We know that our mood can be influenced by a lot of outside factors like the weather, the news, or your job but your mood can also be affected by internal factors as well!
Have you ever caught yourself in a bad mood but didn’t have any external triggers that caused the negative attitude? Or even a good mood but there was no apparent reason why?
Do you ever wonder why some days you can be happier than others while other days have you grumpy or sad even though nothing in your life caused those things?
The truth is, your mood is closely tied to your diet and nutrition. It’s a big reason why people who eat healthier more frequently feel happier more regularly. This is great news because that means you have a lot more control over your mood than you realized before you started reading this article! Before we get into how you can take the reigns on your mood though, let’s talk about how it works.
Your Second Brain
The gut is often referred to as the second brain of the body. In fact, the gut has its own nervous system (known as the enteric nervous system) that directly influences several aspects of your body including brain function, digestion, mood, metabolism, and more.
Your gut is home to several thousand different bacteria both good and bad. A healthy gut has a good balance of good and bad bacteria. Live bacteria, more commonly known as probiotics, give the gut a healthy advantage. Certain probiotics directly impact the brain and have been linked to symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression . Serotonin – often referred to as the “feel good” chemical – and other chemicals are made in the gut as well so interrupting the process of this has been shown to impact mood, focus, and inflammation .
Food and Mood
We’ve all experienced our fair share of sugar highs and crashes. This impact food has on our energy and mood piqued the interest of the National Institutes of Health as they tried to better understand how what we eat influences our mood.
They found in one study that certain combinations of fat, calories, and sodium (what most processed food is made of) contributed to negative attitudes up to two days after they consumed the food!
Of course, every person’s body responds differently, and just because you had a negative reaction to the food you’re eating doesn’t mean others will have the same. It’s a complex relationship that occurs between food and mood but you can take control of this by better understanding of how you can use food to manage your mood.
There are lots of simple techniques you can take to improve your mood with the food you eat but first, it starts by creating an awareness of how you’re impacted by food in the first place.
Food and Mood Journal
As mentioned earlier, different foods impact people’s moods in different ways. So in order to find how food impacts your emotional health, we suggest keeping a “food and mood” journal. This is where you keep track of what you eat and when you eat it on a daily basis while also noting how you’re feeling physically and emotionally throughout the day.
Making note of things like:
-Whether or not you have aches and pains.
-If you’re crabby
-If you’re feeling on top of the world
-If you experience a dip in energy or motivation
So on and so forth. If you’re able to do this long enough, you will be able to find correlations between the foods or nutrients you’re eating and how you feel. From there you can figure out what foods to limit and what foods incorporate more of for your health.
If you’re someone that finds themselves “hangry” (hungry + angry) often, this one’s for you.
When someone misses a meal or doesn’t eat on time your body reacts to being hungry with irritability, short tempers, or a bad attitude. This can be resolved by understanding when you need to eat your next meal.
So find what timing or frequency of meals helps you stay your best and try to maintain that (that means trying not to skip any meals either) as often as you can for maximum mood!
Incorporating Mood-Boosting Foods
It’s no secret that you can ease your symptoms of depression and anxiety by changing your diet. Choosing the right foods can help improve your sleep quality which, in turn, improves your mind, body, and digestive system. Not to mention the placebo effect that comes from eating foods that are more nutritious as well!
Here are some foods that you should make an effort to incorporate more of:
Fiber is a funny thing (you can read more about it here). It doesn’t actually get digested like other food does, but it gets eaten by the bacteria in your gut microbiome. Your gut uses this fiber as fuel to create more “feel good” chemicals, like serotonin, which reduces the risk of mood swings and keeps energy high throughout the day. Individual fiber needs vary but a general reference to aim for is about 15-20g per 1000 calories you eat.
High fiber foods: Oats, beans, pears, peas, flaxseeds, carrots, sweet potatoes, hazelnuts, avocados, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Protein is a precursor to several hormones that help you feel your best. As well as being able to boost the release of chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine in the body which contribute to mood and energy. The general recommendation of protein intake is 0.8-1.2g per pound of lean body mass daily.
High protein foods: Poultry, seafood, eggs, greek yogurt, tofu, and protein supplements.
The main vitamins directly correlated with mood are Vitamin D, Folate, and Vitamin B-12.
Vitamin D is a powerful vitamin that often acts as a hormone. Being deficient in vitamin D is often mistaken for seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder in the winter months when you don’t get enough sunlight. It’s that important.
While sunlight is one avenue to get more vitamin D, you can also find vitamin D in low-fat milk, soymilk, salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, tuna, oysters, shrimp, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Vitamin D supplementation is also a route you can take if seafood isn’t your thing, just check with your doctor for proper dosing recommendations.
Folate and Vitamin B-12 are related to depression. High folate foods include asparagus, eggs, beets, brussel sprouts, broccoli, lentils, dark leafy greens, oatmeal, seeds, nuts, and oranges. Foods high in vitamin B-12 include cottage cheese, sardines, tuna, trout, salmon, and lean beef.
Foods to exclude
It’s not just about having foods that boost your mood that’ll make your life better though. Reducing the food that makes you feel awful is also going to help make you feel so much better because you aren’t feeling worse! So doing both can have strong impacts on your mood and overall health. High processed foods are often correlated with feeling worse physically or mentally but, as mentioned earlier, everyone feels different when consuming different foods so it’s important to understand what you react to best.
The next time you find yourself extremely energetic and don’t have a reason or a tad bit bitter but don’t know exactly why, make note of what you ate because it’s likely the source of your mood change! The foods you eat contribute to the health of the entire body – don’t disregard what nutrition can do for your mood!
Finding the right nutrition program and sticking to it can improve your mood and energy for the long term – if you need help finding a nutrition plan perfect for your individual needs and goals schedule a free strategy call with one of our coaches to help change your life for the better!