The Ways Your Diet Affects 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 swell and blood pressure goes up, we eat a lot of sugar and we get a lot of energy then crash, we eat high fiber and we 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 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 send signals throughout the brain. Because they work in the brain and body they are strongly associated with positive feelings. When these are low our emotions can become hard to control. Protein, especially lean protein, causes glucose to slowly enter the bloodstream which promotes the release of these hormones.
B12, and most B vitamins, are known for their ability to increase mood and positivity. When B12 or folate deficiency is present the individual will have difficulty managing stress and anxiety. Animal 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 effective 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 helps our body to generate vitamin D which is a nutrient that heavily impacts 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 works in the body to bring about many health benefits and we can add mood to the list. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar along with increasing the production of serotonin. Serotonin is another chemical in our brains linked to increasing 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 will improve overall health, along with physical activity. When you are feeling well physically it has 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, will begin to drop and we become anxious, hungry, and just plain moody. Fueling your body enough and often will keep you from experience the hangry mood swings.
Experiencing moodiness from not eating enough for a day is just one aspect of how food impacts 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 will cause poor health conditions that impact your overall well-being.
A diet high in refined and processed foods can lead to chronic inflammation. This inflammation becomes widespread throughout the body and creates mood swings and difficulty controlling your emotions. This type of diet pattern can also affect your hormones causing high cortisol levels leading to stress and anxiety.
Studies have shown that diets high in refined carbohydrates can 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 had 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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Prebiotics and probiotics are both useful for our gut, however, they play different roles for our body. Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods and supplements. Prebiotics come from types of carbs (mostly fiber) that humans cannot digest. The beneficial bacteria in our guts eats this fiber. Eating a balanced amount of both pro and prebiotic can help manage the balance of these bacteria in your body. The good bacteria in our bodies may help protect from certain harmful bacteria and fungi.
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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 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 can impact our mental health status as well. While other interventions may still be needed like pharmaceuticals, exercise, or therapy nutrition should still be a consideration as a leg of treatment and intervention.