Food Vs Mood

August 2012

Foods & Behaviour

Do you worry that certain foods make your child’s mood change from good to bad?

Many parents blame sugar for everything (including me), but endless studies have proven that sugar cannot alone change a child’s behaviour.

Additives, preservatives and flavour enhancers definitely have major affects on children’s behaviour – so a fresh, healthy well balanced diet avoiding these substances should be the aim of every family.

I am the first to admit, whilst aiming for fresh, natural organic food for every meal, it doesn’t always happen in my house. Time, money and convenience play a big part in what my children and the rest of the family eat.

I have seen both my children go crazy, throw tantrums and Wobblies after eating and drinking piles of party food, only to blame it on all the sugar, colourings and additives. But do I really know they are to blame, my children will have meltdowns after strawberries and natural yogurt too!

According to Dr. Richard Wurtman, who is involved in numerous studies on nutrition and the brain, there are certain established bits of knowledge of how food affects your mood that you can put into practice.

Mind Food + Energy - Protein foods are known for their ability to increase levels of alertness and energy. Eating foods high in protein will give you a slight mental boost. High protein foods include fish, poultry, meat, and eggs. If you can’t eat those, try high protein foods that also contain significant amount of carbohydrates, such as legumes, cheese, milk, or tofu.

Calm & Relaxed – Eating carbohydrates can produce a sense of calm, induce sleep and even reduce the effects of pain. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole wheat breads, cereals, pasta and rice.

Happy – Folic acid is the answer, as little as 200 micrograms is enough to help you feel happy instead of sad – easily obtained in a cup of cooked spinach or a glass of orange juice.

Bad Moods – Children and adults suffering from a lack of selenium have been shown to be more anxious, irritable and moody than their non-lacking counterparts. Be sure to get your daily dose by eating a Brazil nut, or tuna sandwich, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, or swordfish.

Food reactions can be difficult to recognise in children, and can only be diagnosed by professionals usually through an elimination system and controlled diet. An Australian study of children experiencing irritability, restlessness and sleep disturbances (Rowe and Rowe, 1994) demonstrated deterioration of behaviour in children after elimination and re-introduction of foods containing synthetic colouring. The removal of preservatives, artificial colours and flavours also had a good response in hyperactive children.

Fresh food is no doubt best for children and your family, and when buying packaged food try and avoid the following:

1. Artificial Colours & Flavours – Flavour Enhancers 620-625 MSG etc

2. Chemical Preservatives – Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Benzoate

3. Artificial Sweeteners – Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin

4. Added Sugar – High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn Syrup, Dextrose, etc

5. Added Salt – Look at the sodium content and choose foods with the lowest amounts.



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