Scientific research has shown that the food we eat affects how we think and act. Take sugar, for instance. Eating sugary snacks can give you a high and make you feel energized. It causes your blood-sugar to go up and you get that woo-hoo good feeling. But, as soon as it goes down, you feel tired and a drop in your mood. Without giving it a lot of thought, we reach for those sweet snacks mid-afternoon when our energy starts to flag. Why? Having preprogrammed it, the subconscious knows this will give a burst of energy because it has in the past. Then there’s the fact that sugar is addictive. And to go a step further, sweet snacks (like candy bars) are easily accessible (from vending machines) or easy to take with you to work. If we slowed down and really listened to our bodies, however, they would tell us we need some quality protein instead of sugar. A protein snack (like string cheese) would give us a boost in energy without that steep drop afterward.
Junk food, like soda, chocolates, ice cream, potato chips and fries has become a large part of our diets due to several reasons. They’re cheap, accessible, convenient, and taste good (because they’re full of fat, salt and sugar!). The downside, however, is that they affect our mood in a negative way, they’re fattening and they’re devoid of the nutrients we need. Another bad thing about junk food is that we don’t seem to know when to stop eating. This, in turn, causes us to pack on the pounds. Think about it, when you’re eating a salad or fresh cooked vegetables, the correct portion size is plenty to fill you up. Your brain says, ‘that’s enough’ and you stop eating, satisfied. How often does that happen with junk food or processed foods?
From a scientific perspective, the food-mood relationship is maintained by neurotransmitters – chemical messengers that relay thoughts and actions throughout the brain. Eating carbohydrates releases serotonin in the brain, which makes you feel more relaxed. But, eating too many carbs or overly processed carbs like sugar and flour releases even more serotonin, causing drowsiness. Eating protein produces dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain which makes you feel more alert and full of energy, if protein is eaten in the appropriate portions. On the other hand, overeating protein can lead to tension and irritability. By overeating and eating the wrong things, our moods can go up and down like a yo-yo and we don’t realize what’s causing it. However, when you work at creating a nutritional balance, your moods balance as well. The way to find your own balance is to try different foods and pay attention to how you feel afterward.
Another thought to explore is that the foods we eat have their own energy. Energy is the vital life-force that exists around us and inside us. It comes from the universe, from air and food. Yogis believe that certain foods, such as fresh produce, have a greater amount of energy than foods that are heavily processed. In essence, processed and over-cooked foods have had their nutrients stripped, so they are really dead foods. When you eat foods with more energy, you will have more energy.