Who else here gets hangry? You know… being so hungry that you’re actually angry? Once you fill up your belly, your mood suddenly changes and you’re friends aren’t running away from you anymore! The same way that being hungry or full can affect how we feel, WHAT we eat makes a big impact on our mood too! Choosing nutrient dense, high quality food helps our brain function at the highest-level possible, just like an expensive car takes premium gas to run most efficiently. Just like an expensive care will eventually end up in the junkyard if you choose to put the less expensive gas in it, your health can be damaged if you continue to fuel your body with junk food.
Believe it or not, your digestive system plays a huge role in your mood. Serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood, is mostly released in your digestive tract. The production of Serotonin is greatly influenced by the good bacteria found in your gut. These bacteria not only help your body fight away toxins and inflammation, but they also help you absorb essential nutrients. Serotonin activates the neural pathway from your stomach to your brain. In fact, studies have actually shown that people who regularly take probiotics report decreased levels of anxiety and depression when compared with those who do not take them. Studies comparing individuals who eat a “Western diet” (your typical American diet) with those who eat a more traditional diet (like the Mediterranean and Japanese diets) reported that those eating the Western diet had a 25-35% higher chance of developing depression.
Many of us turn to ice cream or a bag of chips when we are feeling down, but this actually works against us. Eating high levels of sugar has been linked with depression and high stress levels. When we feel sad or stressed out, our body looks for a quick fix to increase your energy, which is why many of us reach for sugary snacks when we feel this way. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, choose a different method for managing your stress such as positive self-talk, taking a five-minute break from your work, or heading out for a jog.
It’s no myth that what we eat can affect our mood, both positively and negatively. Many studies have found that mindful eating with a balance of nutrient dense foods will lead to better mental health. If you think your food choices could be negatively affecting your mood, start paying attention to how you feel after eating certain things. Artificial ingredients, processed sugar, dairy, and even certain grains can all be associated with poor mood, so try eliminating some of these foods and see how you feel!