After all, we’ve been conditioned to turn to crisps, chocolate, ice cream and biscuits when we’re feeling low. But far from bringing us comfort, these sugary carb-laden foods may well be adding to our misery.
A recent survey by Tilda Rice found that seven out of ten women and half of men treat themselves to cakes, sweets and chocolates when they’re in need of a pick-me-up. However, not even the best-intentioned sugary delights will make us feel better. They’ll actually make us feel the exact opposite because of their effect on blood sugar levels.
“Our blood sugar levels can rise rapidly, causing stress and anxiety, after eating sugary foods or refined carbohydrates,” explains clinical dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker who is working with Tilda to launch a new ‘Eat Your Way to Happiness’ campaign.
“Then they crash soon after, leaving you feeling lethargic or in low spirits. Our campaign aims to help people make better food choices when they’re looking for a pick-me-up during a bad day.”
The campaign wants to replace the short-lived highs people get from refined sugar and processed fats with healthier options.
“It’s shocking to see wholesome eating habits go out the window when we face a challenge in the day or a lull in our routine. This is when healthy eating is most important.”
So, if that bar of chocolate is off the menu, what should you be reaching for at the end of a bad day? Brazil nuts are number one on Dr Schenker’s list of feel-good foods. This is because the thyroid plays a role in mood regulation and needs a regular dose of selenium in order to function optimally.
“Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium, containing 10 times more than the next richest source,” says Dr Schenker. “Selenium-rich foods help to combat depression and studies have shown that eating a small handful of Brazil nuts every day can improve your mood.”
Incorporate them into your diet by snacking on Brazil nuts between meals or by chopping them and sprinkling them onto your cereal at breakfast.
Wholegrain basmati rice is her next suggestion. This low-GI carbohydrate releases energy slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels steading and maintaining a balanced and calm mood. Eat it with curries, stews, casseroles and tagines.
Broccoli is another food that will make you happy. “Your body needs a healthy supply of B vitamins, including folate, to make the feel-good chemical serotonin,” explains Dr Schenker. “When B vitamins are in short supply, we can’t properly metabolise our neurotransmitters, which means we’re low in serotonin and dopamine, both of which control pleasure.”
Half a cup of broccoli contains 50mg of folate as well as nutrients that promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Other mood-boosting foods include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, salmon, quinoa, chickpeas, coconut, asparagus, spinach, beans, chicken, turkey, avocado, blueberries, bananas, pomegranates, ginger, beetroot, chilli, yoghurt and dark chocolate.
To find out more, see the Eat Your Way to Happiness Manual and download a seven-day meal-planner at www.tilda.com.