Food and Mood
What we eat may have a profound effect on how we feel. Certain foods can give us more energy, help us think more clearly and even play a part in improving our mood.
Blood sugar – A drop in blood sugar levels can often lead to mood fluctuations. You have probably heard of the term “hangry” – (hungry + angry = hangry). This is a result of the level of glucose in our blood dropping lower than what is considered normal, triggering the hormones cortisol and adrenalin to be released into the bloodstream. This in turn can cause feelings of aggression in some people. Having low blood sugar might also affect brain function, particularly the parts of the brain that control primitive behaviours and feelings such as anger.
Protein – One way to help maintain blood sugar levels is to try and eat protein-rich foods with every meal. Combining protein with complex carbohydrates helps to slow the breakdown of glucose in the body which prevents a sharp rise in blood sugar followed by a dip which can affect mood. For example, if making a vegetable soup, adding meat of your choice or lentils or beans will increase the protein content and thereby the blood sugar balancing effect of the soup. Hummus with crackers, peanut butter on wholemeal bread and fruit with nuts are examples of good snack options to assist in maintaining blood sugar balance. Our neurotransmitters that are responsible for our mood - such as serotonin - are also reliant on amino acids to be produced. Amino acids come from the breakdown of proteins in the body – another reason why protein intake is helpful in assisting with mood regulation.
Stimulants – Reduce your intake of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol. These can have an indirect but noticeable effect on your mood. Caffeine can affect sleep patterns which can in turn negatively impact mood. It can also increase feelings of stress and anxiety if taken in larger doses. Alcohol is a depressant – although it may have the short-term effect of making you feel relaxed and happy by releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine, the effect of alcohol on the inhibition of the central nervous system can cause huge fluctuations in mood and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Good fats – Omega 3 fats like those found in oily fish and flax seeds, have been found in studies to play a role in easing depression and other mood disorders. Along with their heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits, omega 3 fats play a part in healthy brain development in infants and also contribute to a healthy nervous system. It is important to mention that Omega 3 fats should not be used as a replacement for medication prescribed by a physician.
Gut health – Bacteria in the gut plays many essential roles in the body including being responsible for manufacturing the majority of the neurotransmitter serotonin which influences our mood. The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” and the effect our gut health can have on how we feel is often overlooked. Including foods high in probiotics in the diet, like yoghurt and fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and tempeh, can help ensure an optimal balance of bacteria in the gut is maintained.
Disclaimer: The content of this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.