Will the food you’re reaching for make you feel calm and steady? Vibrant and energized? Or slow and foggy? Our culture often positions food as entertainment, so sometimes we forget that what we choose to eat can directly affect our mood.
Learning how what we eat affects our state of mind helps us regain self-mastery. What do we need to eat today to support our our unique energy and mental health needs?
Certified Eating Psychology and nutrition expert, Elise Museles, is sharing some simple ways to eat more mindfully, from magnesium-rich foods that boost happiness to nostalgic meals that calm, this advice is worth bookmarking…
Before you sit down to a meal, do you ever think: Am I going to gain weight? Get sleepy? Crave even more carbs? If this sounds even vaguely familiar, you’re not alone. Most of us wonder what food is going to do to us. We worry. We stress. And we let food control our mood. We label those choices (and ourselves) as good and bad, then beat ourselves up along the way.
But, what if this year you were able to release all that anxiety about what to eat — and without cutting out entire food groups, abiding by strict self-imposed rules or stressing over every bite?
Instead of fretting about what food will do to you, consider what each bite will do for you.
Rather than reacting, proactively choose food based on your desired mood (such as energized, soothed, happy, focused, etc.). And do it by asking yourself one simple question:
How do I want to feel?
Eat to Boost Happiness.
Get the most out of your meals by feeding your body these happiness-inducing ingredients to help you feel extra joy and bliss right now:
Start with a colorful plate. Eating the rainbow always looks and feels great. Adding more colorful nutrients to your meals is instantly uplifting. It is truly the easiest place to begin to have more fun with food, without counting, measuring or feeling totally stressed by rules.
Add nuts and seeds. These nutritional powerhouses help boost production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Fill up on magnesium. The “anti-stress mineral” helps you release tension and sleep better — both effective ways to boost your mood. A few places to get this relaxing nutrient? Legumes, dark leafy greens and chocolate.
Go for gut-healing foods. With an estimated ninety percent (or more) of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin manufactured in our digestive tract, it’s no wonder that by improving gastrointestinal health mental health simultaneously improves, too. Integrate probiotics, fermented foods and lots of plant fiber into your gut-healing protocol for maximum impact happiness.
Eating for Energy
Gear up for a big workout or tackle ambitious projects head-on by fueling your body with the right combination of uplifting foods:
Balance blood sugar. One of the key ways to stay energized all day long is to make sure you ingest a healthy mix of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) each time you eat, and never wait too long in between meals. Because when you’re hungry your blood sugar gets low and it is hard to stay focused.
Start the day off right. Stay ahead of your energy stores with a balanced breakfast. Smoothies that include plant-protein, fruit, avocado or nut butter will keep you feeling alert (and satisfied) longer than any all-fruit version. Overnight oats with nuts and seeds or chia pudding make easy balanced breakfasts that magically come together while sleeping. (No excuses that you ran out of time.)
Pour yourself a cup of matcha. The L-theanine in this green tea will give you a steady boost without the crash of coffee.
Soothing Foods For A Calmer Day
Find comfort in meals and rituals that will help remind you to slow down and breathe:
Inhale Lavender. This herb is known to create calm and can be added to lattes, oats and smoothies, and even cookies and baked goods, too! The smell alone can help promote relaxation.
Prepare nostalgic meals. A grown-up version of PB& J made with almond butter and chia seed jam can bring back memories that can instantly provide feelings of warmth and comfort.
Sip on tea. Taking a quiet moment with a warm drink will immediately encourage you to de-stress. Bonus for including anxiety-reducing ingredients such as chamomile or our favorite golden spice, turmeric.
Nutrients For Focus + Alertness
Cut through the mental fog by feeding your body these brain-boosting nutrients:
Make friends with healthy fats. This macronutrient plays a key role in brain health and can keep your mind razor sharp. Calling all guacamole, nut butter and salmon lovers: This one’s for you. Reach for avocados, hemp seeds and fish high in omega fatty acids to support brain function and decrease signs of depression.
Get in greens. No surprise here: The kale, collards and spinach you know and love promote mental clarity — as will all the deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables that are loaded with an array of phytonutrients.
Sprinkle bold seasonings. Herbs and spices make your meals that much more flavorful and support your focus long after you leave the table. Additions like garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, thyme and rosemary enliven your cooking and also improve memory, reducing signs of cognitive decline.
Rest up. Technically not a nutrient, but sleep is a superfood. All the kale, avocado and turmeric in the world won’t do your mind (and body) any good if you’re not well rested.
Eating For Immune Strength
Punch up your immunity during stressful times or ease the discomfort of seasonal allergies with these nutrient-dense foods:
Grab a mug. Aside from serving as an inner space heater, warm liquids are essential for fighting off colds. Keep your body hydrated (and flush toxins out of your system) while wrapping your hands around a hot mug of goodness, and those unwanted germs are less likely to hang around.
Eat the rainbow. Antioxidants found in all those bright, colorful fruits and veggies protect your cells from free radicals and can help reduce inflammation in your body.
Fill up on gut-healing foods. Here we go with the gut again, but as Hippocrates said: All disease begins in the gut. Be sure to get in the good bacteria to help keep your body strong all season long.
Laugh more. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, which improve your body’s resistance to disease. Share a silly joke at the dinner table or watch your favorite old comedy — whatever helps lift your mood will also help improve your health!
Indulge In A Little Pleasure.Food is a source of enjoyment. Deprivation only backfires and giving yourself permission to eat something you love just for the experience can be as nourishing as a big kale salad.
Treat yourself. Maybe it’s a rich, creamy and decadent chocolate mousse for a little something sweet or perhaps it’s a savory plate of creamy mac and cheese. Figure out what brings you joy (healthy or not), release any feelings of guilt and savor every single pleasurable bite.
See how easy and delicious it can be to choose your food based on your desired mood? Try it and make 2019 the year of stress-free cooking and eating!