By Naini Setalvad
Mood fluctuations cause us to binge-eat unhealthy foods, but a little awareness can help us drive away the blues through conscious eating, says Naini Setalvad
It is unfortunate that we reach out for the worst foods when our moods are spewing out anger, anxiety, stress or gloom, thereby further accentuating our negativity. Call it a gut feeling or just a craving but there is a connection between a particular emotion and the food we reach out for while experiencing it.
So when the hand reaches out for fried and processed food, let us see how we can make smart choices that support the connection without endangering our health. To keep your mood generally stable, I would suggest that you eat a banana and a couple of leaves of the tulsi plant daily. These two keep in check a majority of the mood swings that occur throughout the day. Other supportive resources include fresh foods, seasonal foods, slow eating, lots of vegetables, good quality fat from ghee, nuts and seeds, lots of water, fresh air, exercise and deep breathing, so make them part of your daily routine.
Emotions and their corresponding foods
- Anger: When you feel your blood boil and anger surges within, the neuro-transmitters in your brain go into a fight mode and your hands automatically reach out for the terrible transfats found in fried food like batata wada, chips, bhujiyas and french fries. Eating these foods add fuel to the fire and aggravate anger. Swap this for foods that will help cool anger and fuel your brain to think rationally, making you more calm and collected. Fat is the brain food so grasp a handful of nuts and seeds like almonds, cashew nuts, pistachios, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and see the fire die down.
- Happiness: When you are happy you tend to binge-eat. While celebrating, you bid goodbye to your diet and self-control and say hello to extra starters, the drink that is not needed, large helpings of your main course and the dessert that you would have normally avoided. Studies have proven that happy souls tend to eat more. The brain releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. So don’t reach out for foods that can pile up the calories. Choose foods that are low in the glycemic-index such as bananas, apples and oranges. They keep you full for longer. Take longer to chew salads, eat grilled vegetables, sautéed mushrooms as starters, and have Virgin Mary, sparkling water, and lime soda as drinks and small un-fried portions of the main course.
- Gloom: When gloom sets in, the only thing that can comfort you is food and more food. Food, at that point, is your best friend. Whether it’s savoury or sweet, you tend to overeat. Well, we can definitely use food as a tool to feel good. All we need is to increase our quota of serotonin which can easily be achieved by popping a banana, or eating steamed, baked, sautéed or grilled potato with a bit of salt and butter. Further toss in the B group of foods such as brown rice, peanuts, spinach, cauliflower, sweet potato and your mood goes spiralling up. For better results, add fresh air and sunlight to banish gloom and welcome joy in your life.
- Stress: Identify your stressors. It could be multitasking, lack of sleep, energy, hunger, or thirst. First, take a deep breath and calm yourself down. Rethink and organise your day to eliminate ‘cortisol’ the stress hormone. Chew tulsi leaves, sip on chamomile herbal infusion tea, and have bananas since they stop the cortisol levels from spiralling out of control.
- Fatigue: After working for long hours or celebrating till the wee hours you may feel dead on your feet. Instantly, your hand reaches out for sugar to add in your beverage or cereal as an instant pick-me-up. Sugar reacts with your body like a rollercoaster which goes up very fast but comes down equally fast. It provides you with an instant energy rush but this rush drops as fast leaving you even more exhausted. Water is an instant pick-me-up. Water transports haemoglobin, oxygen and also helps remove the waste from the body. What would constitute intelligent eating to counteract a hangover or work fatigue would be a balanced diet of carbohydrate, fat and protein. This could include a vegetable stuffed omelet and toast, vegetable uttapam cooked in cow’s ghee, or paratha and raita.
- Nervousness: When your nerves get to you and you feel jittery and edgy, you feel like having a cup of coffee. However, this tranquillity is short-lived and the recurrent anxiety generates a coffee craving which could end in an addiction. So switch to a tulsi-based, low-caffeine beverage, as the tulsi plant chases the jitters away. Add loads of basil leaves to your salads; more the merrier. Eat fruits like orange, banana, berries, mangoes, pineapple, and apple since they chase away the jitters because of natural sugar present in them. Your foods and moods are interlinked so control your moods by eating the correct food instead of giving into the unhealthy cravings which each mood causes.
100 gms potato, boiled
50 gms peanut, roasted and coarsely crushed
2 tbsps coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli paste
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsps cow’s ghee
Salt and lemon juice to taste
- Peel the skin of the boiled potato. Cut them into big pieces.
- Take ghee in a pan and heat it. Add chopped potatoes, peanuts, salt, lemon juice, chilli paste, chaat masala, tomato and coriander and stir fry for a minute.