It think it is fair to say that most of us over indulge during the festive season, but why is it that some people over indulge all year round? Could it be ‘emotional eating’?
Why do we eat when we are not hungry?
What hole are we trying to fill with food?
Most of us know how to eat healthily, so why do our emotions play such an important part with our association with food? These emotions often come from childhood memories, ingrained habits and an unconscious awareness of the quick fix we get from particular foods. However, this is usually followed by a slump as our bodies process the excess sugar.
One reason why our brains prompt us to eat unhealthy food is because we do not have the proper balance of chemical messengers that sends information around the brain to the rest of our body. These messengers are called neurotransmitters and one example is gamma-aminobutyric acid – GABA for short. Low levels of GABA are linked with insecurity, excessive worrying, fear, low mood and anxiety, which can lead to lack of impulse control, bingeing and poor concentration. Another neurotransmitter is serotonin, which at the right levels is associated with happiness. Low levels of this have been shown to lead to carbohydrate cravings, but responding to these cravings with sugary foods or foods made with white flour only gives a temporary respite.
So, how can we make sure we support healthy GABA and serotonin levels through our diets?
- Make sure you have protein with every meal (nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish or pulses). Protein provides the raw material your body needs to make GABA , serotonin and other brain chemicals; for example tryptophan, is the key ingredient for serotonin.
- Eat foods rich in B vitamins – wholegrains, seeds, nuts, eggs, fish such as halibut, sardines, mackeral and salmon.
- Eat omega 3 essential fatty acids. As the brain is made up of these fats, it is essential we eat plenty of omega 3 rich foods such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and trout), flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds. The reason people find it difficult to stick to a low fat diet, is not lack of will power, but because they are not nourishing their bodies. In recent years we’ve come to realise that in order to lose weight we need to eat a certain amount of fat as part of a healthy balanced diet.
- Eat live yogurt. GABA is made by the bacteria in fermented foods.
- Drink green tea as it contains GABA