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Is your diet making you cranky?

by Dr. Jeff Rebarcak, health and wellness expert
March 01, 2015

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Is your diet making you cranky?

Have you ever heard the saying, “lean and mean?” There’s a lot of truth to that. Sometimes we dive head-first into the latest diet plan, and we’re much more concerned about restricting our calorie intake than we are in developing a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. Doing the math, we may figure that 1,000 calories a day will do the trick since we used to consume about 3,000. This way of thinking turns out badly for a number of reasons.

First, if we don’t know much about healthy food plans, we often start by buying everything in the supermarket labeled “diet.” This can lead to a cart full of diet soft drinks, frozen processed microwave “diet” meals, and reduced-calorie snacks like baked potato chips and “reduced calorie” canned soups and stews.

Why Diet Foods Don’t Work

In reality, we’re fueling our bodies with nutritionally bankrupt food items that are highly processed. These “fake foods” are just as dangerous as the pizza and donuts we were eating last week. The only difference is that we’ve reduced our calorie intake. This kind of diet plan immediately sends warning signals to our brain that tells our body we’re in starvation mode. Now our body is on “lock down.” Our metabolism slows down, so we’re not burning as many calories as before, and our body is busy storing fat.

Since we’re in energy-saving mode, we become tired. Without enough fuel to go about our daily routine, we become irritable. We may even develop a migraine. Next up, we reach for coffee or a caffeinated soft drink to pep us up, which further complicates the problem. 

This is no way to diet, and it almost always leads to regaining even more weight than the five or ten pounds that we lost. Are you feeling the discouragement? Don’t worry; there is a much better way!

The Truth About Processed Food

If you really want to lose weight AND keep your overall state of well-being and happiness, then you’re going to have to look at food as fuel. As I’ve explained in my seminars and on my website, the best way to diet is to simply switch our eating habits. The best nutrition is found in food that is as close to its natural state as possible. This means fresh, whole, one-ingredient food. Start by shopping the outside perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, and meat are found.

Processed food taxes our digestive system as well as our liver. Because these foods are not natural, they are largely seen as foreign substances, and our bodies actually produce toxins trying to digest these “fake foods.” As you learn more about healthy eating, you begin to understand how the food industry markets packaging to appear healthy when it’s really not. Labels that say things like “fortified” and “enriched” will actually become warning signs to you … but that’s for another article!

For now, I want to give you a quick list of food items that will boost your mood! Be sure to incorporate these into your healthy eating plan to set yourself up for success!

10 Foods That Boost Your Mood

1. Asparagus. This veggie is one of the best plant-based sources of tryptophan, which serves as a basis for the creation of serotonin, one of the brain's main mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

2. Honey. Got a sweet tooth? Honey is packed with goodness, and it helps to reduce inflammation, which is very important for maintaining a healthy, happy brain. Chronic inflammation is connected to some forms of depression.

3. Eggs. These babies are loaded with mood-boosting zinc, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and iodide.

4. Broccoli. This delicious vegetable contains a trace mineral called chromium, which not only helps you to metabolize food, but it also increases your serotonin levels.

5. Chickpeas. Think hummus and reach for it to get a nice serving of vitamin B6, which helps your body to produce serotonin and norepinephrine, the mood regulator twins.

6. Almonds. Packed with magnesium, almonds ward off irritability, fatigue, mental confusion and predisposition to stress.

7. Chia Seeds. These are an easy addition to a health shake and are a big boost to your health. And they’re rich in omega-3’s to fight fatigue, mood swings, memory decline and depression.

8. Salmon. If you’re feeling blue, adding extra vitamin D, the mood-regulating vitamin, can give you a boost.

9. Pumpkin Seeds. A zinc deficiency can trigger the blues. Pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc, as well as L-tryptophan, a natural mood booster.

10. Water. Hydration is essential for clear thinking and a stable mood. If you’re depriving your body of water, then you can experience headaches, irritability and fogginess.

There you have it! Now you’re ready for a happiness-boosting trip to the market to pick up fresh, whole foods. Keep a food and mood diary to keep track of low points in your day, what you’re eating and how you felt afterward. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the right foods can help you lose weight AND keep you smiling!

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