I’ve spoken loads before about my battle with hormones and my attempts to level them out and really nail the whole feeling great 24/7 thing. I’ve just started running again after a few years break and it’s amazing how much it helps boost me, clears my brain and sets me up for the rest of the day. But I know that the food I eat has an effect on me too – I mean, it has an effect on everyone, but hormones and insulin levels are linked so it’s really important that I keep an eye on what I’m eating and when I’m eating.
A few weeks ago, I had a chat with a nutrition expert – Laura Clark – who gave me some BRILLIANT tips around good mood food and keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel. Sadly, the above prosecco wasn’t one of her suggestions, but here’s the advice she gave me…
Keep your blood glucose levels nice and stable. Dips and erratic swings will make you feel more tired and irritable, and lead to poor concentration and carb cravings.
Keep your fluid intake up, and have visual cues to drink – it’s easy to get side tracked and dehydrated as you go about your day.
Eat carbs wisely – they’re not the evil food that many people say they are, but they should be eaten in portion sizes relative to your activity levels and at regular intervals. Wholegrain carbs contain B vitamins which are incredibly important for energy release in the body and covering the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin (the feel good hormone). Carbs also cause insulin release and it’s this insulin which enables tryptophan to enter your brain for conversion. Eat carbs with protein and vegetables, rather than on its own. So a classic meat, potatoes and veg is great.
The other key foods to boost moods are those that contain tryptophan itself – e.g. protein rich foods like chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and nuts.
Making smoothies isn’t actually the best way to eat fruit and veg – it’s better to allow your body to break the food down, rather than getting your blender to do the work. If you do have a smoothie, include oats, milk and nuts. A great start to the day would be porridge oats.
Eat lots of oily fish – there’s lots of good research into this. It has so many benefits and low intakes of omega 3s do seem to be linked with higher rates of depression. Include oily fish twice a week in your diet – salmon stir fry, tinned mackerel in tomato sauce, fresh tuna steak and sweet potato wedges for example. (Mmm anyone else feeling hungry?)
Vitamin B6 is the magic number for all this tryptophan conversion so a banana makes a great snack – it releases carbohydrate slowly an is rich in B6. The richest source of B6 in nuts are peanuts and walnuts. A handy snack but keep your protein size to a small handful. Alternatively, sprinkle on your porridge or salmon salad.
Try roast pork on a Sunday – it’s leaner than beef or lamb, and rich in tryptophan and vitamin B6. Serve it with sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash roasted in a little olive oil, to boost fibre, and greens like cabbage for folate (another B vitamin!)….