Food generally contains nutrients and vitamins necessary for proper health and body functioning. However, you may have had experiences where you feel lethargic or depressed after you eat. This can be confusing – after all, eating is supposed to give you strength. However, a lot of people don’t know that there is a connection between food and mood. In essence, what you eat has a definite impact on your mood.
The relationship between food and mood is complex. However, research has shown there is a link between the two. The connection between food and mood originates from the close relationship between your brain and the gastrointestinal tract, also referred to as “the second brain.”
The gastrointestinal tract hosts billions of bacteria that influence neurotransmitter production, which is composed of chemical substances responsible for conveying messages from the gut (gastrointestinal tract) to the brain. Examples of such chemical substances are dopamine and serotonin. The way that food can impact and influence our moods is higher than one might think. 1
Eating healthy food helps promote the development of “good bacteria,” and results in a positive production of neurotransmitters. In contrast, consumption of unhealthy food can cause inflammation that hinders the production of neurotransmitters. When the neurotransmitter production process is in good condition, your brain receives positive messages and thus reflects them in the body’s emotions. The reverse occurs when production is in bad shape.
Food that contains a large amount of sugary substance is the main cause of body inflammation. They feed the “bad bacteria” in your gastrointestinal tract. Although sugar does cause a temporary spike in dopamine levels, its inflammation-causing effects are more prolonged than any transient effects it might have caused. Sticking to mood-boosting foods will also help you reduce your mood's instabilities
The food and mood chart is a tool that helps you keep track of the effects of what you eat so you can also track how it impacts your mood. It gives you the rationale behind the produced symptoms and when you experience them. The chart aims at food and mood improvement to help people with food intolerance, reduce discomfort, and get rid of an ailment while maintaining a healthy diet. This means that you will be able to use a food and mood chart to adjust your food intake and ensure you’re not eating anything that might negatively impact your mood. This can be found online and used to help increase your mood through healthy eating. 2
An unhealthy eating habit that results in nutritional imbalance and fluctuations in blood sugar can affect and alter your overall mood. Also, without consuming food to boost mood and energy, your body and brain function less effectively. Unhealthy eating habits that can alter your mood are:
Now that you know that your food can influence your mental health physiologically and chemically, resulting in changes in your mood and behavior, there are certain ways you can improve your mood with food. These will be detailed below.
This is very important, as it stops your blood sugar level from decreasing, which could make you weak and ill-tempered.
A low dehydration level can affect your mood and ability to focus and reduce your energy level.
Include protein in every meal. Protein contains an amino acid that helps regulate your mood.
The right balance of fats is healthy for your brain, and it enables functionality. Fats are found in food such as oily fish, milk, eggs, nuts, and seeds. You should avoid unhealthy fats, usually found in processed and packaged food.
Caffeine is found in tea, chocolate, coffee, and energy drinks. Although caffeine is an effective mood-boosting food, it can cause irritability and sleep problems when abused or misused.
Your gut reflects your mood and food intake. Your gut is the “interface” between your food and mental health, so you should be intentional about taking care of it. One great way to take care of your gut is by eating healthy foods like vegetables, beans, and fruits.
To ensure the food you eat will have boosting effects on your mood and energy, you should have at least five varieties of fruits and vegetables every day. 4
Various foods have mood-improving effects, so whatever your diet preference, you should be able to find foods that can help make you feel better. The knowledge of food and mental health can help you manage and avoid symptoms of depression as well. 5
Eating fermented food such as yogurts, sauerkraut, and kimchi is a great way to integrate probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are live organisms that reside in your gut and provide health benefits. These also support a healthy digestive system and immune system. 6
Research has shown that dark chocolate is healthy food to improve mood and energy and reduce stress and anxiety. Dark chocolates are rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, which reduce neuroinflammation and dead cells in the brain and equally improve blood flow. This is healthy food to improve mood and energy. 7
Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a role in over three hundred enzyme reactions in your body. Consumption of magnesium food helps regulate your blood pressure and support your immune system. Foods containing high magnesium levels are seeds, nuts, vegetables, and grains.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin known to help the human body absorb and retain phosphorus and calcium, which are important for building bone. Vitamin D’s deficiency causes depression and anxiety. Foods like tuna, orange juice, milk, sardines, and swordfish contain high levels of vitamin D. 8
Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients from food such as fish and flaxseed, connecting food benefits for your mood. They are key for your body to help keep your immune system and blood vessels functional.
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and other important micronutrients. Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to improved mood and a lower rate of depression.
Because of the connection between food and mood, choosing a healthy diet will allow you to reduce mood fluctuations and improve your ability to focus. However, not everyone knows how to construct an adequate food or diet schedule, so it’s important to have professional help. Professional support to improve your food and your mood are often in the form of diet and mental health counseling.
Food and mental health counseling aims to treat the imbalance that results in psychological crises through therapeutic diet and supplements. Registered centers equipped with human psychology and nutrition knowledge would help you create a meal plan that positively affects your food and mood. 9
Figuring out a healthy diet can be somewhat confusing, especially if you have little to no knowledge about mood and food. Improving your diet and mental health doesn’t have to be stressful or confusing, and at Genesis Recovery center, you will have access to all the help you need. Genesis Recovery has experienced registered dietitians trained to offer nutritional counseling and help correct the imbalance that unhealthy food might have done to your mental health.
If you’re tired of the food you eat and think it’s negatively affecting your health and looking to improve your nutrition and mental health, reach out today and let’s help you get started.