Many people never stop to think about how food affects your mood. The results found by scientists who have studied the connection between food and mood for a considerable amount of time may be surprising to you. Consuming certain foods has a significant effect on a person’s mood. While some are positive, others are negative. Choosing a healthy diet can have the same effect on mood as other remedies, such as stress reduction, adequate sleep, exercise and even mood-lifting prescription medication. This research sheds a whole new meaning to the saying,”you are what you eat.”
Food For Thought: How Food Affects Your Mood
Foods to Increase
From clinical studies, food researchers have learned the increasing certain nutrients, including Vitamin D, B Vitamins, Omega-3 fats and certain proteins can enhance your mood.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are being shown by a growing body of research to boost the mood and decrease the symptoms of depression. To increase the omega-3 fats, you should include more fish oils from fatty fish (including trout, herring, mackerel, tuna, salmon and sardines) along with fortified eggs, canola oil, flaxseeds and walnuts.
Certain of the B vitamins, folate and B12 in particular, are effective at lifting one’s gloom by causing the body to increase production of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters responsible to stabilize the mood. Individuals who are lacking in these nutrients are more likely to suffer the effects of depression. To increase these two B vitamins increase foods such as dairy, lean beef, shellfish, eggs, greens, seeds, beans, lentils, beets broccoli and whole grain cereals such as oats.
Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D can help to brighten one’s outlook on life by increasing production of serotonin. In addition to spending some time outside daily, increase the vitamin intake by consuming fortified milk products, eggs, fatty fish that include bones and fortified soy products.
The empty calories of candy, juice, soda and other sweets result in a rapid blood sugar spike followed by a quick drop. The body suffers from this roller coaster effect. Limit these foods along with the refined carbohydrates found in white bread, crackers, white rice and pasta that are quickly digested and absorbed.
Some studies have shown a link between biological changes leading to depression and consumption of trans-fatty acid intake. These unhealthy fats may lead to an inflammatory response in the body that interferes with the neurotransmitters which boost the mood. Trans-fats are often found in packaged foods such as crackers and pastries as well as many fast foods.
Individuals who take steps to maintain a stable blood sugar during the day are naturally more chipper than those who experience spikes and dips. Eat smaller meals every four hours to prevent plummeting blood sugar. Keeping the blood sugar level prevents fatigue as well as mood swings. Complex carbohydrates and protein should be included with every meal and snack to keep the blood sugar levels constant. Lean proteins, including turkey, chicken and tuna offer the amino acid tyrosine, which enhances production of the mood-boosting neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.
Keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other low calorie drinks, but avoid too much caffeine, which can provide a quick energy burst that leaves you sluggish and tired later.
Regular exercise has been shown to prevent depression. Every step helps. Those who exercise 30 minutes daily suffer 50% fewer symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
What About Supplements?
The best source of nutrients is one’s diet and not supplements. Before beginning use of any dietary supplement it is a good idea to talk with your doctor.
The Bottom Line
A well balanced diet including vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats, along with regular exercise, stress reduction and adequate sleep are all important in maintaining a positive mood.