Foods ,Moods and New Year 2023

Another year to trust yourself and pursue your ambitions, manifest your desire, affirm your dreams, and create your visions!!!

It’s the NEW YEAR 2023, after almost three years the world has celebrated  New Year’s eve with the same enthusiasm as earlier. In fact with more happiness & joy than the previous years. The joy of being Healthy, breathing in the fresh air outdoors without restrictions. The happiness of being with loved ones all together once again.


So let's begin this NEW YEAR as a NEW ME.

 Let's arouse the powers we possess and live our life to the fullest. And this fullness will only come with Good Health - Mind and Body -Love and connection.

In today’s article, we will focus on foods that will help us overcome the festive blues, Christmas and New Year's Eve may show challenging demands from social events, late-night parties to family gatherings, for some ex-pats it's the feeling of being all alone for the first time during the festive season it may arouse sadness and self-reflection in them. All these bring in a lot of stress, anxiety, and weight fluctuations followed by guilt of consuming excess calories from foods, drinks, etc all that's triggered often by emotional eating. If we continue eating unhealthy or mindlessly like in previous years we may find it difficult to achieve our desired goals this year due to ill health, and lack of alertness needed to win the race of desires.

Emotional eating and altered mood can also lead to altered food choices and intake leading to overeating and weight gain. Studies reveal that depression and anxiety could be comorbidities of obesity. While obese individuals are at increased risk of developing depression, depressed mood is also associated with abdominal obesity and poor diet. The risk is doubled in the presence of diabetes.  Hence studies support a two-way link between three concepts mood, food, and obesity.

 A health & Nutrition post with a positive mindset, and happiness sounds weird right?-  what has this emotion to do with my health, how is my metabolic health related to happiness? But trust me this positive emotion will not only change you as a person but will also improve your health to a great extent.  By gratification, laughter, trying to be happy and positivity we are putting our body in a state wherein there is the release of HAPPY HORMONES. Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and Oxytocin. These hormones may do wonders to health. Researchers have shown that the foods we eat may alter the chemical composition of our brain thus changing our mood. The interactions between different foods and these neurotransmitters can cause different emotions.


So let's check how to get these fantastic  happy hormones for FREE 

1.Exercise - We probably partied - danced on New Year’s Eve. It's a form of exercise it made us happy, right? Exercise not only keeps us fit and healthy but also protects us from disease and degeneration. It stimulates the production of various hormones, like Growth hormone, Testosterone, Insulin & thyroid hormones. In addition, exercising daily can signal the brain to produce hormones related to Happiness like 

  • Dopamine which makes us feel good, 
  • Serotonin- which reduces depression, While low levels of serotonin stimulate the appetite for refined carbohydrates, and sweets and cause weight gain, too much of it is linked to obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver, as seen in studies with women who are happy and may eat high-fat foods at odd hours which will contribute to weight gain.
  • Endorphins - which make us happy, thus reducing physical pain or symptoms of injury in our muscles due to their chemical properties being similar to morphine, which is often used as a pain reliever.

 At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at a stretch daily, continued without break helps release these good hormones. Studies related higher intensity workouts with the greater release of endorphins.

2. Count your blessings, show gratitude to the world, visit new places, and play games like a kid. Do all the good activities that bring joy to you, catch up on a comic series, laughter therapy helps in relieving feelings of anxiety, and stress and improves a low mood by stimulating dopamine release. All these will release stress and make you feel better & lighter. . you can work well the next day.


3. Exposure to the sun -walk outdoors for a minimum of 20-30 mins daily. Not only will you burn some calories, and shed a few grams, but the sunshine will help in better absorption of  Vit D. It’s not only important for our bone & immune system but vitamin D could protect our brain from the depletion of dopamine and serotonin. Studies have also linked its deficiency with mild to moderate depression. Avoid the afternoon as the sun rays may harm with UV, and wear good sunscreen. 


4. Include Protein -a good serving about the size of your palm of lean non-vegetarian or vegetarian protein in each meal with adequate amounts of Low-fat dairy, nuts, fruits especially bananas, and seeds. All of these foods contain tryptophan - an essential amino acid the body is unable to produce and hence is needed through food. Tryptophan plays a major role in the synthesis of serotonin. It also helps in overcoming anemia through its chemical process of producing red blood cells. A good healthy hemoglobin level is attributed to more oxygen supply in the blood, thus the cells are nourished leading to a  good metabolism, so you burn more calories than before which helps you shed those extra pounds gained during the recent festive season.


5. Fermented foods & Probiotics - yogurt, kimchi, ginseng extract G115, and some probiotics have been shown to attenuate depressional behavior by the release of these Happy hormones 


6. Green tea - often considered a sure-shot solution to weight loss, it is rich in polyphenols, compounds that have antioxidant activities that prevent the body from oxidative stress and also stimulate dopamine and serotonin releases.


7. Omega 3 - Fatty fishes - salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, etc are rich in omega 3 that can curb signs of depression, while researchers are still on the exact amount of omega 3 dosages needed. A fair amount agreed upon is 250-400 mg of DHA and EPA mixed. So if you are consuming 100 g of fatty fish even once a week you can easily get a good dose of DHA, and EPA depending on the waters it's hailing from. Sources of ALA  - marine algae, flaxseeds, and walnuts but the conversion to EPA and DHA may not be optimal. Supplements may be taken after discussing with your Physician.


8. Chocolate - A functional food No festive season or greeting is complete without chocolates so how could we !! Chocolate can be considered a healthy food as long as it's eaten in moderation, especially dark variants. White chocolate is generally cocoa butter with added sugar and flavorings and does not possess the same benefit as dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is a  good source of flavonoids, a type of antioxidants that increase blood flow to the brain, boost brain health, and reduce inflammation in the body all of which support better mood Chocolate is also a source of plant sterols, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium all of which are heart-friendly nutrients. Moreover, if you are feeling low, cocoa in a small amount of dark chocolate can give that high by boosting endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain.

 Dark chocolate is a source of tyramine, also present in red wine, and some fermented and aged foods. Still, studies are going on its effect on migraine but doctors do prescribe a low tyramine diet in case of migraine attacks hence you may have to avoid dark chocolate just to be safe- not that a small piece will trigger an attack. Caffeine is highest in dark chocolate with the least amounts in milk or white ones Oxalates in cocoa can trigger certain kidney stones so those will be renal conditions talk to your dietitian about consumption. Enjoy a small piece of it occasionally but don't indulge in desserts, candies, or beverages as then it may do more harm than good. 

Take home message

Remember as always said- Striking a balance of the good & bad is important, so the excess of any of the happy hormones can also set the stage on fire by indulging in faulty eating habits,  probably what happens in each festive season. 

Balanced nutrition plays an important role in our model of thinking and our behavior, as the intake of foods affects our cognition, memory capacity, and emotions.




Ms. Saba Mohammad Sabir

Clinical Dietitian at Prime Specialist Medical Center, Sharjah.


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