02 Apr Is food ruining your life?
Been gorging on crisps? It’s likely you’re gripped by anxiety. Love fizzy drinks? You could be experiencing mood swings. Victoria Tipper speaks with Christine Fieldhouse about the foods that bring you down.
Who hasn’t tucked into a cheese-laden pizza or a cheeseburger and fries with soda, only to find the next day they feel bloated, with a headache and no energy for anything other than lying on the sofa? For years we’ve been told we are what we eat, and that what we eat today will determine how we feel tomorrow.
But nutritionists now believe the foods we eat have an even deeper impact on our lives. As well as affecting us physically, they also believe what we eat and drink can determine how we feel mentally. They reckon those little mood swings, that anxiety, could be stopped in their tracks if we put the spotlight on our diet and banish the culprits.
Victoria Tipper, nutrition coach at Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre (www.dubaihtc.com), agrees. “Our moods are definitely affected by the foods we eat,” she says.
“There are many food intolerances or allergies that people have which can cause them to suffer from mood disturbances. People might react to a range of foods, from vegetables like potatoes, aubergines, peppers and tomatoes, to additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners.
“Finding out which foods you are sensitive to might help you have more patience with your child when rushing to get out of the door to school, or even lift that mood that makes you want to stay in bed.”
Working out which foods affect us can be time consuming and it could take a few days for symptoms to appear.
Here’s our guide to the key foods that make us feel less than great.
The foods: Soy sauce, certain flavoured crisps, fast food like fried chicken, some tinned chicken noodle soups, Chinese takeaways.
How anxiety affects us We’re afraid of trying new things so we stick to what we feel comfortable with, and gradually our world gets smaller. We avoid meeting new people. We get stuck in a rut and become a little dull.
The theory “MSG is often used as a flavour enhancer in processed foods,” explains Victoria. “But a recent study connected MSG to anxiety or depressive-like behaviour in animals. The authors of the study found that injecting MSG into rats interfered with their regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts in the body as a messenger between nerve cells. This serotonin dysregulation plays a role in anxiety.”
What to do “MSG is in so many foods it’s difficult to avoid it completely but you can reduce your intake by eating fresh wholefoods like fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and pulses,” recommends Victoria.
The foods: Diet drinks, protein shakes, chewing gum, cereals and sweeteners.
How irritability affect us We end up snapping at people and looking for arguments. We complain in shops, rant when we’re stuck in traffic and we shout at our kids for no reason.
The theory “Aspartame is used as an artificial sweetener in diet drinks, including diet soda, diet milk and yogurt drinks,” says Victoria. “Aspartame contains aspartic acid and overuse has been linked to increased irritability. When ingested, this acid leads to an increase in excitotoxins, which excite neural cells to the point that they die.”
What to do “Go for low-sugar products rather than the sugar-free variety if you have to buy processed foods, but even better, avoid diet fizzy drinks and diet foods,” advises Victoria. “Replace soda with some sparkling mineral water. If you want a sweetener, opt for coconut sugar because it doesn’t make the blood sugar rise too quickly, or try the natural sweetener stevia. Avoid those that contain additives such as maltodextrin or dextrose. Instead sweeten food with fruit such as dates or bananas.”
The foods: Breakfast cereals, cakes, soups and salad dressings.
How negativity affects us We see the worst in every situation. And we’re hopeless about the future. We complain about our partners getting home late from work, we criticise our children for being on their Xbox all the time and we whinge about work.
The theory Victoria says some studies have linked eating gluten in the form of wheat, barley, rye and oats to negative moods.
“There’s a theory that gluten reduces the production of serotonin [a feel-good neurotransmitter],” says Victoria. “Another school of thought believes gluten may have a direct impact on the bacterial balance in our gut, and the level of bacteria we have in our bodies may play a role in brain and mood function.”
What we can do “There are many naturally gluten-free grains available, including rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. There are also gluten-free flours made from nuts, or pulses such as chickpeas,” suggests Victoria.
The foods: Fizzy drinks, white bread, pizzas, white pasta, cakes, caffeine and white rice.
How mood swings affect us One minute we’re feeling upbeat, the next we’re down in the dumps. This often affects the people we’re closest to and can put a strain on our relationships.
The theory “Mood swings can be typical of blood sugar imbalance, or an imbalance in our stress hormones,” says UK-based nutritionist and emotional well-being counsellor Mary-Lou Harris (www.marylouharris.com). “If we are stressed or we eat high-sugar, refined white carbs and drink more than three cups of tea or coffee a day, we can destabilise our blood sugars, which causes our moods to become as erratic as our fluctuating blood sugar.”
What to do “Include cinnamon and turmeric in your diet to stabilise your blood sugars,” suggests Mary-Lou. “Have the wholegrain version of your carbs – such as brown rice – and eat them with protein to slow down the sugar rush in the body. Quality fibre like oats and wheat-free breads made from chickpea flour will keep sugar stable.”
Victoria Tipper adds, “Include starchy vegetables such as sweet potato or pumpkin or choose beans or lentils. Never skip meals if you’re prone to low blood sugar levels – carry bags of snacks such as nuts.”
The foods: Tea, coffee, chocolate, medications, nicotine.
How indecision affects us We waste time at work, we don’t move forward in our careers, our partners start to make decisions for us so we feel pushed around, and our children play us up because our boundaries aren’t clear.
The theory Mary-Lou says indecision is linked to the liver, which is sometimes called ‘the seat of decision-making’. “A sluggish liver can result from too much caffeine or too many medications,” she says. “It can also happen when we eat food that isn’t organic because the liver has to detoxify the pesticides and growth hormones used in farm feed and on crops.”
What we can do Eat plenty of foods that support the liver – turmeric, garlic, ginger, leeks, red onions, beetroot and asparagus are good examples. Brew 1/4 tsp each of turmeric, cinnamon and ginger in a cafetière and drink it in the morning and afternoon to clean up a sluggish liver.
See more at – http://fridaymagazine.ae/features/reportage/is-food-ruining-your-life-1.1479404