Written by: Jenny Smith
Do foods affect your feelings?
One of the best self-help tools to support the emotional stability of your family is to become aware of how certain foods affect certain feelings. Food and nutrition have been scientifically proven to affect emotional and mental health and as well as being a great support for people during stressful time.Food and mood go very close together and getting the balance right will help you all feel so much healthier and happier.
Some of the common ways in which food affects mood include sudden or big changes to blood sugar levels which in turn lower concentration levels and increase fatigue. Another is levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine which help us to feel good and also naturally protect us from pain are changed by what we eat, thirdly artificial additives to food can cause abnormal reactions and fourthly, low levels of certain vitamins and minerals can cause mental health difficulties such as low omega-3 oils are attributed to some feelings of depression.
Caffeine in moderation
Common substances also bring about unpleasant symptoms. Caffeine for example, which is in tea, coffee and chocolate gives an initial boost of energy which can help but over time and in too big a quantity can lead to excess anxiety, nervousness and depression. Similarly sugar which one of the most common ingredients in tinned and packet foods, gives an initial burst of extra energy followed by a crash and a craving for more.
One of the most useful things that you can do to understand more about how your diet is affecting how you feel is to record over a week everything that you eat and note down how you feel immediately before and after eating the food. This will show you an accurate record of exactly what you are eating, it can be surprising how many of us have a different idea to what our diets are to the reality of what they are! Secondly it will give you an insight into why you are choosing certain foods and how they affect you.
Simple tips that you can put into place immediately include ensuring that everyone is drinking enough water which is known to be the single most effective step to bring about a positive change in mood and health. Another is to ensure that your family is eating five portions of fresh fruit and vegetable each day, one portion being about one handful, ideally this should also be organically grown. To minimise fluctuating blood sugar levels include foods in your meals that are release energy slowly such as unrefined wholegrains and oats and make sure that you eat protein every day such as eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and cheese. Essential fatty acids such as fish, flax and hemp oils really support the brain to stay healthy and other oils found in nuts and seeds are also important good mood nutrients.
Bringing about changes to your families diet is a process rather than something to do all at once. Try experimenting with different things each week and see what goes down well. Seeds and nuts can be blended into fruit smoothies if kids are reluctant to eat them whole, similarly fruits can be made more appealing by being cut up and likewise with vegetables by serving them raw with dips such as hummus.
Getting the kids interested
Get your kids helping you in the kitchen and find ways to teach them about how different foods affect their bodies and their feelings. Encourage them to increase brain food when they have to concentrate more like during exams, but make sure you have these discussions away from times of sugar crashes or junk food overloads so that they are able to hear what you are saying rather than react to it.