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Food & Psychology

written by Guest Blogger September 19, 2013

Here’s an interesting (and well-researched!) article on the relation between food and mood. Check out today’s guest post by Caitlin Stripes, blogger for TimetoCleanse.com.

Before we eat dinner on Thanksgiving, we are happy in the company of our families, we are content to give thanks for what we have been given. But after dinner? We just want everyone to go home so we can unbutton our pants and go to sleep.

We all know that food affects our moods, but some side effects are so persistent, we assume they’re part of our personality from the start, not just the result of white bread sandwiches and soda for lunch. Food absolutely has an effect on our psychology; our goal should be improving our day-to-day diet in order to maximize the psychological benefits.

Effects of Food on Mood

Water should be the cornerstone of any nutritional plan. We’re reminded frequently that we’re mostly made of water, and that water helps grease the wheels of our day-to-day lives. An increase in water intake helps detoxify the body by diluting toxins in the kidneys for elimination; without water, the kidneys reintroduce toxins into the bloodstream, which make their way up to the brain and impedes clear functioning.

Our bodies have three main modes of digestion:

  1. at dose – foods like sugar, alcohol, and coffee have an immediate effect on the brain;
  2. precursor-loading foods like turkey, high glycemic index carbohydrates, and water soluble vitamins that affect our brain up to a month later;
  3. and life-time dosing foods like healthy oils, fat-soluble vitamins, and nuts.

Carbohydrates from refined flour, soda, and white sugar are easily absorbed by the body, and their effect takes place at dose. This is an evolutionary advantage, as our ancestors occasionally needed a sudden boost of energy on top of the more healthy release of energy from other sources.

However, our ancestors didn’t have access to Oreos. Because we are able to get our hands on simple sugar with a greater frequency than we were originally designed for, our bodies have become dependent on the short-term sugar rush. Studies have supported that replacing the short-term sugar rush junk food with fruits and vegetables, unsurprisingly, improves mood. The micronutrients in fruits and vegetables caused a drop in the severity of reported depression.

Pre-cursor loading foods can have a physical effect on the brain somewhere between an hour and a month of being eaten. For example, brown rice is a pre-cursor loading food because the hull of the rice contains inositol, niacin, and thiamin, all B-vitamins that are required for healthy brain functioning and in increasing the activity of mitochondria.

Lifetime dosing foods are foods that don’t register physically right away, but over time cause the biggest difference in brain function. Doctors recommend wild salmon, nuts, and avocados for brain health as these foods are all high in fat-soluble vitamins that improve blood flow to the brain. The omega-3 essential fatty acids in salmon and other foods are necessary for brain function.

Effects of Mood on Food

What is most surprising is the impact mood has on absorption of nutrients. When you eat something that causes you pleasure, your hypothalamus – the connection between your brain and the rest of your body – tells your body to begin digestion.

A positive mood about ice cream, for instance, ensures that the food is quickly digested and burned off. However, if you feel less than positive about the ice cream, the hypothalamus tells your body not to digest the food as quickly. This causes an increase in digested toxins and decreases the amount of healthy bacteria needed for normal digestion.

In essence, your body and your mind have to agree to be happy about life and happy about food to ensure healthy digestion. Your food affects your brain as much as your brain affects your food. Improving the quality of one helps to improve the quality of the other.

About the Author

Caitlin Stripes is a contributor for TimetoCleanse.com, a respected clean living, healthy lifestyle and detox website.

How do you like that? Do you believe if we consciously improve our thoughts and feelings around food, we can also improve our digestion?

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