Food and Mood: 10 Steps to Increase Energy, Vitality and Mental Wellbeing

If you knew you had to drive to St. Louis today and your car’s gas tank was on empty, would you cruise off to the nearest interstate anticipating getting there without any negative consequences? Of course not!  You would be sure your car was properly fueled and in good working order to reach your destination safely. Now think about all the things you want to accomplish today.

Are you providing your body with the proper fuel to reach your destination?

Most of us race out of our homes each morning without providing our bodies and brains with the necessary fuel to drive us toward our goals for the day. Your food intake and physical activity affect your mood, behavior and brain function.

What is your mood like when you are hungry? Are you patient, jovial and kind? Most likely you are quite the opposite—irritable, restless, and apathetic. How do you feel after sitting at your desk for a few hours? Are you tired? Do you have difficulty focusing or concentrating?

Your brain consumes 20–30 percent of the calories you consume each day. To ensure that you have enough energy to achieve all of your daily goals, it is important to provide your body and brain with balanced nutrition and exercise. To improve your mood and increase your energy supply:

  1. Increase your intake of lean protein. If you want to ward off sleepiness and increase clarity, vigilance and vitality, increase your intake of fish, skinless chicken, veal and very lean beef. Low-fat yogurt also is a good on-the-go option.
  1. Eat more complex carbohydrates. These include whole-grain breads, cereal and pastas as well as fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably 9 servings a day). Some of the best are blueberries, oranges, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli.
  2. Decrease the amount of simple sugars in your diet. Switch from regular to diet soda. Trade that candy bar for a granola bar. Reach for a whole-grain bagel instead of a donut. You will have more energy at the end of the day, gain mental clarity and shed unwanted pounds.
  3. Decrease bad fat. Trade saturated fats, such as butter and margarine, for low-fat cottage cheese or cream cheese. Cook with either canola or olive oil instead of butter or lard.
  4. Take a good multivitamin each day. It is difficult for most of us to maintain a completely balanced diet. A multivitamin can help fill in the gaps.
  5. Increase your daily exercise. It is recommended that you engage in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. Those who do experience increased mental clarity, improved problem solving abilities and mood stability.
  6. Eat breakfast. Supplying your body with the proper nutrients in the morning will prevent you from eating too much later in the day and boost mental clarity and productivity.
  7. Listen to your body. If you are feeling overwhelmed or tired, close your eyes and rest for a few minutes. Focus on your breathing or train your thoughts on something pleasant. Take a walk around the block or the floor of your office, if you can’t get outside. Pay attention to which relaxation technique works best for your body.
  8. Be prepared. Keep healthy foods and snacks on hand at home and at the office. If they are readily available, you are more likely to reach for them instead of high-calorie, sugary treats.
  9. Keep your body and brain hydrated with lots of purified water. Your brain is approximately 78 percent water. It needs proper hydration in order to function on all cylinders.

About the Author

Move, eat and breathe to a healthier, more energized and vital you!Carrie Ann Cherup, MA, LCPC, is a licensed clinical professional counselor and clinical director of the Hope Enrichment Center in Oak Lawn, IL.

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