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How to Use Food to Boost Your Mood

by Kalia KelmensonOctober 03, 2017
Eat
Woman drinking coconut water

filipefrazao/Thinkstock

The way we eat informs the functions of our body. Here are tips to develop "good mood meals."

How we eat affects how we feel. When we eat something our body doesn’t digest well, we end up gassy and bloated; but the discomfort doesn’t stop there.

The way we eat informs the functions of our body. When we eat a lot of sugar, our body organizes itself around processing that sugar so our body can use it as fuel. Then lengths our bodies will go to to stabilize and create health and balance is amazing, but it has limits. We can learn how nourish our bodies so we have optimal physical and mental health. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but one where each of us needs to find our own unique path.

For many people, the kitchen is a daunting place. With so many recommendations of how and when to eat—combined with our own relationship to food—just stepping into the kitchen can feel like an act of brave necessity. Leslie Korn wants to change that. Korn is a clinical traumatologist who specializes in mental health nutrition. Her recent book The Good Mood Kitchen: Simple Recipes and Nutrition Tips for Emotional Balance offers a detailed exploration into how what we put in our bodies affects our emotions and mood. She explores topics ranging from supporting each part of the digestive system to creating a highly personalized plan based on your unique digestive capacity.

There are a few important concepts she lays out for readers to familiarize themselves with as they begin to understand the concept of “Good Mood Meals”:

  • Be informed by ancestral diets. Korn has spent decades in a small village in the jungles of Mexico, and is a proponent of traditional nutrition-eating the way our ancestors ate- as a path to better health and well-being. She insists, “food is much more than nourishment: food is medicine; food is nutrition; food is ceremonial; food is sacred; food is culture and tradition; food is an anchor to culture and personal well-being.” Generally, this type of eating includes whole foods prepared in traditional ways. That means processed foods, including canned or frozen should be avoided, and slow cooking, drying and steaming should be chosen as cooking methods above frying or microwaving.

  • Choose an individualized approach to nutrition. Korn offers a detailed self-assessment guide to help you learn your own “digestion profile” and how that can inform your food choices. From learning what type of oxidizer you are-based on blood pH levels to understanding how your body clock functions and discovering food sensitivities, you will start to see clearly the effect that different foods have on how you feel both physically and mentally.

  • Find true comfort from food. Most people have a clear version of what their comfort food is, and the odd thing is, it’s not usually something that will inform the body to heal. Comfort foods are often highly processed, and high in sugar and unhealthy fats. To address cravings for these comfort foods, Korn again looks at where the cravings stem from physiologically as well as psychologically, and gives guidance on how to substitute healthier versions that will support your body rather than harm it.

Korn also advises stabilizing blood sugar and decreasing inflammation in the body as ways to promote better mental health. While these are more well known, she goes to great depth in her explanation and guidance in how to reach these goals. She offers an image as guidance for those wanting to make changes in the way they eat:

“A tree grows slowly, but surely, digging roots into the earth for stability as it spreads its branches and leaves to the sky. The roots absorb water from below and the leaves from above. Nourishment comes from many directions. There are many roots and branches and leaves, and over time the tree becomes fuller and stronger. This slow but sure approach promises success, so that when a wind blows, the tree does not topple over easily but moves with the wind. This is the process of nature and savvy, good mood nutrition.”


Kalia Kelmenson

Kalia Kelmenson founded Maui Mind and Body to support women's health. She is the creator of Core Strength Balance and Mind Body Booty Camp and enjoys moonlighting as the reviews editor at Spirituality & Health. Kalia explores the fascinating intersection of fitness and mind-body health. Find inspiration for your movement practice from research and stories that are emerging from this intriguing field.


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