Pick-me-up foods for when you’re feeling down

We don’t always eat to abate hunger. And if we claim that we do, this may not be the complete truth. All of us have some pick me up foods that often go to.

More often than not, we place ulterior motives on food. Besides filling up the empty corners of our stomach or providing necessary nourishment to the body, we look up to food to perform other magical functions, are the pick me up foods.

What are pick me up foods?

Have you ever sat with a tub of ice cream post break-up, hopelessly hoping that the cold, creamy manna would mend your heart a little? Ever ordered a temptingly appetising and unhealthy snack during tea time at work because the pressure has been too much to bear and you need a release? Ever woken up with a dark cloud hanging over your head and spent the whole day on coffee and chocolate to make yourself feel better? Felt drained of energy and stood in front of the open refrigerator wondering what could replenish your spent self?

This is all because food is synonymous with nourishment, with care, with happy wholesomeness and of course, satisfaction for our taste buds, it may just be a go-to support system for several individuals when the blahs or physical exhaustion set in.

Do certain foods make us happy?

The people at howstuffworks.com have a thing or two to say about this. “The science of happiness has figured out why certain foods make us happy. It turns out that some foods are made of compounds that have been shown to have an effect on our mood. Even more interesting, going without certain foods can have an opposite effect, putting us at a higher risk for depression.” They explain that mood-affecting chemicals are created by compounds found in food and that some foods aid the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin more than others. Serotonin incidentally is the star trigger of the feelings of well-being and happiness. Foods that create this trigger is what we call ‘happy foods’ these days.

While they may seem similar, happy foods may not be the same as ‘comfort foods’. While one can physically influence brain chemistry to produce happy hormones, the other could be purely related to a comforting memory of a pleasant experience from the past. And when we’re feeling down and out, we are likely to reach out for that orange ice lolly that we sucked excitedly as kids on a hot summer afternoon or homemade bread pudding just like Ma made it. Therefore, every person could have a different comfort food based on their individual experiences. How unique is that! The best part is, for that brief moment, we quit measuring food in terms of calories and weight gain and simply imagine it as a long, loving, warm hug that leaves us feeling so much better. This is beyond science and we should be glad it is. Some things are meant to be just felt.

While comfort foods could be anything, a few things you can pop to up the happiness quotient are avocados, spinach, berries, chicken soup, dark chocolate, bananas, salmon, green tea and walnuts to name a few.

Where fatigue and drop in physical energy is concerned, there are several foods that can come to your rescue! According to Dheeraj Bisht, Nutritionist and Health Coach and Founder of ExerScience Nutrition LLP, “When you feel the need for instant energy, instead of indulging in junk food, opt for healthier options that are actually more effective. Go for seasonal fruits, including berries and to some extent breads and rice cakes. Dark chocolate and dates are also great. If the energy requirement is critical, like in cases of low blood sugar (sudden energy crash and sinking feeling followed by cold sweats) go for sweets and juices.”

Unlike most “dieticians” and so-called nutritionists, Bisht has not made a villain out of carbohydrates, the main source of energy for the human diet. In fact, he insists on something we don’t hear often. “For sustained energy release through the day, eat balanced meals with a solid carbohydrate intake. As a general thumb rule, 40-50% of your meal portions should include some healthy carbs like roti, rice, vegetables (very important sources of fibre and micronutrients also) lentils and pulses.”

So if it’s a low day physically, mentally or emotionally, all you got to do is lay out a feast for yourself (or have somebody else do it!) and indulge in your favorite happy or comfort foods to lift up that drooping spirit. Food can change the world. And you!



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