Comfort food, we love it. It makes us feel better when we are sad, makes us feel loved when we are lonely, makes us feel stronger when we are sick. It reminds us of home, mom, love, warmth ….so basically everything to uplift our spirits and feel happier. The relationship between food and happiness is not superficial in the least…..it goes deep.
I love food and I make no bones about it. My friends keep saying watch what you eat to shrink that waist but try doing that for long and what really shrinks is the happy smiles. Serotonin is the mood hormone which controls feelings of happiness and well-being. It balances mood swings, sending signals to your brain of contentment and satisfaction. Certain types of food can increase or decrease the production of serotonin which is produced by the amino acid (protein) tryptophan. Well, now thats easy…I can hear you saying it…. All we need to do is eat foods containing tryptophan.
Tryptophan which is easily found in meat, fish, eggs, cheese, soy, nuts, most milk products, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower etc and could well be part of our diet and we should be prancing about like dappled ponies in Fairytale land. Unfortunately it’s easier said than done.
Tryptophan, a type of protein which is amongst the 9 essential amino acids. Which means that your body cannot produce it and has to be ingested every day. These same foods contain other amino acids, iron, Pyridoxin(B6) as well and the balance of absorption of these into our system is often lop-sided. To add to that, Tryptophan has to often compete with the absorption of the other amino acids reaching the brain at the same time. Therefore it may be difficult to quickly raise the levels or serotonin.
So while you are seriously contemplating whether you should have that pav-vada or a sprouts salad, your serotonin levels are already dropping and we face mood swings. When long periods of dieting are continued it’s easy to have bouts of depression, and even fits of anger when there is a sharp dip in the levels. So, it is essential that we keep the levels of tryptophan to its optimum levels. Now the question is how?
The good news is that the absorption of tryptophan is increased by eating carbs. Eating carbs cause a rise in insulin into your system and that promotes a larger window for the amino acid absorption into the heart and muscles, making it more likely that Tryptophan can cross the brain barrier and boost levels of serotonin.
I can hear most dieters and weight watchers saying this is the perfect situation of sleeping with the enemy. But that’s only because we have labeled carbs as the villain. The fact is that for proper and wholesome ingestion of protein we do need carbohydrates. All we need to do is find a balance between the carbs, protein and fat intake within every meal we take, and maybe a little more when we feel down. So don’t be too hard on yourself and grab a bowl of oats or have bajra roti with ghee or even chole if you must (complex carbs) to give you that booster that you need.
Mood busters with food can only happen when we crave for them and don’t get them. Foods that are known to contribute to the feeling of lethargy, acidity, can be so only when they are consumed in excess. In general, for most people, food is associated with the feeling of satisfaction, gratitude, happiness. Certain foods get associated with memories, feeling loved, feeling cared for. Then why seek divorce from a relationship whose only goal is to keep you happy. Seek the perfect balance instead and enjoy your food.