Angry? It might be something you ate
What we eat and how we feel is very related and important to know how it effects us.
Imagine that a calm, happy life could be served on a breakfast, lunch or dinner plate, even in a brown bag. According to some, it can be.
You won’t find it in a fast-food hamburger box or a vending machine. But more and more research shows there is a correlation between good food and good mood.
“It’s a fast-food nation, and we don’t always take the time to make the connection between what we eat and how we feel,” says Kristy Lewis, a naturopathic doctor at Pure Med Naturopathic Centre in Ottawa.
“We live in a society where people want to take a quick pill, whereas conscious nutrition is a lot of work.”
Aggression is a behavior that many food experts say can be altered by diet. What we eat can even affect our sense of right and wrong.
“Food is not just something that fills our stomach. It’s very active biologically and chemically, and it affects us,” says Jack Challem, Montreal-born author of The Food-Mood Solution. “Your body needs vitamins, protein and other nutrients to make the brain chemicals that help you think clearly, maintain a good mood and act in socially acceptable ways.
Among the foods that cause aggressive behavior, says Challem, are “junk fats” or trans fats.
“Sixty per cent of the brain is fat, so if you consume junk fats, you’re putting a high percentage of junk fats into your brain, and that impedes the way brain cells communicate with each other.”
While the science of food and mood is still evolving, foods linked to allergies are also on the list of suspect aggressor foods, says Lewis.
“Casein, which is found in dairy, and gluten in wheat are two culprits. According to some theories, some people get a toxic effect, creating a substance in the body that leads to aggression or the inability to control behavior.”
Manufactured chemicals like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also be temper igniters, Lewis says. She suggests nixing foods like instant soups and sauces that contain MSG, plus foods with artificial coloring and low-cal sweeteners.
Aggressive behavior can also be related to low blood sugar, so experts recommend eating more small meals of whole grains, protein and vegetables to keep levels in balance and avoiding refined carbohydrates such as bread, fruit juices and pastries that cause levels to yo-yo.
On the sunny side, some foods dissipate aggression.
“There is evidence that omega-3 fats help improve depression and aggression as well,” says Mona Moorhouse, clinical dietitian at the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Adding protein, high-fiber vegetables and B vitamins to your diet are also good mood bets.
Lewis says when diet is altered, improvements in aggression are tangible, often seen within two weeks.
To assess whether you have food-related aggressive feelings, she recommends keeping a journal. Jot down what you eat and when, and your patterns of aggression during your day.
If a good diet and supplementation still do nothing for your nefarious outbursts, you could check with your physician. You might be having trouble absorbing nutrients. Or perhaps it’s just time to take some anger management classes.
FOODS LINKED TO AGGRESSION
Sugar: While carbohydrates initially boost mood by activating serotonin, you’ll also crash quickly after consuming them, making you feel cranky.
Caffeine: While caffeine improves alertness in the short term, the crash that follows can make you irritable.
Alcohol: Alcohol weakens brain functions that normally restrain impulsive behaviors such as excessive aggression.
Wheat and milk: The main allergic response to wheat and casein in milk products is possible brain inflammation, which can cause hostility.
MSG and artificial sweeteners: Their ingredients can heighten reactions, including aggressive feelings.
FOODS THAT COMBAT AGGRESSION
Peanuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, artichokes, spinach, turkey, soy, parmesan cheese, gelatin, mozzarella, peaches, red peppers, papaya, corn, sunflower seeds, lentils, carrots, turnip, squash, broccoli, oats, avocado, potatoes, bran, banana, kidney beans, peas, tomato juice.