MindCheck Monthly: The Mood Food Connection

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Does what you eat affect your mood? … Yes, there is a clear connection between mood and food.  Here we discuss a practical food-based approach to improve your mood and energy level.

MindCheck provides in-depth information on Orthomolecular and Naturopathic approaches to achieving mental and physical health.  This series by Dr. Ray Pataracchia ND is endorsed by the Mindful Network – ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.  Here we see a nutrient and lifestyle perspective on health syndromes that when treated benefit both the body and the mind.

The Mood-Food Connection

Here in this blog I discuss the practical food-based approach implemented by Patricia Muzzi in The Mood Foodie Guide.  This guidebook provides a roadmap to help you achieve optimal mood and energy by educating you on good food choices and how to prepare them.  I have seen several paradigms of health as a Naturopath who focuses on clinical nutrition for optimal mental and physical health and it is my opinion that this guide provides an excellent desktop reference for all.  It is not a fad dieting guide and the ‘mood-foodies’ that adopt its principles are on their way to attaining global health and wellness.

To make any lifestyle change one must be motivated to change and the process must be simple.  It is my opinion that this author has succeeded at overcoming both of these hurdles by providing ingenious yet simple tools that everyone can benefit from.

Good eating benefits not only your mood and energy but also your ability to think and perform well at home, vocation, or leisure.  I see this clinically every day.  Eating the wrong food or a food that your body doesn’t tolerate can be detrimental.  Eating the right food is equally important.  To accomplish this you need to identify ‘the good, the bad & the ugly’ foods.  For example, walnuts can be identified as a good brain food.  Walnuts are high in antioxidants, omega-3’s, B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, and iron.  In evidence-based research, all of these nutrients are associated with improving mood, thinking, and behavior.

Determining your food intake issues are one thing, then when you attempt to correct them you need to monitor your progress.  This guide provides a method for assessing and monitoring symptoms which are integral in any successful lifestyle change.  The author uses simple mood-food journaling techniques to help you become more aware of and appreciative of your mood-food connections.  By being directly involved in your health at this basic level you are more apt to take the necessary steps of change.  This is called empowerment and empowerment is the key component of an effective health paradigm.

Can good food really help us?  Let’s use the better energy – better mood connection as a classic example.  Improved energy is seen in those that eat well because: 1) the nutrients in good food have a direct effect on helping your body make energy; and 2) the body’s energy consuming immune and detoxification (liver, bowel, kidney) systems don’t have to work as hard to assimilate and neutralize the wrong foods.  So what does good energy have to do with good mood?  The answer is that the brain is the most energy demanding organ of the body and without energy it can’t make feel good neurotransmitters or communicate efficiently enough to regulate its mood, thinking, and behavior centers.  The Body-Mind link that relates energy to mood is exemplified in the statement ‘if you have energy you can’t be depressed’.

I note that this guide is formatted to first help you appreciate the need to fuel your mind and body and then to help you achieve that goal.  To accomplish this, the author describes easy to understand brain nutrient demands, the principle of food micronutrients, specific brain foods, high quality protein foods (meat, eggs, etcetera), foods poorly tolerated (gluten, ‘menacing mood foods’, additives), healthy snacks versus ‘quick grabs’, organic versus conventional/processed food, healthy substitutes, and foods that help you sleep better.

Specific brain foods described include common foods (apples, berries, bananas, avocado’s, potatoes), perky polyphenols, antioxidants (tomatoes/lycopene), chocolate, citrus, greens, high water content foods, spicy foods, legumes, nuts, quinoa, and high quality animal protein foods (seafood, turkey, eggs).

The guidebook also provides a practical lifestyle component of mindful shopping and cooking tips, healthy activities (exercise, down time, reading), and lifestyle views (avoiding self-criticism of what you eat) that can help.

With the average North American diet full of additives and carbohydrates it is good to see a guide with a recipe section that has popular mood-boosting foods and drinks that are simple to prepare, colorful, nutrient dense and tasteful.  Simple and practical direction is provided including the purchasing of 100% pure juice or making your own by blending or juicing or, buying tortilla’s or making your own cauliflower tortilla’s.  Recipes of note include stuffed zucchini with quinoa and brazil nut pesto, three bean risotto in a fresh tomato base, blissful banana quinoa breakfast porridge, egg-cellent energy boosting veggie frittata, soothing salmon soup, triple zing citrus salad and a few blended brain boosting smoothies.

Other uses of this approach are paralleled in a similar guidebook application for teens, kids, and employees in the workplace.  Teens have the option of implementing the program in Patricia’s ‘The Mood Foodie Teen Guide’.  Patricia’s ‘The Mood Foodie Guide: Workplace Wellness’ describes how a return on investment is exponential when it comes to eating patterns and performance at work.  Calm, cool, collected, happy, high energy, sharp employees are productive employees.  Patricia’s guide format is a template that can easily be implemented as a component of a better workplace health program and you may want to ask your employer if they would be interested in initiating such a program.

Mood Foods: The BodyMindLink

Proper nutrition made possible by eating right is integral in our attainment of physical and mental health.  The list of symptoms associated with eating well are so extensive that no one list would suffice but we can easily say that global improvement in mood, energy, and other longevity factors (vascular health, cancer prevention) are a common denominator of eating well.

If you want to come up to speed and improve your health and food IQ I suggest reading this comprehensive guide and using it as a desktop reference.  The guide is a valuable tool for all adults and also for Mom’s and Dad’s interested in improving the health of their family.