The Ways Your Diet Might Affect Your Happiness
Here we are again, discovering more ways that what we eat really affects us as a whole person, not just our physical health.
There are some universal concepts that we understand when it comes to food and our physical health. We eat salt and our hands may swell and blood pressure may go up, we eat a lot of sugar and we might get a lot of energy then crash, we eat high fiber and we may lower our cholesterol.*
These are understood concepts that we have been taught and confirmed through our own personal experiences. But, did you realize that our food can also impact our mood? The nutrients we take in might not only change physical things like our weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, but also our mental health.*
Good Mood Food
Dopamine and epinephrine are two hormones known as neurotransmitters that can send signals throughout the brain. Because they work in the brain and body, they are usually associated with positive feelings. When these are lo, our emotions can become hard to control. Protein, especially lean protein, may cause glucose to slowly enter the bloodstream which might promote the release of these hormones.
B12, and most B vitamins, are known for their ability to help increase mood and positivity. When B12 or folate deficiency is present, the individual may have difficulty managing stress and anxiety. Anima-based foods are high in this nutrient, but some plant sources of folate include dark leafy greens, oatmeal, broccoli, and lentils. Sources of B12 beef, salmon, and cottage cheese. B12 has even been studied as an eventual treatment for major depressive disorder.*
We’ve all heard that getting enough sunlight can help put us in a better mood, which is why seasonal affective disorder exists. This is because sunlight can help our body to generate vitamin D which is a nutrient that may impact our emotional health.* Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, soy milk, and cow’s milk that has been fortified with vitamin D.
Fiber may work in the body to help bring about many health benefits and we can add mood to the list. Fiber may slow the absorption of sugar along with helping increase the production of serotonin.* Serotonin is another chemical in our brains linked to helping increase positive emotions and mood* Good sources of fiber include oatmeal, whole grains, beans, peas, broccoli, and chia.
A balanced diet focused on whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meats, and fruits and vegetables may improve overall health, along with physical activity.* When you are feeling well physically, it might have positive impacts on your mental health as well.*
Skipping meals. Missing a meal, especially breakfast, can lead to low blood sugar. This will likely leave you feeling weak and tired.
Bad Mood Food
Ever get hangry? The science behind this phenomenon is simple. Our body’s need calories and specific nutrients to be properly fueled for even the most basic daily tasks. When we deprive our body of this, our glucose - blood sugar - may begin to drop and we might become anxious, hungry, and just plain moody.* Fueling your body enough and often may keep you from experience the hangry mood swings.*
Experiencing moodiness from not eating enough for a day is just one aspect of how food can impact our mood in a temporary way. There are aspects of our diet that can impact our mood in a more chronic and ongoing way. Eating a diet that is consistently calorie dense and low in essential vitamins and nutrients may cause poor health conditions that might impact your overall well-being.*
A diet high in refined and processed foods may lead to chronic inflammation.* This inflammation can become widespread throughout the body and create mood swings and difficulty controlling your emotions.* This type of diet pattern may also affect your hormones causing high cortisol levels leading eventually to stress and anxiety.*
Studies have shown that diets high in refined carbohydrates may lead to mental disorders and depression.* A 2017 study looked at the effects of a high sugar diet on mental health status and confirmed sugar intake could have a negative impact on psychological well being*
If you reduce the variety of foods in your diet, it can be more difficult to get all the essential nutrients you need.
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Bottom Line of Food and Mood
It is no secret that our mental health is highly impacted by many factors. There are internal and external factors that may create poor mood and mental health, but many of them are interconnected and our food is one of those.
When we fuel our body with nutrients and foods that will increase our body’s overall health, we may impact our mental health status as well.* While other interventions may still be needed like pharmaceuticals, exercise, or therapy, nutrition may still be a consideration as a leg of intervention.