Is what you eat directly connected to your mood?
Have you ever been in a bad mood and didn’t have any specific triggers? There weren’t any events that caused a negative attitude? Nothing that you can put your finger on that set forth being grumpy, angry, or sad? It’s definitely much more common than one would think! So, what’s the cause? You might be surprised to learn that it’s very likely connected to your diet and nutrition. The flip side of this scenario is having a positive attitude or being in an exceptionally good mood. Do you ever wonder why, with no reason, you might be happier one day than another? Well, again, it could be related to what you’re eating. Throughout this article, we will look at the question “is what you eat directly connected to your mood?”
food and mood
Just how are the food that we eat and our mood connected? To start, many people experience sugar highs and crashes. This connection is so intriguing that researchers from the National Institutes of Health are trying to connect the dots between mood and the digestive system. A study done in 2012 by a researcher at Penn State University found that fat, calories and sodium in combination contributed to poor attitude in the participants TWO days after they consumed that food! Yes, you read that right… it can take up to two days to digest some foods. It is a complex relationship between food and mood. Each person’s body responds differently to foods so what bothers you might not bother others in your home and vice versa. The best thing that you can do is to try and find a good balance in your diet and this should help with mood management (which we’ll dig into in a bit).
If you are really interested in understanding how your emotional health is impacted by what you eat, we suggest keeping a “food and mood” journal. Keep track of everything you eat and when. Every day, at least a few times throughout the day, check in and see how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Do you have any aches or pains? Make a note of it. Are you crabby? Make a note of it. Are you feeling like you can run a marathon? Make a note of it. Do you feel on top of the world? Make note of it. We believe that you will begin to see correlations between what you eat and how you feel. If you’re not able to find connections, take that journal to a dietician or nutritionist and they will surely help you nail down the pros and cons of what you’re eating and how it makes you feel.
There are some simple things that you can do when it comes to mood management and its connection to food. First, meal planning is incredibly helpful… not only will you know what you’re eating but WHEN. You’ve heard the term “hangry” right? HUNGRY + ANGRY = HANGRY. When someone misses a meal or doesn’t eat on time and their body reacts to being hungry… usually results in short tempers or a bad attitude. Knowing when you need to eat your next meal is crucial to mood management! Second, don’t skip meals. This goes hand in hand with the first point of planning. Third, avoid things that make you feel bad whether its emotionally or physically. Be conscious of what carbohydrates and sugar do to your attitude and how you feel. Often a diet high in either of these things will cause highs and lows as your body processes them.
Managing mood can include consuming less sugar and eating more healthy fats. Doing these two things have shown to help balance energy levels and improve mood. People have eased their symptoms of depression and anxiety by changing their diet.Many find better sleep when they eliminate sugar from their diets. What do you think better sleep does for the body? You will find a stronger, healthier mind and body. The body has time to rest and repair and often feel less stressed and overwhelmed. Sugar causes mood to go up and down without warning. Why is this? Does that idea of good mood, bad mood, good mood, bad mood mimic anything else you’re familiar with? The sugar high and sugar crash might have come to mind for you. Do you see the correlation between sugar high = good mood, sugar crash = bad mood? Without the highs and lows that sugar creates in the body, most people find themselves happier and less stressed. It is a fact that your state of mind has A LOT to do with what you eat. Planning meals that help you feel better does one BIG thing, it helps you avoid the things that make you feel worse!
Your mood is impacted by serotonin, often thought of as a “feel good” chemical that the body produces. Mood and behavior are often stabilized with appropriate levels of serotonin in the body. An amino acid, tryptophan, can be used as a supplement to boost levels of serotonin through a synthesis process. What foods contain tryptophan that can boost serotonin production? Eggs, cheese, pineapple, tofu, salmon, nuts, turkey are a few. You can also boost serotonin through exercise, sunshine (light therapy), positive attitude, and healthy gut bacteria (which we will explore more in a bit).
Planning your meals, lowering sugar and carbohydrate consumption, increasing healthy fats, boosting serotonin production all influence your mood and behavior. These are all ways to manage your mood. Each one of these plays a role in this space… your body will feel better emotionally and physically.
mood boosting foods
Is it true that there are mood boosting foods? Yes! Is it possible that thinking you ate good will boost your mood? Yes! Often, people who eat nutritious things feel better in their overall energy as they know they’ve given their body what it needs. Have you ever had a day where you didn’t give in to cravings or emotional eating and felt like a million bucks? On the flip side, have you ever given in to those things and felt awful? For a lot of people, eating junk food (candy, chips, carb-loaded foods, etc.) means less energy because they are internally beating themselves up for not eating the right things.
What things boost mood?
1. Fiber – the amount of sugar absorbed into the bloodstream can be slowed down by having soluble fiber in your diet. Fiber can also increase the “feel good” chemical (serotonin) in the body. Decreasing blood sugar spikes and increasing serotonin production and reduce the risk of mood swings. What things can you eat to increase soluble fiber in your diet? Oats, beans, pears, peas, flaxseeds, carrots, sweet potatoes, hazelnuts, avocados, broccoli, and brussels sprouts… the list goes on and on! If you are on a keto diet, you will want to look for lower carbohydrate foods such as flaxseeds, broccoli, avocados, and brussels sprouts to incorporate into your meal plan.
2. Protein – carbohydrate absorption can be slowed down by having protein in your meals. This can increase the release of chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the body. These neurotransmitters can contribute to good mood and better energy. Some protein choices include poultry, seafood, eggs, tofu, and Greek yogurt.
3. Vitamins – Vitamin D, folate and Vitamin B-12 are all shown to help with mood.
- Vitamin D is related to seasonal affective disorder which impacts mood. Many people with long winters or not a lot of sunshine deal with this mood disorder. You can get Vitamin D from the sun, but so many people apply sunscreen before going into the sun that it isn’t as effective. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as low fat milk, soymilk, salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, tuna, oysters, shrimp, mushrooms and egg yolks. You can see from this list that there aren’t a lot of options if you don’t eat fish/seafood. If you are concerned with your Vitamin D levels, you can have your doctor check them, they may prescribe a Vitamin D supplement.
- Folate (Vitamin B9) and Vitamin B-12 are related to depression. You can find folate in these foods: asparagus, eggs, beets, brussels sprouts, broccoli, lentils, dark leafy greens, oatmeal, nuts, seeds and oranges. Vitamin B-12 can be found in cottage cheese, sardines, tuna, trout, salmon and lean beef. Again, if you are keto you want to look for low carbohydrate options for increasing Vitamins B9 and B12.
The gut is often referred to as the second brain of the body. The nerves in the body connect the gut and the brain. The digestive system has an amazingly strong connection to the rest of the body, nearly every part is impacted by the gut. A key player in your digestive system is the bacteria. A healthy gut has just the right amount of good and bad bacteria. The greater variety of food that you eat (especially plants) the greater diversity you will have in your gut microbiome. This is a benefit to the body as it balances out the good and bad bacteria in your digestive system.
Inflammation comes about from the immune system working for too long. It is shown that inflammation contributes to brain disorders such as depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s. The gut is responsible for what goes into the bloodstream and what is excreted. Lipopolysaccharide, also known as LPS, is a harmful inflammatory byproduct made by certain bacteria in the gut. If LPS leaks into the body, it can instigate inflammation. Long-term or chronic inflammation can impact the brain and mood.
Live bacteria, known as probiotics, when consumed give the gut a healthy advantage. The term “psychobiotics” refers to probiotics that specifically impact the brain. Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression can be impacted by probiotics according to these studies. Along these lines, prebiotics can also impact brain health. Fibers that are fermented in the gut are called prebiotics. Studies show that prebiotics can lower stress levels, particularly the hormone cortisol.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the brain is definitely influenced by what happens within the gut. Diet and nutrition play a huge role in brain health. What might be even more important is your body’s ability to put the nutrients to use which impacts the functions of the brain. Studies show that things such as serotonin (and many other chemicals) are made in your gut. Therefore, interrupting these processes can certainly affect mood, anxiety, and focus.
Are there certain foods to eat that benefit the gut and brain connection? Yes! As we mentioned already, foods high in fiber are a good choice. They contain prebiotics that are good for gut bacteria. Omega-3 rich foods (salmon, mackerel, walnuts, chia seeds, etc.) are known to boost the good bacteria in the intestines. Fermented foods (kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.) contain microbes that are healthy for the digestive system. It is very clear that the brain-gut connection is strong. Because your diet can interfere with this you are likely to see issues with your overall health if your diet contains the right things.
The next time you find yourself extremely energetic and don’t have a reason, pay attention to what you ate, it likely has impacted your mood! On the other hand, if you’re in a bad mood and can’t figure out why, it’s likely you had something that instigated a negative attitude. As we’ve answered the question,is what you eat directly connected to your mood? – you’ve seen just how connected your diet and your brain health are. We’d be willing to bet you’ll notice a positive improvement in your attitude and behavior! The foods we eat contribute to the health of the entire body, don’t disregard what nutrition can do for mood! Finding the right nutrition and sticking to it can improve your mood and energy. We invite you to try some of the mood boosting foods and see how you feel!