Nibbling too much?

It’s easy to fall into or back into a pattern of overeating at times like the when we’re stressed. In fact, research shows that our negative emotions are responsible for more than 75% of our indulgent eating habits. trauma, chronic or short-term stress, mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and low self esteem. It’s a vicious cycle, we overeat because we feel bad and feel bad because we overeat.

Why does this happen?  Our brains are hardwired for rewards which, taken to the limit, is the cause addiction. Sugar and fat often make us feel good. All of us have the potential to become addicted to certain  behaviours, especially during difficult times:  watching TV, using the internet, and even healthy behaviours like exercise.

If you feel like you’re become a  “stress eater,” try these five super foods to help improve your mood that are recommended by Blue Zones. They’ve even included recipes for you to try.  (After all you have a little time on your hands right now.)

1.) Spinach

In addition to being a significant source of vitamins K, A and C (the greener, the better), spinach is an excellent source of folic acid (also called folate). This is a B vitamin sometimes used to treat depression. It causes a “feel-good” chemical called serotonin to be released. Try this Spinach Pie recipe.

Alternatives: You can also get folate from beans, lentils, and broccoli.

2.) Oatmeal

Researchers at the MIT Clinical Research Center have found that when you stop eating carbohydrates, your brain stops regulating serotonin, the chemical that improves your mood and suppresses your appetite. However, highly processed carbohydrates (i.e. white bread) cause rapid changes in your blood sugar levels and can result in mood swings. High fibre carbs like oatmeal stabilize blood sugar, and take a while to move through your system, making you feel full longer.

Alternatives: Carbs in general make people feel good. Stick with whole grains for maximum health benefits.

3.) Foods with Vitamin D

Getting your daily dose of vitamin D is important for your attitude. Low vitamin D levels are linked to depression and other mood disorders. You can get this from getting direct exposure to the sun for five to 20 minutes daily.

For dietary sources of vitamin D: Almond milk, oatmeal, fortified tofu, orange juice, wild salmon, canned fish.

4.) Bananas

The only fruit on this list, bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan. Your body uses tryptophan to produce 5-HTP, the compound that makes serotonin and melatonin, two mood and sleep-regulating neurotransmitters. Bananas also contain magnesium, which further increases sleepiness, making them a great bedtime or midnight snack.

5.) Chocolate

Like spinach, eating chocolate releases serotonin. However, chocolate has an additional benefit. It promotes relaxation through the release of endorphins. Endorphins are “feel good” chemicals also produced after hard, aerobic exercise. Chocolate may improve blood flow to the heart and brain, thus improving concentration, due to the antioxidants it contains. Try this fruity chocolate bark.

Tip: Some researchers say the best way to have a piece of chocolate is to enjoy the experience. Slowly crinkle the wrapper open and eat it slowly, savouring the flavour and subsequent mood boost.

And, while you’re thinking about your health and well-being – how about a short walk or a hike right now.  Just make sure you’re social distancing on the sidewalk or on the trail.

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