A sustained feeling of wellbeing depends on having a varied, well-balanced diet that includes all of the essential nutrients our body and mind need to function optimally. If we deprive our body of any of these nutrients, we create a nutritional imbalance that can have both psychological and physical effects. This is why fad diets that omit a particular food group or are too extreme in terms of calorie reduction, for example, can lead to some people complaining of feelings of depression or lethargy.
By following a few simple dietary rules, we can help prevent feelings of lethargy, irritability and low mood:
Don’t miss meals. Eating regularly gets your blood sugar up and you’re less likely to feel dips in your mood and energy level. Carbohydrate foods that contain B vitamins can help boost nervous energy, so choose low glycaemic-index (GI) carbs such as seeded bread, wholewheat pasta, porridge, beans and lentils, and fruit and veg.
Eat breakfast. It helps to recharge your batteries after the overnight fast. Choose a wholegrain cereal or wholegrain bread with some fruit or fruit juice to kick-start your engine.
Have a varied diet. Eat a variety of foods and you’re more likely to get a full range of vitamins and minerals. This helps your body to work at its optimum, and gives you a feeling of wellbeing.
A good-mood diet is one that encompasses the full range of nutrients from the five major food groups: starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and wholemeal bread and pasta; fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day); protein like meat, fish, beans and eggs; dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt; and sugar and fat (choose healthier, unsaturated fat products). Within these food groups, there are certain vitamins and minerals that research suggests have a particularly important influence on our mood and energy levels:
B vitamins.You need B vitamins for nervous energy. A deficiency can make you feel depressed or irritable. You get these good guys from yeast extracts, wholegrains and fortified breakfast cereals – check food labels.
Iron. A lack of iron can make you feel lethargic, so choose lean red meat, canned fish and liver. Bread and some breakfast cereals are also fortified with iron and can be a useful source for vegetarians. If you’re vegetarian, don’t drink tea with your meals as this reduces the absorption of iron from food. Try fruit juice instead – the vitamin C enhances iron absorption.
Glucose. Feeling good comes from a diet that gives you a steady supply of glucose, so you need to have a regular intake of low-glycaemic carbohydrates. Choose moderate amounts of pasta, beans, lentils, bulgur wheat, seeded or granary breads, and fruit and vegetables.
Selenium. This has been shown to reduce feelings of negative mood and depression. Good food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, fish and eggs. Walnuts and Brazil nuts also provide potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.
Folate. Studies have also suggested that having insufficient folate in your diet can increase your chances of feeling low. You get folate from liver, green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, yeast extract and breakfast cereals.
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This article has been provided by AXA PPP healthcare. Health commentary has been supplied by dietitian Azmina Govindji.
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