We all know you are what you eat, but poor diet choices don’t just thicken your waistline, they also affect your mood, concentration and brain power.
In fact, your mood affects your food choices and your food choices affect your mood.
Here are some suggestions for your shopping basket for food that makes you feel energised, happy and switched-on.
Go low GI
Opt for foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI), such as wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, low-fat yoghurt, basmati rice and cool-climate fruits such as apples, which help to keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, preventing mood highs and lows. Try eating low GI foods at the same time as protein-rich foods such as fish, meat, tofu or eggs. The protein slows down how fast your body absorbs the sugars.
Don’t skip meals if you want to feel more energised and focused. Three meals daily, plus snacks, help to keep hunger at bay and boost your concentration and energy levels. This includes having breakfast!
Your brain consumes 20% of your daily calorie intake. Brain cells need glucose to keep things running smoothly, so you need a steady calorie intake throughout the day.
Whip up some Spanish-style baked eggs to kick off the weekend!
Eat more oily fish
Eating oily fish has been found to aid memory, attention and concentration, but it’s also thought to improve your mood. Research shows that a lack of omega-3s could increase the chances of depression. Only 10% of Australians are eating enough oily fish, the main source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Non-fish omega-3-rich foods include walnuts, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, olive oil and soybeans.
Eat an oily fish based meal at least twice a week.
Boost your iron
Among its myriad functions, iron is involved in the transport of oxygen in the blood. If you’re not consuming enough, it could lead to fatigue and even anaemia. Eat plenty of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, poultry, oily fish and dried fruit and pulses.
Iron is also vital in brain development in children.
We only need a tiny bit of iron (1mg for males and 1.5mg for females), but we need to eat several times that amount, as the body can’t absorb large amounts. Your body will absorb more iron from food if you eat it with a source of vitamin C, like many vegetables. Citrus fruits, berries and capsicum are especially rich in vitamin C.
Combine steak with vitamin-rich vegies for dinner.
Don’t banish the carbs!
Serotonin, which controls mood, appetite and sleepiness, is made from a protein called tryptophan and this is absorbed into your brain after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal.
If your serotonin levels are low, you might lift your mood by boosting the carbs in your diet. Opt for quality carbs such as wholegrain bread, brown rice and fruit.
Avoid high GI foods
High GI foods, such as white bread, soft drinks and lollies, give you a lift but it is only temporary. High GI foods are broken down more quickly, causing blood sugar levels to surge.
The body then releases extra insulin to stabilise your sugar levels to within a narrow limit. The result is blood sugar crash, which makes you feel sleepy and moody, and craving more high GI foods.
Eat something low GI for sustained energy release, like some carrot sticks with hummus, sourdough bread with peanut butter, or low-fat yoghurt with grapes.
Focus on protein
Protein-rich foods such as eggs, low-fat dairy, lean meat and poultry can all help your brain to produce the neurotransmitters that keep you alert and focused.
So, if you want to avoid post-lunch drowsiness, eat good quality protein with your midday meal.
Try a ranch chicken sandwich.
Reduce the fat
A high calorie fatty meal will stay in the stomach longer, diverting blood from your brain and muscles to aid digestion, which can make you feel sluggish for hours afterwards.
Fat is an essential part of your diet but The Heart Foundation recommends that no more than 35% of your daily calorie intake should come from fat. Use the online diary's nutrition summary to monitor your fat intake.
Eat a variety of fruit and vegies
Fruit and vegetables energise your body and mind by supplying natural sugars. They also contain antioxidants that neutralise free radicals, which can damage body cells, including brain cells.
Choose a rainbow of fresh produce every day to obtain the full benefits.
Try a vegetarian dinner, like Moroccan vegetable tagine.
Eat more nuts and seeds
A lack of the mineral selenium has also been linked with feeling low. Sesame seeds and Brazil nuts are great sources, as are most nuts and seeds, tuna and eggs.
For an extra selenium hit, sprinkle some pepitas over this tuna nicoise salad.