Snap Out of It: Using Food to Boost Your Mood (Part 2)

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When I wake up to go to work during the winter, it’s pitch black outside. When I leave work to go home, it’s also dark. Some days, it seems like I never see the sun. That can be enough to put me in a bad mood. What are your “bad mood” triggers?

Diabetes and mood
Having diabetes can also put you in a sour state of mind for a number of reasons. Being diagnosed with diabetes puts a burden on you, as well as loved ones. Anxiety, worry, and depression can set in given the constant, 24/7 self-care that goes along with having diabetes. In addition, swings in blood glucose levels can also leave you feeling a little grumpy.

The good news? These feelings can be treated and managed with the right care and attention. That’s why so many diabetes treatment centers and clinics are staffed with behavioral health folks. As I wrote last week, if you’re struggling emotionally or mentally with trying to manage your diabetes (or with any aspect of having diabetes), talk to your health-care provider about how you’re feeling and ask about a referral to a behavioral health specialist. They’re there to help!

Back to food
Food isn’t always a cure-all, but eating healthfully (along with getting regular physical activity, of course!) can definitely help give you a mental boost. I shared some tips with you last week, and this week, I have even more.

Up your folate intake. Many people think of folate (or folic acid) in relation to a healthy pregnancy. Folate, which is one of the B vitamins, is important to help prevent birth defects. But everyone needs folic acid. There seems to be a link between folic acid deficiency and depression. Also, if you take medicine to treat depression, it may not work as well if you’re lacking in this vitamin. Find folic acid in leafy greens such as kale and spinach, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, beans, and fortified cereals.

Go easy on fat. Yes, fat is essential, and as we’ve learned, some types of fat are heart-healthy. But munching on greasy fast food, doughnuts, or potato chips isn’t the solution to feeling down in the dumps. In one study, people following a low-fat diet for a year reported a more positive mood compared to people on a low-carb diet. On the other hand, some fat really can help you feel better, so the point is not to cut out fat, just cut back.

Reach for an egg. Yes, eggs can be part of a heart-healthy eating plan. Eating eggs may also give you a bit of a mood boost, too, thanks to the combo of nutrients they contain: protein, iron, folate, vitamin D, and choline. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that these nutrients helped to improve mood and combat depression.

Watch the alcohol. Alcohol is a bit of a Catch-22 in that drinking it can initially give you a lift and put you in a better frame of mind. But as we all know, too much alcohol acts as a depressant and can leave you worse for the wear. In addition, turning to alcohol for comfort or to literally “drown your sorrows” when the blues hit isn’t the answer. Enjoy a glass of wine or an ice-cold beer now and then, but keep your “spirits” high by limiting your intake.

Drink water. Rushing around to finish last-minute shopping, racing to meet a work deadline, or burning off calories at the gym can leave you dehydrated. We also tend not to drink as many fluids as we should in the cold weather because we don’t feel as thirsty as we do during the dog days of summer. Dehydration can slow you down and cause you to feel lethargic and grumpy. While we don’t really know the ideal amount of water (or fluid) we should drink, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men aim for 13 cups of fluid each day, and women, 9 cups each day.

Enjoy that coffee. Coffee provides a host of benefits, and sipping on a few cups each day helps “perk” you up (thanks to the caffeine) and also can give you a lift by increasing levels of dopamine, a chemical that improves mood and sharpens your focus. Just go easy on the “extras,” like sugar, syrups, and whipped cream, in order to keep calories and carbs in check.

Spice it up. If you can stand the heat, throw some red pepper flakes into your recipes or munch on some chili peppers. Capsaicin, the ingredient in chilies that give them their “kick,” boosts endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that can improve your outlook in no time.

Now, I’ve shared a few things that can hopefully help you feel better. What works for you?

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