It’s scientific! Research shows that nutrition or the lack thereof does alter the production or release of neurotransmitters. Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters.
Serotonin gives us a feeling of calm and relaxation, a general sense of well-being. High levels of serotonin can cause a person to feel sluggish and drowsy. Low levels of serotonin can intensity food cravings.
Foods that release serotonin in the brain are: fruits, breads, grains and vegetables to a lesser extent.
Dopamine and norepinephrine increase our energy and level of alertness. Protein causes both dopamine and norepinephrine to be released in the brain. Foods that are connected to the release of these two neurotransmitters are: meat, chicken, fish, nuts, soy products, eggs and dairy products.
Including 3-4 oz of protein in your lunchtime meal may help you to stay alert and happy throughout the afternoon. (Imagine – no 3 p.m. slump!) On the other side of the coin, should you have trouble sleeping at night, you might limit your protein and increase your carbohydrates – particularly at dinner time (no, I did not say have cake; I am referencing the above list).
However, overeating, regardless of the amount of protein in the meal can cause lethargy and sleepiness. When we overeat, the blood flow is redirected to the stomach and away from the brain. The ideal amount of calories per meal is between 300 and 500 calories. This will keep your energy flowing, and your mood on even keel.
In addition, other ‘foods’ that have an affect on our brain are caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and tend to dehydrate the body. And caffeine is a stimulant while alcohol is a depressant. A good guideline for sugar, especially for us sugar-addicts who experience the ‘sugar-high’ and ‘sugar-low,’ is to limit your consumption to less than 200 calories per day. That should help to eliminate the ‘sugar-blues.’
What about water? Yes, drink up, my friend.
At the end of the day, it’s all about good and balanced nutrition. As you head off to your holiday parties, family gatherings, remember … at the end of the day, it is all about good and balanced nutrition.