You have been feeling grumpy all day.
For some reason, you just don’t feel like doing anything and want to just lie around in your bed and stare at the ceiling.
You wonder why you feel so bad even when there is no apparent reason you should be feeling this way.
Then, suddenly, there is a knock on your door.
You answer it to see that it is your best friend.
And he has brought with him your favorite food and drinks.
When you sit down to eat, you can’t help but smile and cheer up seeing the delicious food that’s about to go in your mouth.
As you take your first bite, you suddenly feel a sense of joy spreading throughout your body and you feel like everything is fine again.
Has this ever happened to you?
If yes, well, you have first-hand experience with how food can impact your mood.
If not, well, you must have had some other experience that showed you how food can impact your mood.
Regardless of who you are, you probably already know the incredible effects food has on our mental and emotional states.
As the saying goes, we are what we eat. Eat something delicious, and you become a bundle of joy.
But how does this happen exactly?
And how far do these effects go?
What does science have to say about all this?
Let’s explore these questions in more depth.
The Relationship Between Food And Mood
While it’s not easy to say which food will give rise to which emotions in you, there is evidence to show that food can impact your emotional state.
In a study, it was found that complex carbohydrates that you get in beans, sweet potatoes, whole grains, peas, rolled oats, etc., can increase the levels of serotonin in your brain.
If you didn’t already know, serotonin is one of the feel-good hormones that the brain produces. It regulates your behavior, attention, and even body temperature! So, if you want to quickly enhance your mood, you should probably fill your plate with some complex carbohydrates and go to town with it!
There are tons of other studies that prove that there is an undeniable relationship between the food we eat and our subsequent mood.
One such study showed that when people consume protein, which comes from foods like eggs, lentils, fish, milk, beef, chicken, nuts, grains, seeds, etc., their brain releases higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.
Dopamine is another feel-good hormone that is considered a part of your brain’s reward system. It gives you an immense sense of pleasure and enhances your motivation. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood, increases arousal, enhances attention, and boosts your alertness.
Similarly, fruits and vegetables have also been found to boost your happiness.
So, when your parents told you to eat your broccoli when you were little, they were actually helping you become happier (whether they realized it or not at the time).
But wait, there’s more!
If the above examples reaffirmed your belief that food indeed affects your mood, there is one more example that will turn it into a fact.
And this one is pretty important in the world that we live in where mental health crisis is on an alarming rise.
In the past few years, thanks to many research studies like this, it has been discovered that certain types of diet are much better at treating the symptoms of depression.
These diets have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve a person’s mood. One such diet is the Mediterranean diet, which heavily focuses on vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil, nuts, and fish.
According to researchers, this diet that has a lot of protein, fiber, and healthy fat is perfect to improve your mental and emotional health.
So, if you happen to be suffering from declining mental health or know someone who does, you can turn to this diet to make things better.
The Connection Between Food, Gut Health, And Mood
By now you might have understood how the food you eat might affect your brain and your mood by extension.
But did you know that there is one more way your food affects your mood?
Everything you eat goes to your stomach and then to the small intestine.
That’s where your gut microbiome exists. Most people aren’t aware of this, but there are 100 trillion microbial cells that influence your metabolism, physiological processes, immune system, mood, and much more.
Different types of food interact differently with these gut microorganisms.
For example, certain foods like yogurt are considered awesome for your gut health, while highly processed foods or sugary drinks are considered harmful.
If you disturb the balance of your gut microbiome, your mood can suffer.
But if you maintain and promote that balance, you will feel much better.
Food To Eat And Food To Avoid
So, now that we understand the mechanism of how food affects your mood, let’s take a look at what you should eat and what you should avoid if you want to achieve a healthy state of mind and emotions.
Foods To Eat:
- Eat a balanced diet that has all the nutrients your mind and body need. Make sure to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins in your diet.
- Include sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These typically include foods like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. ( I love this omega 3 supplement in case you food intake is not enough – from amazon)
- Drink lots of water. After all, you need something to transport all the nutrients you eat throughout your body!
- Make sure you also get Vitamin D as that has a direct and lasting impact on your mood. Sources of Vitamin D include oily fish, eggs, red meat, the sun, etc.
Foods To Avoid:
- Avoid foods that are highly processed and pre-packaged. They might taste delicious, but they can wreck your gut health.
- Avoid too much sugar.
- Avoid unhealthy fats and additives.
- Avoid foods high in salt, such as processed meat and some canned foods. Also, limit your consumption of frozen foods.
- Avoid flour-based foods like bread and baked goo