That old saying – we are what we eat – keeps coming up again and again. This time I spotted an article (Sunday Times, 11 Sep 11 – Eat yourself happy with mood food) reporting on how micronutrients such as vitamins and trace minerals in the foods we eat can quickly affect our concentration, memory and mood.
They claim that foods containing flavonoids, contained in blueberries, cocoa, green tea, grapes and red wine can provide an instant boost to our attention levels for up to 5 hours!
According to Wikipedia, flavonoids exist naturally in cacao, but because they can be bitter, they are often removed from chocolate including dark chocolate. Although flavonoids are present in milk chocolate, the milk may interfere with their absorption. If this is true, then that’s a good argument to stick to raw chocolate desserts, and Claire makes some delicious raw chocolate brownies and a decadent raw chocolate flan with fresh berries.
And foods such as dark green vegetables eaten over days and weeks can help ward off low moods and depression. This is apparently due to folic acid which is found in leafy vegetables. However folic acid is destroyed by excessive cooking so eat it raw or lightly steamed. A deficiency of folic acid causes a reduction in red blood cells with symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and weakness. So be like Popeye and eat your spinach (but not from a can)! James Scala PhD suggests that some common drugs (there are more) that cause a deficiency on folic acid are:
- Birth control pills
- Cholesterol lowering medication
So you might need to stock up on your green veg to counter such medication…
Plus it seems that high protein foods (meat, milk, eggs, fish) may also boost concentration and alertness.
This is the complete opposite of carbohydrates which produce a calm and relaxed state due to serotonin. Whereas complex carbs such as whole grain bread, potatoes, pasta take a long time to digest so the serotonin is released more steadily, simple carbohydrates make you tired, sluggish and moody – especially refined sugar & HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) which puts you on a mood swing roller coaster! (see my earlier blogs – Sugar Sucks! and Brain Food)
I find this great news as my favourite breakfast is a green smoothie and here is my basic recipe, though after reading about the benefits above perhaps I’ll start adding a raw egg and raw cacao nibs to the mix:
- 1 banana
- ½ apple
- Handful of grapes
- Handful of blueberries or any frozen dark berries if nothing fresh available (if you use cherries then make sure the pits are removed!)
- 2 handfuls of dark green leafy veg such as spinach, kale or spring greens
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ¼ cup of oat based muesli (NOT wheat based)
- Add some water to get the consistency you like…
- And add any other fruits you may have in the fridge…
It’s so easy to make – just roughly chop and put it all in the blender for a minute. That’s it!
One tip is that if you don’t have time to wash the blender right away, at least fill it with water and leave it to soak. It’s a pain to clean if you let the stuff dry in it…
So have your simple smoothie every morning and be a Smooth(ie) Operator all day…