 include:

  • Fish – tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseeds (linseed)
  • Walnuts
  • Chinese Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: add some ground flaxseed and/or chia seeds to a smoothie, a tin of tuna in springwater, handful of walnuts.

Cook with: add more fish to your diet, make a tuna salad or sandwich, stir-fry with plenty of chinese greens, replace meat with tofu every now and then or add it to a soup or stir-fry.

Magnesium
Magnesium influences the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is our feel good mood enhancer so the more serotonin we make, the happier we’ll be. Good options:

  • Leafy greens – spinach
  • Seeds –  pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sesame seeds
  • Nuts – brazil, almonds, cashews, pine
  • Beans and lentils – chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, lentils
  • Brown rice
  • Avocado
  • Low fat dairy – cheese, yogurt.

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: a handful of mixed nuts and seeds, roasted chickpeas, slices of avocado on multigrain crackers, low fat cheese, low fat/low fat sugar yogurt.

Cook with: add shredded spinach to salads and sandwiches, replace white rice with brown rice, replace meat with beans and lentils once or twice a week, use low fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Tryptophan
An amino acid found in complex carbohydrates and protein, tryptophan helps the brain to make serotonin which is our feel good mood enhancer. Great options:

  • Lean chicken and turkey
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Lean Lamb
  • Chickpeas
  • Traditional oats
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Dairy – low fat yogurt, milk, cheese
  • Bananas
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cocoa

Get more into your diet:
Snack on: a small handful of nuts, a tub of low fat yogurt, banana, tin of tuna in springwater, hummus with vege sticks.

Cook with: get some lean chicken, turkey, lamb or tuna on your plate and serve it with a simple salad, add some chickpeas to a casserole or curry, make porridge or muesli for brekkie.

My tip:
Try to incorporate these into your diet on a daily basis. Every little bit helps, right?

Some of my go to foods when I’m sad and a little depressed:

Brekkie:

  • Bowl of porridge with walnuts and honey
  • Eggs for brekkie – boiled, scrambled, poached
  • Smashed avo on multigrain toast

Lunch:

  • Salad with boiled eggs and tuna – salade nicoise is great
  • Salad sandwich with lean turkey or chicken
  • Soup with lean lamb or chicken with loads of vegetables and chickpeas

Dinner:

  • Salmon or tuna steak with lovely big salad that includes spinach and seeds
  • Stir fry made with lean turkey, chicken, pork, beef or fish with loads of vegetables and quinoa or brown rice.
  • Chickpea curry
  • Chickpea meatballs

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Stressed Out

You know that feeling you get when you’re stressed – jittery, on edge, a bit cranky, can’t sleep properly and your brain won’t sit still for long enough to form a single thought? Stress! When we’re stressed it usually means we’re time poor too and you know what that means; drive-through, take away, or a bowl of cereal for dinner……

We just don’t look after ourselves properly when we’re under stress but it’s actually the time when our bodies need it the most. Good nutrition, plenty of water and daily exercise (even a 15 minute walk will help) are all so important to get us back on an even keel. A little meditation doesn’t go astray either (but I must admit, when I’m stressed sitting still or getting my brain to sit still is virtually impossible!).

Needless to say, when you’re stressed it’s best to avoid caffeine, alcohol and high GI foods that will give a spike in blood sugar leading to a sharp fall in not only blood sugar but mood. Try herbal tea (I love camomile and peppermint, but choose what works for your tastebuds). T2 also make a wonderful combination of camomile and lavender tea which is fantastic before bed.

If you’re prone to stress or know that you’re coming into a stressful period, try these to help you out:

Complex Carbohydrates
Wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables help to improve mood through the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that is known to help lift our mood and calm frayed nerves. Make some of these swaps:

  • White potatoes for sweet potatoes
  • White bread and processed crackers for wholegrain options
  • White rice for brown rice
  • Rice or pasta for quinoa.

Omega 3
Omega 3 helps brain function and serotonin production which in turn helps us to feel good.Add some:

  • Fish – tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseeds (linseed)
  • Walnuts
  • Chinese Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu

Vitamin B
Vitamin B group helps to keep our nervous systems healthy and our brains functioning properly. They act as mood stabilisers so it’s important to make sure we get adequate amounts in our diet.Try some of these:

  • Dark leafy greens such as spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Fruit such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, papaya
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Avocado
  • Wholegrains (fortified bread and cereal, oats)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean chicken
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs

Magnesium
Magnesium helps with serotonin production which is our feel good mood maker, but it also helps muscles to relax which is very important when we’re stressed with tight muscles.Try including these on a daily basis:

  • Buckwheat (use instead of rice, throw a handful into a soup or casserole, make a salad)
  • Kidney beans
  • Green beans
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Oats
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Dates
  • Mango
  • Watermelon
  • Nuts: almonds, brazil, cashews, hazel
  • Prawns
  • Tuna

Potassium
Potassium helps to lower blood pressure which is important in times of stress.Include:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Tomatoes
  • Fish – tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Baked potato
Some of my go to foods when I’m stressed out

Brekkie:

  • Bowl of porridge with banana
  • Smashed Banana on multigrain toast
  • Smashed avocado on multigrain toast
  • Big fruit salad with plenty of mango, strawberries, raspberries and watermelon with a dollop of yogurt and crushed nuts
  • Throw a teaspoon or two of chia seeds and flaxseed (linseed) into a smoothie

Lunch:

  • Tofu stir-fry
  • Big energy salad with plenty of vegetables including spinach, avocado, beans, broccoli and nuts
  • Salade nicoise – big salad with tuna, beans and other vegetables

Dinner:

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Tired and Lethargic

We all get overtired don’t we? You know those days when the alarm goes off and you just think “No, No, No! Don’t want to get up today!” It’s days like these when we need to give ourselves a boost of energy, a natural pick-me-up, an instant energiser. Well, actually there’s no such thing as an instant energiser but there are some foods that can help and some that hinder.

Needless to say, if you’re feeling tired and lethargic you need to avoid highly salted or sugary foods, processed foods and anything that’s high GI. For while you may think that the chocolate bar is giving you an instant boost, really it’s giving you a spike in blood sugar that will bring you crashing down making you feel even worse than before. Stick to fresh foods that are full of fibre and natural nutrients that help to detoxify and energise.

Wholegrains
Complex carbs give you loads of energy but it’s slow sustainable energy that keeps you balanced until your next meal.Try these:

  • Wholegrain bread and crackers
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
  • Quinoa

Lean Protein
Lean protein gives your body energy and helps it to repair itself. Add some:

  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Skinless turkey breast
  • Pork fillet
  • Lamb steak
  • Beef steak
  • Fish – tuna, salmon
  • Eggs
  • Low fat dairy – cheese, yogurt
  • Legumes – beans, peas, lentils

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are important in your diet at any time but particularly if you’re feeling tired and a little blah. Full of fibre, vitamins and minerals fruit and vegetables will help clean out your system, detox and provide your body with much needed energy. Choose a wide range of fruit and vegetables and get colourful, the more colours you have on the plate the wider range of vitamins and minerals you eat.

My tip
Now I know there’s no fix-all for tiredness but I find that squeezing half a lemon into some hot or cold water really helps to boost my energy and I feel instantly alert. If I’m staying away from wine to give myself a chance to re-energise I squeeze half a lemon into some bubbly mineral water. Give it a try, it might work for you too.

Some of my go to foods when I’m tired and in need of some energy

Brekkie:

  • Porridge with fresh fruit and a little honey
  • Boiled egg with wholegrain dippers
  • Fresh fruit salad with a dollop of yogurt and toasted walnuts

Lunch:

Dinner:

  • Lean chicken, turkey or lamb steaks with loads of steamed vegetables drizzled with a little olive oil
  • Quinoa Chicken Pilaf
  • Big bowl of soup with lamb, buckwheat and loads of vegetables (or any soup with lean protein, complex carbs and vegetables)
  • San choi bao

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Hungover

Ooooooh ouch, a hangover is truly a terrible thing.

Headaches, tiredness and trouble focussing?
That’s probably the dehydration caused by alcohol’s diuretic effect.

Nauseating nausea?
The alcohol you drank last night has irritated the lining of your stomach making it sore and sick.

When we’re a little under the weather from the frivolity of the night before, we crave salt and stodge and grease, right? Well before you embark on the drive-through-of-shame consider that it’s only going to make you feel worse. All that grease is going to irritate your tummy even more and the salt? Mucho dehydration, so more pounding heads I’m afraid. Stay away from the caffeine too; it’s a diuretic and your body is already prune-like.

The only thing that’s really going to make you feel better is tomorrow, but in the meantime there’s a few things that you can do to help your poor body regain some of its natural fabulousness.

Drink Plenty
Not what you drank last night, but rather:

Water
You’re already drier than the Sahara Desert, alcohol is a diuretic after all, so fill up on H2O. Try to drink a big glass or two before you hit the hay but if you forget, a drink bottle is your new BFF today. Rehydrating is one of the best things you can do for yourself right now.

Ginger and/or Peppermint Tea
If you’ve got a tender tummy and you’re experiencing waves of nasty nausea, go for ginger or peppermint tea. If you’ve got fresh ginger in the fridge, cut some up and steep it in some boiling water for 5 minutes and then sip, sip, sip. A nice cup of peppermint tea also works wonders. The added bonus is that you’re rehydrating too.

Eat Plenty of the Right Stuff
It’s not just fluids that you need to replace in that poor body of yours but vital nutrients. When you go out and have a few drinks you start losing all those vitamins and minerals that you need to function as a normal human. It doesn’t take all that many drinks to begin the mass exodus so even if you only had a few, it’s worth thinking about replacing:

Potassium
Often depleted during a big night out, your potassium levels need to be replaced before you start to feel better. Try:

  • Bananas
  • Kiwifruit
  • Coconut water
  • Tomatoes

Vitamin B
Especially B1 and B12. Ever taken a Berocca in the hope that it will help? It’s the replacement of the vitamin B group that you need which is often seriously depleted during a night out on the town. Vitamin B helps with brain function and a healthy nervous system, replacing it may help with many a hangover symptom. Add some of these to your day:

  • Vegemite or Marmite
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Lean pork
  • Legumes and lentils
  • Salmon
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Cysteine
An amino acid that helps to break down the toxins that you drank last night which are contributing to how bad you feel right now. Try:

  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Turkey and Chicken Breast
  • Oats and Granola

Anything that replaces vital vitamins and minerals is going to help, so load up on plenty of fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, lean protein and loads of water.

Some of my go to foods when I’m feeling seedy:

Brekkie:

  • Smoothie with banana, kiwifruit, low fat milk, yogurt, oats and chia seeds
  • Big bowl of soothing porridge with banana or other fresh fruit
  • Boiled egg with wholegrain dippers
  • Scrambled egg on wholegrain toast

Lunch:

  • Turkey vegetable soup with quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice
  • Chicken sandwich on multigrain bread with cottage cheese
  • Lean chicken breast and salad
  • Spanish eggs – poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce

Dinner:

  • Turkey burger made with lean turkey mince, onions, plenty of salad on a multigrain roll
  • Big bowl of soup made with lean protein such as chicken, turkey, beef or lamb, vegetables and brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat
  • Roast Chicken with loads of vegetables

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Sniffly with a Cold

Argh, colds. Sore head, stuffy nose, aches and pains and you feel that you just might die if you open one eyelid. Colds are the pits! And food? No way, it’s just not what you feel like right now is it? But it may just be the best thing for you. When your body is fighting a cold it needs all the help it can get and that means fuelling up on good cold kick-butt vitamins and minerals. Try some of these:

Garlic
Packed with antioxidants, garlic will help boost your immune system to ward off a cold but is also known to help reduce symptoms and help your body fight one if you’ve already got it.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is said to help reduce the symptoms of cold and flu and may just reduce how long you suffer. Vitamin C rich foods: oranges, capsicum (peppers), strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli are all perfect foods for helping with a cold.

Lean Protein
Protein helps keep your white blood cell-making bits healthy. White blood cells help your body fight infection, so keep ‘em coming and grab: lean skinless turkey or chicken breasts, lamb steaks, beef fillet, pork fillet, fish, eggs, low fat dairy, pulses – lentils, chickpeas, beans.

Chilli
Anything that makes your nose drip is good for a cold as it thins out all that ahem, mucus. So get spicy in the kitchen with chilli, or better yet get someone else to get spicy in the kitchen for you while you rest in bed. Loads of ginger also gives the same effect.

Ginger
Apart from packing a punch when you use a lot of it, a little ginger is fanastic for soothing that queezy tummy you get which is caused by all that mucus. Ick!

Honey
If you’ve got a cough and a sore throat, honey helps to coat the throat and soothe irritation.

Fab Food Options for Cold Butt Kicking

I know that if you’re suffering from a cold right now the last thing you want to do is cook, but if you possibly stand in the kitchen for 10-15 minutes, these will make you feel so much better. If you’ve got someone who will take pity on you, leave a few recipes lying around….

Chicken Soup:
It’s not just an old wives’ tale, chicken soup is said to clear the nose, throat and chest – the secret is the heat and steam. Whack in some noodles or sweet potato and you’ll give yourself carbohydrates to boost your energy levels. Add loads of veges for an injection of vitamins and minerals and you’ve got a winner.  It’s also lovely to eat when you feel awful, there’s just something so comforting about soup. Chicken Soup recipe

Meatball Soup:
There’s something so comforting about meatballs, right? If you use lean meat and pack your soup with vegetables, your body will thank you, thank you, thank you. Energy, vitamins, minerals and steam, aaaaaahhhhhh, just what the doctor ordered. Meatball recipe

Garlic Broth:
If you just can’t stomach anything solid, try a little soothing garlic broth. Pop 4-6 garlic cloves into 4-5 cups of stock along with some sliced ginger, carrots, celery, broccoli stalk, chilli and sliced onions. Simmer for 15-20 minutes and strain off the solids and sip the broth.

Stir-fry:
Heat up the wok and stir-fry plenty of vegetables with any lean protein, freshly grated ginger and a little chilli. It’s light and healthy but soothing at the same time. And all those vitamins and minerals will give your body a boost. Add some complex carbohydrate for energy if you feel up to it. Try some wholewheat pasta, quinoa or brown rice.

Sip On:
Honey Tea – Made by steeping a little freshly grated ginger in boiling water with a teaspoon or two of honey and a squeeze of lemon. Honey soothes the throat, ginger helps to soothe your tummy which feels a little icky with all that mucus, lemon gives a little energy and the steam from the tea helps to break everything up and keep your head less clogged.

Green Tea – packed with antioxidants, green tea boosts your sad immune system.

In between meals, snack on: anything packed with Vitamin C such as orange segments, capsicum slices (especially yellow, red and orange which are higher in vitamin C), strawberries and tomatoes.

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