We are what we eat. It goes beyond the ingredients making up our body. Certain foods boost our energy, help us to sleep better and keep us in a good mood.
Glucose is the only energy source for the brain
In short, we cannot live without glucose. Glucose is the final product broken down from carbohydrates such as rice, noodles, pasta and naan bread. It is the only nutrient which can feed the brain. If the brain lacks glucose it makes you feel tired and irritable. When working too hard, writing a report one too many hours, have you ever craved for a bar of chocolate? Most likely your brain’s energy store is nearly empty. Foods high in sugar cause your blood sugar level rise steeply, followed by a sudden crash. Choose wisely; carbs which keep your energy level steady. Try to eat less white refined carbohydrate and eat more whole grains; soba (buckwheat noodles), brown rice, millet, etc. – many Asian staple foods.
Protein makes important hormones for mood & sleep
Tryptophan is a type of protein and the main ingredient to make serotonin. Serotonin is a ‘feel -good’ hormone and its shortage is linked with low mood and depression. Tryptophan also makes melatonin which helps you to sleep well. Make sure you eat good quality protein such as white meat, fish, soya beans, and quinoa (both soya beans and quinoa are rare plant ‘complete protein’). Avoid processed meat such as ham and sausages. As a guide, an average size woman should eat about 45g of protein a day.
Eat omega-3 rich food
Never exclude fat from your diet. Fat makes hormones, insulates and protects the body. Vitamins A, D, E and K need fat for absorption. Did you know that 50% of the brain is made up with fat? You need fat for the brain to function well. Omega-3 is a type of fat which may prevent depression, dementia and mood disorders. Omega-3 cannot be made in the body and you need to take it from food. Oily fish, avocado, nuts (e.g. walnuts, Brazil nuts), flax seeds are all good sources of omega-3. Anti-inflammatory property of omega-3 has other benefits, too. It is heart protective, protects cells and can fight auto-immune disease.
Limit caffeine kick and keep hydrated
Being hydrated is essential for the body and the brain to function. Although it smells and tastes nice, drinking coffee or black tea instead of water is not a good idea for its caffeine content. Caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic (makes you to go to the loo!). Too much caffeine can make you feel agitated and restless. Swap it with green tea. What about the caffeine content in green tea? Yes, it contains similar amount of caffeine as coffee or black tea, but the good news is that it also contains polyphenol – highly beneficial antioxidant. Don’t overdo and remember to drink water.
Asian foods, especially traditional Japanese foods are nutritionally balanced with a moderate amount of good quality protein (e.g. oily fish, soya products) and rich in minerals and vitamins as well as fibre (e.g. seed & beans). Black sesame seeds (kurogoma) for example is one of my staples. A quick and easy nutrient packed ‘convenience food’. Add on top of rice dish, salad or bake with bread and cakes. Eating a balanced diet keeps us stay healthy both physically and mentally.