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Can Food Boost Energy and Mood?

Many things can affect our mood, but diet is key to improving it.

AnnA Rushton

Though it’s too soon to say, “An apple a day keeps the doldrums away,” researchers are studying the links between what we eat and how we feel.

There is evidence that changing your diet can change your metabolism and brain chemistry, ultimately affecting your energy level and mood.

Getting Started

Foods can boost energy by supplying calories, by pushing your body to burn calories more efficiently, and, in some cases, by delivering caffeine.

For a better mood, the best foods are those that help keep your blood sugar steady and trigger feel-good brain chemicals.

Smart Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are vital for boosting energy and mood. They are the body’s preferred source of fuel, plus they raise levels of the feel-good chemical, serotonin.

The key is to avoid sweets, which cause blood sugar to spike and plummet, making you feel tired and moody. Instead, pick whole grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and cereal. Your body absorbs whole grains more slowly, keeping your blood sugar and energy levels stable.

Cashews, Almonds, and Hazelnuts

These nuts are rich in protein and magnesium, a mineral that plays a key role in converting sugar into energy. Being low on magnesium can drain your energy.

Good sources of magnesium include whole grains, particularly bran cereals, and some fish, including halibut.

Brazil Nuts

Addthese to the mix for selenium, a mineral that may be a natural mood booster. Studies have linked low selenium to poorer moods.

Smaller amounts of selenium are also found in meats, seafood, beans, and whole grains but don’t overdo it as too much selenium is harmful.

Lean Meats

Lean pork, lean beef, skinless chicken, and turkey are sources of protein that include the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine boosts levels of two brain chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) that can help you feel more alert and focused.

Meat also contains vitamin B-12, which may help ease insomnia and depression.

Salmon

Fatty fish, such as salmon, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may protect against depression and be good for heart health.

Besides fish, sources of omega-3 include nuts and leafy, dark green vegetables.

Leafy Greens

Folate is another nutrient that may lower the risk of depression. Find it in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and  lettuce and in beans, peas, and lentils and lemons, bananas, and melons.

Fibre

This helps keep your energy steady throughout the day. Many people don’t get enough of it but you can fix that by eating more beans, whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Water

Staying hydrated can help you avoid getting tired. Some studies suggest even mild dehydration can slow your metabolism and sap your energy.

The solution is simple: just drink plenty of water or other unsweetened drinks throughout the day.

Healthy Snacks

Another way to stay hydrated and energized is to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, which are naturally full of water.

Snack on apple wedges or celery, for example. Other hydrating foods include soup, oatmeal and pasta, which soak up their cooking water.

Coffee and Tea

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular pick-me-ups, and it works — at least in the short-term.

Caffeine steps up the body’s metabolism, temporarily improving mental focus and energy. Frequent mini-servings will keep you alert and focused longer than one large dose.

Just beware of drinking so much coffee that you can’t sleep at night and too much coffee can act as a diuretic, so limit the amount.

You can also get caffeine from tea to give you a boost and studies show that it may improve alertness, reaction time, and memory.

Putting the kettle on is the age old remedy for anxiety and stress, so making a cup of tea can help take the edge off your mood.

Dark Chocolate

Chocoholics, good news: A little bit of dark chocolate can boost your energy and mood. That’s because of the caffeine in chocolate, along with another stimulant called theobromine.

Note, the ‘a little bit’ as too much won’t be good if trying to lose weight.

Breakfast

Studies show that people who eat breakfast every morning also have a better mood throughout the day so try not to skip it.

The best breakfasts deliver plenty of fibre and nutrients through whole-grain carbohydrates, good fats, and some type of lean protein.

Frequent Meals

Here’s another way to keep your energy, mood, and blood sugar steady: eat small meals and snacks every three to four hours, rather than a few large meals.

Some options: peanut butter on whole-grain crackers, half a turkey sandwich with salad, or whole-grain cereal with milk.

Energy Supplements and Drinks  

Most energy drinks and supplements give you simple carbohydrates — in other words, sugar — which the body can quickly convert into energy.

This is a convenient way for high-intensity athletes to keep going, but less active people may not need them. Energy drinks are usually high in calories and low on nutrients so again not a healthy part of your diet.

Exercise for Energy

Besides diet, exercise is another tried-and-true way to boost energy and mood. Even a single 15-minute walk can be energizing, and if you’re more active, you’ll get more benefits.

Studies show that regular exercise may help ease depression and trigger other changes in your body that give you more energy all day long.

Helpful information: 

Most women see a reduction in energy at menopause, partly the fact of growing older but more about changes in weight and metabolism.

If you are also suffering hormonal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and poor sleep that definitely is going to affect your energy and your mood.

If you are oestrogen dominant or have a hormone imbalance then these articles can be helpful:

Seven (Instant) Energy Secrets

Help For Menopausal Mood Swings and Depression

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