Top 10 Happy foods Number 7 – Whole Grains
Eating to feel good is something easy we can do to help our body and mind feel content and enjoy our lives a little more. Staying physically healthy is an essential part of keeping mentally and emotionally buoyant. One of the main things we can do to stay physically healthy is to eat good, nutritious food.
Over the next 7 weeks I will introduce you, one every week, to the remaining foods in my Top 10 feel good foods. Foods that work to support all the different chemical reactions that happen within our beautiful bodies to keep us healthy and strong, but most of all elevate our mood!!
Number 7 – Whole Grains
There are plenty of Whole Grains to choose from these days. Long gone are the days when we would only think of rice as a change from our trusted potato. Now we have a whole array of choices – Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa and Amaranth could all easily substitute rice in most meals. Also, we find a selection of alternatives when choosing our bread with Spelt, Corn, Barley, Rice and Rye giving us several options from Wheat. Eating a diverse range of these grains is hugely beneficial as each of them has a different mix of nutrients. If you have a sensitive gut then some will work better for you than others. For example Whole Rye can be irritating for your intestine causing loose stools and food to move through you faster than what is ideal. This doesn’t give your body enough time to absorb all the goodness from it, essentially the reason you’re eating it.
Whole grains should form a big part of the foundation of your diet as they are our most valuable energy nutrient.
Eating the ‘Whole’ of the grain is important; especially for the mood enhancing effects they can give you. Whole grains are predominately complex carbohydrates. Unlike most things in life, when it comes to carbohydrates from grains ‘Complex’ = Good and ‘Simple’ = Bad.
Grains can be both complex and simple. When a grain is refined, a lot of the nutrients are removed. You end up with lovely white flour, maybe even bleached for extra whiteness BUT devoid of goodness and basically just sugar for the body. These types of carbs you will either burn off too quickly causing huge blood sugar fluctuations or store as body fat.
Look at it this way. In the middle of winter you’re sitting in front of a warm open fire or your log burner and you notice it needs some more wood. You have two options to choose from. One is a nice solid, easy burning, chunky log that will burn for ages giving you steady heat for hours. The other is nice looking bundle of dry sticks that will burn hot and fast but will be gone in no time. With your fire already going, which option do you think is the wisest choice?
Exactly. You want the fuel that will give you sustained energy, keeping your blood sugar levels steady for hours. The choice that will give your body all the nutrients the grain can offer you. You want the ‘Whole Grain’.
If you want to know how simple sugars can negatively affect your mood and cause mood swings check out my article on Kumara from a few weeks ago. Kumara is Number 10 on my Top 10 list of Happy Foods.
A Serotonin Breakfast Please
Having a meal of complex carbs that will give you sustained energy becomes especially important for breakfast. Whole rolled Oats in the way of a Muesli or Porridge in the morning will help keep your blood sugar levels steady right up to lunch which also helps keep you mood from swinging too far off your centre. Whole grains also help raise Serotonin levels in your body, which interestingly, is what drugs like Prozac do. Except with Prozac you don’t get any nutrients or sustained energy for your body and mind to run on. Serotonin is the feel good, calming chemical our brains produce.
Whole grains do this by triggering the release of insulin, which all sugars do in the body. Insulin clears the blood of all the large amino acids except tryptophan. Whole grains are significantly rich in Tryptophan. Tryptophan remains in the blood and can more easily enter the brain, resulting in an increase in Serotonin levels, as tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. Simple sugars trigger the same reactions in the body, which may explain why we sometimes crave those sugary refined carb treats. However, remember the best choice of firewood for your internal fire and which one will offer you sustained warmth?
Listen to Your Body
Above all, listen to your body. Take the time to feel if your body likes what you’re putting into it. You only have one body. Mistreat it now and it will eventually get you back. Sometimes sooner than you think. Tune in to how you feel during but most importantly after you’ve eaten food. How do you feel ten minutes after and then how do you feel an hour after? Do you feel light & energetic? Do you feel sluggish and heavy? You will feel the difference between what your body needs and what it lusts after. What will sustain you and what will please you. I encourage you to choose the nice solid, easy burning, chunky piece of wood. It’ll keep you warm all through the night.
Tyson Hammond is a medical herbalist and a naturopath living in Golden Bay. He is currently developing online health programs for ‘Wellgrounded Integrative Healthcare’ a company focused on helping people integrate beneficial and sustainable changes into theirs lives.