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The information in this website is presented for educational purposes only. This information is not intended as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a licensed professional.

Women’s Magazine September 2002


By Debbie Sarfati

One of my clients, I'll call her Jennifer, came to my office suffering from extreme fatigue and complained that everything in life felt like a challenge, including her typical daily routine. Jennifer was always getting sick. If something was going around the office, Jennifer was the first one to catch it and the last one to get rid of it. Dave, another client, came to see me because he was battling a cycle of elation and depression in both mood and energy.

He too experienced extreme exhaustion and lacked the strength to get through an average day. A look at both Jennifer’s and Dave’s diets revealed that their depression, lethargy, and malaise was most likely related to the foods they consumed regularly.

Did you know that the foods you eat have a significant effect on both your mental and emotional state? If you have ever reached for a cup of coffee to keep you awake or attentive, you have experienced the food-mood connection firsthand. The foods you consume not only affect your body physically, but effect how your mind functions as well. There is a wealth of evidence linking what we eat to how we feel, yet many people unknowingly choose foods that aggravate depression, insomnia, fatigue, food cravings, stress, memory-loss, and prevent mental and emotional wellness (Source: Food & Mood by Elizabeth Somer).

Poor diets contribute to much of the mood disorders in our country. Mood disorders affect 19 million Americans and $20 billion is spent annually on treatment (Source: Healthy Healing by Linda Page). Our food creates the quality of our blood. When we eat healthy foods, we fuel our bodies with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals. When we eat junky foods, we fill our bodies with chemicals, preservatives, and refined and artificial ingredients. Because the quality of our blood effects the functioning of every cell, tissue, and organ, our diets influence our minds, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Most of us know that what we eat today has an impact on our state of health down the road. However, many people don’t realize how immediate the mood-food connection actually works. What you eat for breakfast will affect your thinking, cravings, and energy a few hours later. How you feel right now is partially affected by what you ate a few hours ago. For example, the caffeine in coffee may increase your capacity for intellectual tasks, however, the boost that coffee gives is often followed by a huge decline in mood and energy. Chocolate contains an amphetamine-like substance associated with pleasure and love, but may leave you feeling mildly depressed later. A large pasta dinner often leaves you depleted and sleepy shortly afterwards, and the sweet treats that most Americans consume ultimately result in fatigue and sadness.

Unfortunately, many people have simply grown accustomed to feeling “blah” and most are unaware that something can be done to change how they feel. If you are feeling blah, what can you do? Consider whole foods; unprocessed and pure in nature, these foods are a powerhouse of goodness for the body. By switching to a more nourishing diet, you will begin to experience an increase in your mood, energy, mental clarity and productivity. You will notice a decrease in fatigue, sadness, forgetfulness and confusion. Your body will start to create a natural state of order and balance.

The Self Healing Cookbook by Kristina Turner, discusses eating to create a desired emotional state. Here are some tips to start with:

Feeling Tense, Angry or Stuck?
Eat MORE crisp, succulent veggies like cabbage, green beans, lettuce, cucumber, cauliflower, celery, carrots, and snap peas. These vegetables will help you relax, lighten up, and feel clear. Have them lightly cooked or in salads.

Feeling Super-Sensitive or Too Emotional?
Eat MORE cooked veggies, especially roots (daikon, carrot, turnip, yam), winter squash (butternut, acorn), and sturdy greens (kale, collards). These will calm you and get you down to business. They will give you a firmer grip on life and fuel productive creativity.

Feeling Tense, Overheated or Overworked?
East LESS salt, meat, eggs, cheese, and hard, baked foods. These foods are heavy and contracting for your body. They make it hard for your body to relax.

Feeling Fatigued, Spacey or Moody?
Eat LESS sugar, raw foods, cold foods, cold drinks, and alcohol. These foods are lightening and expansive for your body and too many can put your head in the clouds.

I also suggest you start a food-mood journal. For three days, see if you can notice how certain foods make you feel. Let me know what you discover!

Debbie Sarfati is a Nutrition Counselor and Natural Foods Cooking Instructor in Boulder. Debbie works with clients to create a customized nutrition plan that will improve diet, enhance wellness, and eliminate health problems.