Unraveling the Mind-Food Connection
As a dad with two rambunctious kids, Sofia and Lucas, our household can often resemble Pandora’s box. You never know what you're going to get. Juggling my blogging and parenting, I came across this fascinating connection between diet and mental health that I thought was worth delving into.
Believe it or not, what we stuff down our gullets extends far beyond the scale and into the realm of the mind. Our brain is like a luxury sports car. It goes vroom! But only if you fill it with premium food - fuel. Feed it shoddy, low-octane snack cakes and not only will the engine sputter, it may just straight up road rage on you. Add in the trials and tribulations of 2023, the brain has never been under more strain. So, let's dive right in and understand how our lunchbox can influence our mood swings!
Digestion and The Good Mood Food
Let’s kick-start with something I find fabulously cosmic. To think, 95% of serotonin, that’s the chemical that helps you maintain that cheerful ‘singing-in-the-shower’ mood, is actually churned out in your gastrointestinal tract. That's your gut. Divert your imagination from singing in the shower to your gut singing - okay, maybe not. But you get my point. The digestive system doesn't just process the food we eat; it also plays a hot-seat role in governing how you feel. Hence, folks, it’s not ‘you are what you eat,' but more 'you feel what you eat.'
So, what are some food items that release these joyful juices? Let’s start with a favourite at my house – dark chocolate. Yes, you heard it right. I often play the 'benevolent dad,' offering a piece of dark chocolate to Sofia and Lucas after a hearty dinner. Not only does it make their eyes light up like it’s Christmas morning, but the complex carbs in dark chocolate also encourage the brain to release mood-enhancing chemicals.
Good Gut, Good Mood
Let’s stick with the tummy chatter for a bit. You know how we are all learning to live with our invisible roommates called bacteria? Well, as it turns out, the gut microbiome, a lush bacterial theme park inside us, plays a pivotal role in our mental health more than we could ever imagine. Probiotics, incidentally the 'good bacteria, have been linked to improvements in mood, stress, and anxiety.
My personal covert operation to shield my kids from frequent bouts of stormy moods involves sneaking some of these probiotic-rich foods into our family's meals. Fermented stars like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi, for the more adventurous amongst us, are some probiotic powerhouses. Here’s an inside tip: homemade sauerkraut makes a crunchy, tangy addition to a dressed-up hot dog, a firm favourite of Lucas- and he’s none the wiser!
Eat Smarter, Not Harder
Now getting wholesome nutrition into the body isn't about going all out on a specific diet plan or counting every grain of quinoa, at least that's not how we do it in the Veridian household. Over the years, I've learned that the key is maintaining a balanced diet with varied, nutrient-dense foods. It's all about nourishing the body with enough proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies.
Sometimes, I play a little game with Sofia and Lucas. We create a score card for every colour of fruit or vegetable we eat throughout the week. By the end of the week, whoever has the most points gets an extra serving of dark chocolate. Believe me, it's a fabulous way to ensure we're eating healthier and it sure ups the entertainment quotient during meal times!
Fast Food is Causing the Blues, Literally
On the flip side, let's take a minute and talk about fast food - the evil villain of the health world but an ever-tempting comfort crutch. Between busy work schedules and juggling two kids, the allure of a quick meal can sometimes be irresistible. But numerous studies have found a strong link between consuming fast food and experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Amidst the rush of life, striking a balance is the key. A pizza night once in a while, when Sofia and Lucas have been particularly well-behaved (a rare but cherished occurrence), won't spell doom. However, making it a staple in the diet can lead to low moods and mental funk. Trust me, I've been down that route before. It led to my kids christening a version of me they called 'Gloomy Daddy.' It goes without saying; I'd rather not revisit that moniker anytime soon!
So, there you have it. The food we eat triggers a domino effect, influencing our physical and mental health. As we navigate this complex and often chaotic world, it's comforting to know that we have some control over our moods and mental well-being simply by being mindful of what’s on our plate. Consider this your culinary guide to happiness. Stay positive, eat better, and remember - a healthy outside starts from the inside.