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You are what you Eat

Your handy dandy guide to food and mood

You are what you eat. Really. It’s true. I’m not saying that if you eat paalak paneer for lunch, you’re suddenly going to sprout spinach on your head. But the paalak will get digested and find its way into your flesh and blood giving you its iron, its vitamins and goodness and yumminess.

The food you eat helps you grow, gives you energy and all the fun stuff you mugged up for your bio exams. And it does even more - affects your mental health. Really. I’m telling you.

Remember the time you had to submit that research paper (obviously you started it last minute) and you were so stressed that you ate Kit-Kat bars until you wanted to puke? But for a little while you were happy na? Many studies have shown that there is a connection between sweet stuff and anxiety. And then there was the time when the girlfriend temporary broke-up and you practically lived at MacDonalds downing burgers (They even sent you a “we miss you” card when you got back with her). Carbohydrates are also linked with dealing with sadness and stress.

If you get past the guilt (and the sheer pukiness of the moment) know that your body was trying to tell you something.  It was saying ke, “listen bro my brain needs some extra energy to process this stressful event”. And both the sugar and the carbohydrates gave you that burst of energy to deal with it. So far so good!

But here’s the flip side. The rush is temporary. Eventually you return to sadness or stress with the added problem of some extra baggage on the hips and waist. However, if some food is bad for you, other food can actually perk you up! A lot of research shows that some kinds of foods can help mental wellness, especially in cases of depression.

The science of happiness

There is an amino acid called tryptophan. When this enters the brain it helps to synthesize another enzyme called serotonin. This technical sounding thing is actually very important – it is the chemical that defines your mood. More serotonin means more happiness. Less means heading south to sadness.

So essentially all food that helps synthesize serotonin is a superhero. Number one on the list – carbohydrates (carbs). Now most people these days are working towards Sushant-Singh-Rajput-in-M-S- Dhoni type six pack abs. For these people Carbohydrates are the villain.  However, not all carbs are bad. In fact many of them are good – research has found that tryptophan helps to process serotonin better in the presence of carbs!  Now you get why you crave that plate of pasta when you’re sad? Basically your body knows that the carbs could help it notch up the happiness index. But hello, don’t reach for that bowl of noodles yet. Evaluate the carb on your plate – does it have fibre? (whole grain flours and oats), does it have white sugar? (reduce this na), does it have any other nutrients? (many flours like whole wheat, oats, nachni, etc, are tasty and have lots of vitamins and minerals).

Next on the list are foods with Omega 3-fatty acids. Foods that are rich, like fish and nuts in particular, in these are also very good pick-me-out-of-the-blues type.

And finally there are foods rich in Vitamin B – particularly B12. Like crabs, research has shown that these too are helpful in synthesizing Serotonin. So make sure you put in whole grains and/or white meat like chicken and fish to keep you happy.

Comfort Food

And then there are those foods that bring you joy not because of the science, but because of a memory or an association. Soft mushy khichri may mean the comfort of mom’s kitchen; Besan ke laddo, a happy festival memory; a hot sweet tea, a moment at the small roadside shack on a road trip. Everyone has their own special food moments. Pick yours out and enjoy it wherever you are, whatever the moment.

The simplest relationship between food and mood

There’s a simple reason why food affects mood. No food = no energy = bad mood. So yeah, make sure you eat regularly and healthy.

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NEXT STORY


5 weird signs that prove you have a nutritional deficiency

Are you facing any of these weird symptoms...

Has your body been throwing mysterious cravings at you? Do you find yourself dealing with strange behavior patterns and bizarre symptoms? Well, if you listen carefully, you will realize that your body is trying to tell you something.

Behind every freaky craving and symptom is your body hinting that you might have a nutritional deficiency. It is your body’s way of begging you to stack up on what it’s lacking.

It may be difficult at first to understand that you can be deficient of nutrients, if you have been eating often. If you have been having your meals and you’ve been snacking away in between meals too, how is it then, that you have a deficiency? The answer is empty calories!

You have probably been loading on food that is nutritionally void, oblivious to the fact that you are depriving your system of all the healthy nutrients that it needs. Let’s take a stock of these bizarre signs and symptoms that point at your deficiencies and the nutrients you need to score on…    

You crave eating chalk

If you have been feeling an uncontrollable urge to bite into a chalk or scrape lime stone powder off the wall and eat it; this implies that you have a calcium deficiency. By driving you to eat into every possible source of it, your body is demanding that you eat more of calcium.

To fix this –

Banana, milk and cheese, sea food, nuts and leafy vegetables are all rich sources of calcium. Every once in a while you can toss yourself a bowl of salad that is packed with the greens, nuts and tofu to make sure you get your calcium dose.   

You want to eat dirt

As strange as it may sound, people who experience this craving struggle with a pretty strong urge to eat dirt (earth). This suggests that the person suffers from anemia and has an iron deficiency.

To fix this –

Sea food, red meat, beans, dried foods, cereals and dark green vegetables are all good sources of iron. If you are a vegetarian, consider filing in your lack of iron with soybean, flax seeds, tomatoes and lentils.       

You have numb or tingly limbs and hands

If you have been getting a numb or a tingly feeling in your hands and limbs, then it is most likely that you have a Vitamin B12 and/or Vitamin D deficiency. We suggest you get yourself tested and if you are indeed deficient of these then make amends.

To fix this –

Lack of exposure to sunlight, vegan diets, stress and other unhealthy lifestyle choices are causes of Vitamin deficiencies. It is important that you consume a sufficient portion of cereals, mushrooms, sea food, cod liver oils, eggs, beef and cheese. 

You want to chomp onto ice

This one might sound strange but an urge to eat ice indicates iron deficiency. When you are running low on iron you will feel fatigued and low on energy, and because ice causes a mental energy boost you will feel like eating it.

To fix this –

Instead of chomping onto ice, we say you level your iron scores by consuming read meat, beans, lentils, orange juice, oysters, yoghurt, soy et al.

You have brittle and flaky nails and you are losing hair by the dozen

If you are losing hair then you need to check on the ingredients of your shampoo but more importantly you need to know that it could be a protein deficiency! If you have brittle and flaky nails then you have the lack of iron to blame.

To fix this –

To fix your iron deficiency you must up the intake of; sea food, red meat, beans, dried foods, cereals and dark green vegetables. For the protein deficiency, make sure you eat loads of broccoli, chicken, oats, almonds, eggs and dairy.  

If you have a story to share, Email it to us HERE.

If you have a query, Email it to us HERE.

You can also chat with the counsellor by clicking on Teentalk Expert Chat.

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