Food and Mood
Qualified nutritionist and Family Tree member Karen Maude shares her thoughts on the connection between mood and food, and tips for healthy eating
Many of us will have felt low and anxious about the future as we’ve navigated our way through the pandemic. Unlike the rest of the population, we have previous experience of restricting who comes into our homes and have limited lifestyles, so you could say we are better prepared for Covid-19 than our friends, but we have many other added pressures too.
To help you keep calm and feel upbeat, find out how food can support your mood with a few top tips:
Not drinking enough water can leave you feeling tired and on edge with difficulty concentrating. Ensure you drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water across the day to stay hydrated. This can include water infused with fruit and herbs e.g. lemon and mint or herbal teas such as calming camomile or lemon balm.
Although tea and coffee contain healthy compounds such as calming theanine (in tea) and antioxidant polyphenols (coffee) to protect against aging and disease, excess caffeine can amplify feelings of anxiety and nervousness and can also cause sleep issues. Reduce your number of cups to two a day and drink these before lunchtime so that they don’t impact on your sleep.
Good levels are important for energy and for relaxation, especially B6 which is key for female hormone balance. These vitamins are commonly found together in whole grain foods such as wholemeal breads, brown rice and pasta, beans and peas. Regularly eating large amount of processed foods may mean that you become low in B vitamins.
Magnesium has a general calming effect and will also will keep your energy levels up and improve your sleep quality. Our need for this mineral increases during difficult times so boost your intake by regularly eating plenty of green leaves such as kale and spinach and enjoy a couple of squares of dark chocolate here and there. Also take a magnesium rich relaxing Epsom salt bath a few times a week .
Choose a dish that contains protein and slow releasing energy such as porridge or avocado on rye bread to keep you feeling alert and full for hours. To boost your energy levels pop a handful of fruit on top of your porridge and finish off with a sprinkle of mixed seeds.
Vitamin D is produced when skin is exposed to sunlight and low levels can have a significant impact on mood and energy. Food sources include oily fish and eggs, but generally it’s difficult to maintain adequate levels, especially during the winter. Government advice is to supplement 10μg daily, but this may not be adequate for everybody, so consider testing.
Balance blood sugars
Eating too many carbohydrates, processed foods and snacking can throw your blood sugar levels out of balance and lead to an increase in stress hormones like cortisol and lows and highs in energy levels. The key is to not to overeat, to reduce snacking and to avoid sugary foods that spike your blood sugar levels.
by Karen Maude, qualified nutritionist and WellChild Family Tree member, and Chloe French, WellChild Family Membership and Engagement.
First published 16 June 2020
Reviewed March 2021
Next review due September 2021