The season of celebration has arrived. It’s a time to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family. Usually when we get together at this time of year, we indulge in delicious, rich food with a few too many glasses of whatever makes us merry. Some of us may end up taking in more than the total amount of alcohol we drank for the whole rest of the year! This can totally blow our healthy diet routine right out the window. We know that this joyful time can be hazardous to our health, affecting everything, including our mood.
So what can we do to improve this situation?
In your gastro-intestinal tract there are billions of bacteria, and these bacteria can influence neuro-transmitter production. Neuro-transmitters are chemical substances which constantly carry messages from your gut to your brain. Serotonin and Dopamine are examples of neuro-transmitters, both of which can have a positive impact on a person’s mood, and both of which play a role in sleep, appetite, and impulse control.
Increased levels of serotonin can actually help elevate your mood. In contrast, a shortage of dopamine and serotonin can lead to a low or depressed mood.
Every time you eat healthy food, you’re actually promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut. This will have a positive effect on the production of neuro-transmitters. On the other hand, if you often eat sugary treats and junk food or overdo the alcohol, especially during the long party period, you could experience inflammation within your gut. This inflammation will make it more difficult for your body to adequately produce mood-boosting neuro-transmitters. As soon as this production begins to meet an obstacle, you may notice a negative effect on your mood.
But it’s not all bad news.
Below are a list of key nutrients and food items that you can use to create delicious party food, while enhancing your neuro-transmitting chemicals to improve your mood at this very festive time.
- Fermented Foods
During fermentation, live bacteria convert sugars into acids and alcohols. Probiotics are living organisms, and they can help to support healthy bacteria grow within your gut. With this growth of healthy bacteria, comes easier production of neuro-transmitters, eventually leading to improved production of serotonin within your brain. Examples of fermented foods are yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kefir, and Kombucha
Prebiotics are food for probiotics that help to nourish the beneficial gut bacteria so they can better thrive; essentially, prebiotics are found naturally in many foods that are rich in dietary fibre and resistant starch, such as plantains, beans, lentils, whole grains and Jerusalem artichokes.
- Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is a good source of Omega-3s and Vitamin D. Omega-3s play a role in sharpening memory, improving mood, and reducing inflammatory processes in the brain which helps to promote releasing serotonin. Vitamin D plays an important role in cell signaling and brain development. During wintertime, you might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight and you might suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which has been associated with a decrease in vitamin D.
- Nuts and Seeds
Both nuts and seeds contain plant-based proteins, healthy fats, minerals, and fibre. Fibre is able to slow down the digestion and absorption of other carbs. This way, sugar is more gradually released into your bloodstream. Allowing your energy levels to stay stable can also help to control irritability and mood swings.
Nuts also provide you with tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid and is responsible as a precursor of serotonin production.
Moreover, nuts containing Magnesium and zinc may also affect your brain directly by modulating the activity of neurons receptors which would explain why low levels of this mineral can result in abnormal neuronal excitations leading to anxiety.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is full of healthy flavonoids, which can help w
ith the flow of blood to your brain, boost overall brain health, reduce inflammation and is good source of copper, which plays direct role in brain function. It helps to convert dopamine, a chemical produced by the body and used in the brain, into norepinephrine, which is associated with heightened alertness and mood elevation. Dark chocolate also releases feel-good compounds such as theobromine and N-acylethanolamine. It is even chemically similar to certain cannabinoids, but keep in your mind that certain dark chocolates can have a high sugar content, so aim for at least 75% cacao.
Can you think of a great dish or menu for your party from these ingredients? We would love to hear your ideas, so please share your favourite healthy festive dish with us.
We wish you joy and peace at this time of year, having a great time with family and friends and making your parties even better with our healthy tips.