You must be wondering how can food affect mood?
Some people relate to food as comforting. Some may eat to reward themselves after completing a task! Some may feel guilty after indulging in certain foods! And some may feel intoxicated after a rich meal! Some may experience bouts of anger or frustration after eating certain foods! Some may feel anxious or worried about the unknown! I am sure you all have experienced these emotions at times but were not aware of the fact that your food could be the reason behind all these emotions!
Well, Research suggests that what we eat not only affects our physical health, but it has a huge impact on the way we feel! Therefore, watching what you eat may help improve your mood, give you more energy and also help you think more clearly!
Have you heard of the “gut-brain axis”? More and more researchers are now suggesting that our gut talks to our brain and it can have huge effects on our mood and the emotions we experience. If your gut is happy, then you’re going to be happy!
Literally – “We are what we eat,”. It makes perfect sense that what we eat, influences our biochemistry and our neurotransmitters, which is a substantial part of mental health.”
So, if food plays a huge part in our mood, then what should we eat to feel our best? This can be really confusing, especially when there is so much information out there on the “Google University”!
Here are some of my recommendations: –
It’s important to consume omega-3 rich foods as they have crucial roles in the body. They are important part of the cell membrane of all cells in the body. They are needed to produce signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which help our nervous system, immune function, cardiovascular system, and endocrine system work properly. They are essential for our hormones as well. Plus, they have a huge role in keeping inflammation in check.
Added bonus – Omega 3s make our hair and skin healthy & shiny, which can indirectly lift our mood! Isn’t it? If you feel and look good in your body, won’t you feel those positive emotions?
- If your body lacks omega-3 fats, one of the first places you may notice it is in your skin. For instance, sensitive, dry skin, or even an unusual increase in acne may be a sign of omega-3 deficiency in some people. Omega 3 fats improve the integrity of skin barriers, preventing the loss of moisture and protecting it from irritants that can lead to dryness and irritation!
- Just as omega-3 fats help retain moisture in the skin, they also help keep your hair healthy. They help maintain the density, texture, and strength of hair. If you’re experiencing increased hair loss or have noticed that your hair is thinning or feeling dry and brittle, taking omega-3 supplements may help.
- Omega-3 fats are an essential component of the brain and known to have neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory effects. While many factors contribute to the development of mental health disorders, a diet high in omega-3s may help reduce the risk of some mood disorders.
Get your omega 3s from Nuts and seeds, Cold water fish ( salmon & halibut), Flaxseed oil, Avocado oil, Walnut oil
Magnesium is known as “The Anti-stress mineral” in holistic nutrition language. It supports our adrenal function & has a role in our stress response! It relaxes muscles and nerves. In fact, it is part of hundreds of metabolic reactions in our body including maintenance of serotonin. Statistics show large parts of our population could be deficient in magnesium. The problem is that it is easily flushed out of the body by anything that has a diuretic effect such as coffee, alcohol, prescription diuretics. Even excessive water intake could flush out magnesium.
Include foods rich in magnesium on a daily basis- dark leafy greens, nuts & seeds, pumpkin seeds, avocados & whole grains.
We all know Vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin as we usually get our Vitamin D from the Sun. One of the roles of Vitamin D is that it aids in regulating the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin which is the feel-good neurotransmitter in our body! So, Vitamin D boosts mood and has anti-depressant qualities.
Getting out in the sun for at least 20-30 minutes per day is all that it needs but if for some reason you cannot be out in the sun, then go for mushrooms & fatty fish which are rich sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin B6 is another nutrient that is vital for converting tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a primary role in our mood! Make sure you include B6 rich foods in your diet on a regular basis. In fact, it’s not difficult to get vitamin B6 through food. You can get it from eggs, poultry, seafood esp. salmon & tuna, beef, leafy greens, spinach, kale.
Probiotics are bacteria living in our intestines and known for aiding in digestion, boosting the immune system and cleaning our gut. They’re a key contributor to the health of the gut-brain axis and have a calming effect on the body. Include foods rich in probiotics such as kefir, yogurt and sauerkraut.
Good news…Dark chocolate raises Endorphins, which are chemicals that help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. They’re also referred to as the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals, and are the body’s natural painkillers. Compounds in Dark chocolate actually interact with our neurotransmitters. When this happens, it increases the levels of serotonin which promote feelings like pleasure, happiness, and even love. A good enough reason to indulge in dark chocolate! Isn’t it?
But not all chocolates are equal. What I recommend is dark chocolate that’s made from raw cocoa, which is why it has a darker color and a subtle bitter flavor. It is rich in phyto-nutrients such as flavanols which contribute to its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.
Despite the benefits of all the foods listed above, I would say that there is no single food that is considered the elixir for a steady mind. We need to follow an integrative approach to our overall health and wellbeing! Regular exercise, good sleep, proper elimination of waste, along with a healthy diet as per your body’s requirements, all play a part in our overall mood! So, get in sync with your body and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. Your health is in your hands and your body knows how to heal itself!
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M.Sc., R.H.N., Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant
The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.