Monthly Archives: April 2015
Can what you eat and determine how you feel? Research results on the matter seem limited, although they point to what many people have instinctively believed— that one’s diet determines one’s general mood. This is why some lovers swear by their aphrodisiacs while others look to coffee to get them off to a good day’s start.
Most people would agree that food can put a dazzle to our mood or bring the lustre down a notch. Most of us would also agree with the obverse: Mood determines what we eat. How many times have we delved into a tub of ice cream to soothe a broken heart? Do we eat the wrong thing because we don’t feel right? I guess it works both ways…
Food Drives the Mood
A recent twenty-three month research (Nutritional Neurosci 2015; 18:137-144) showed how diet affected the moods of eighty four adults. Daily caloric intake from fats, sugar, fibre, sodium, carbohydrates, and other nutrients were carefully taken into account. Each individual’s general mood for the day was measured using a Visual Analogue Scale mood thermometer. Results were adjusted according to age, sex, and caloric intake. Just as suspected, individuals who consumed food with more of the good stuff—fibre, water, magnesium, selenium, Vitamin C, etc.— reported uplifted moods overall. Conversely, those whose diets leaned heavily on saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and other “need-to-be-limited” nutrients and non-nutrients, generally tended to be in low spirits and feel depressed.
It may interest you to note that the study also discovered that a diet incorporating a good varietal range of fruits and vegetables was particularly more mood lifting than other eating combinations. Perhaps it is the fibre content in these foods that is responsible for good moods; but, the what, why, and how fibre contributes to a happy disposition, however, is still unclear.
Other studies corroborate the above findings. An online journal, PLoSOne, published research findings that linked depression and diets high in sugar and processed food. The International Journal of Eating Disorders also published a 2012 study which found a positive correlation between high fat and high sugar diets to food bingeing and food addictions. Furthermore, a 2014 study on more than 4,000 adolescents in New Zealand also related better quality diets to good mental health and unhealthy diets to poor mental disposition. This study was published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Mood Drives Your Food (or rather, What You Eat)
Our mood ‘may point to what we eat or don’t eat, for that matter. Have you ever reached for a “wee slice” of cake just to lighten up your day? That’s probably your devil of a cortisol hormone giving a soothing “just this once” placation. Stressed people usually have elevated cortisol levels which compel them to eat food high in salt, fat, or sugar. Stress also induces people toward emotional eating, a practice that just piles on the calories when people find temporary solace in low nutrient value foods and eat even when not hungry at all.
Bad mood eating generally leads to poor food choices and consequently, poor nutrition; although hey, happy moods can also make one overindulge. The consequences of poor nutrition are manifold: poor immune system, cardiovascular problems, obesity, insomnia, high blood sugar levels, metabolic issues…the list is almost endless. It also goes without saying that a deteriorating health because of constant bad food choices engenders depression, stress, anxiety, and just an overall low emotional state. A downward spiralling mood-food cycle is a vicious one that can only be broken by a staunch decision to alter one’s diet for the better.
Choose Your Food for A Better Mood
Food is our life so we must cultivate a healthy relationship with it. Our moods should not drive what we eat; rather, we should choose food to keep us feeling hunky dory. As a diet goal, happy hormone (serotonin) production should be increased. Try these for a more smiley week:
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna have loads of Omega-3. Omega-3 is a mood lifter because it helps the brain manufacture serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Crustaceans are also rich in mood lifting nutrients such as Vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc.
Aside from being rich in potassium, bananas are high in amino acids. Amino acids are important triggers for the production of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that in turn stimulates the production of serotonin. Vitamin B and folate also assist in tryptophan production and consequently, serotonin production. Blueberries, pineapple, and avocado are rich in these.
Legumes have lots of fibre and protein. Protein also prods the production of amino acids necessary for serotonin manufacture. Fibre helps control our blood glucose levels which can trigger emotional responses.
- Brazil nuts
These nuts contain selenium which assists in proper thyroid functioning. The thyroid produces our hormones which also control our moods; so, a dysfunction could throw a major funk into our general moods. About 10% of Australians suffer from a thyroid problem which leaves them chronically tired and prone to mood swings. Selenium is so abundant in these nuts that only a few pieces can fulfil one’s daily requirements.
Because food does affect our moods, it just goes to show that the oft repeated admonition to eat a well-balanced diet could make for a happier you. Negate this in favour of the temporary pleasure of a junk diet and reap the rewards of a life lived with less quality than you could have. A little discipline towards healthy living could make all the difference.