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We all know that eating well and taking care of your body can improve your physical health but did you know that it can also improve your mental health? Studies have shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and – you’ve got it – whole grains can help reduce mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
Many whole grains are naturally rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which your body needs to produce serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin, the “feel-good hormone,” improves mood and relaxes brain and body, while melatonin helps establish and maintain steady sleep cycles. It’s easy to see why foods high in tryptophan may help keep depression at bay and promote healthy sleeping patterns that are very important to mental well being and health.
While many carbohydrates promote serotonin production, eating the right kinds of carbs is important. Whole grains also work to maintain steady blood sugar, which not only keeps you feeling satiated longer but also stabilizes your mood. Do you ever get that “hangry” feeling? You know what I’m talking about: you’ve skipped breakfast and as your tummy rumbles you also get that super-grumpy feeling, so you reach for the nearest snack. At this point, your blood sugar has dropped and you need something stat! When you choose whole grains, they will refuel your body, stabilizing blood sugar instead of spiking it and then sending it plummeting back down! While eating anything when your blood sugar drops is important, high quality whole grains (no, we’re not talking whole grain cookies!) are one of the best options because not only do they trigger serotonin production, they also have beneﬁcial nutrients and ﬁber. Hanger be gone!
The best part? People who eat healthy whole grains are not only more likely to have an elevated mood but are also more likely to choose healthy foods and exercise, which will make their good mood last. According to studies done by Arizona State University, diets very low in carbohydrates lead to fatigue and a reduced desire to exercise – two things that certainly won’t boost your mood! As dietitians at the Mayo Clinic point out, being aware of making healthy choices and knowing that you are fueling your body with healthy foods alone can put you in a better mood.
So whether you’re looking to improve your sleep pattern, banish that pesky “hanger,” or just stabilize your mood, grab some whole grains and get happy! (Mallory)