Can your food choices help put you in a good mood? And do your choices of drink promote bad moods or mild depression? Although certain foods we eat may not alleviate depression or get you in a better mood immediately, they function as a part of an overall treatment plan. There are various researches those shows that in some ways, what we eat affect our mood. These researches are based on the premise that changes in diet results in changes in the chemical and physiological structure of the human brain and this leads to altered behaviour.
When you have a sweet snack containing a lot of sugar such as a candy bar, a spike in energy occurs followed closely by a crashing low. This goes to prove that what eat can have an effect on how we feel. At the same time, a number of studies have been unable to link sugar and hyperactivity, according to a Harvard teaching hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre. Does this mean that link between food and mood is a myth? According to Sherry Pagoto, associate professor of preventive and behavioural medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, the food-emotion link is not a myth but has more to do with feelings as people eat food to feel better.
Thinking about it, the brain is always functioning. It handles activities such as your thoughts and movements, breathing and heart rate and controls all of your sense 24 hours of the day, even while asleep. This means that the brain requires continuous supply provision of fuel. This fuel is produced from the food you eat and the content of the food makes all the difference. Invariably, diet affects the structure and functions of the brain and eventually, your mood.
Just as with an expensive car, your brain functions at its best when provided with premium only fuel. Ingesting high-quality diet that has lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants provides nourishment for the brain and protects it from oxidative stress; the waste produced from the use of oxygen by the body, which is can cause cell damage.
Regrettably, just as with an expensive car, the brain can also be damaged when food ingested is anything other than premium fuel. When nutrients from “low-premium” fuel
(Which can be gotten from processed and refined foods) gets to the brain; it has little or no capacity to get rid of them. An example is refined sugar which can be very harmful to the brain because it worsens the body’s regulation of insulin and encourages inflammation and oxidative stress. According to Harvard Health, Studies have shown the relationship between food high in refined sugar and impaired brain function and sometimes leads to symptoms of mood disorders, like depression.
It does make sense that if the brain is starved of high-quality nutrition and harmful inflammatory cells travel within the brain which can cause brain tissue injuries, then there would be consequences. While for many years the medical field did not acknowledge the relationship between mood and food, today, the field of nutritional Psychiatry is discovering more about this relationship and the kinds of bacteria in the human gut.
How Your Diet Affect Your Mood
The brain regulates sleep and appetite, mediate moods and reduce pain through the aid of a neurotransmitter called Serotonin. About 95% of serotonin is produced by the gastrointestinal tract which is filled with more than a million nerve endings and neurons and this means that the inner parts of the digestive system do not only aid food digestion, it also guides emotions. The function of these neurons and the creation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin are greatly influenced by the billions of useful bacteria that make up the intestinal biology. These bacteria play a vital role in your health by providing protection to the lining of the intestines by providing stronger barriers against toxins and harmful bacteria. They also reduce inflammation, improve nutrient absorption from food and stimulate neural pathways that access the brain and the gut.
According to Harvard Health, research has proven that when people take probiotics; a supplement that contains good bacteria, they exhibit improvements in their anxiety levels, mental outlook, and perception of stress when compared to those who did not take probiotics. And there are other studies that have been carried out on traditional foods like the Mediterranean diet and the Japanese diet when compared to western diets show that the risk of depression is about
25% – 35% lower in traditional diet consumers. Scientist believes that the difference in the risk of depression is due to the high amount of vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains and fish and sea foods ass wells as the adequate amount of lean meat and dairy products in traditional diets which are devoid of processed foods and refined sugar as can be found in Western diets. Also, most traditional foods are fermented which uses bacteria and yeast to alter sugar found in food into carbon dioxide, alcohol, and lactic acid and therefore becomes a natural probiotic. Fermentation also protects food from going bad while giving it a pleasant taste and texture.
While it might sound implausible, the belief that good bacteria influences gut digestion and absorption and also affect the rate of inflammation within the human body, as much as your mood and energy levels are beginning to gain grounds amongst researchers and results thus far have been amazing.
What this means to you
This means that you have to start paying attention to how you feel when you eat certain types of foods during that day and the next day. Go on a clean diet for two or three weeks by eliminating all processed foods and sugar and incorporating fermented foods such as sauerkrauts or kombucha. Also, try going dairy-free and you might even feel better when your diet is grain-free. Then slowly introduce processed foods back into your diet and see how you feel.
Studies show that most people feel much better emotionally and physically, after going clean and cutting out processed foods and feel much worse whenever they reintroduce foods that cause inflammation.
How Food Can Boost Your Mood
How do we improve our mood with a change in diet? Nutritionists believe that integrating most of the following suggestions of foods into your daily meal offer several other benefits asides helping to improve your mood.
Do not totally stop Carbohydrates, Choose Smart ones
Your mood and carbohydrate share a common connection called tryptophan which is a nonessential amino acid. The higher the quantity of tryptophan released to the brain, the higher the quantity of serotonin synthesized in the brain which tends to improve your mood. Serotonin, which is a good regulator, occurs naturally in the brain from a combination of tryptophan and B vitamins. Fish is a food that is believed to increase serotonin levels in the brain as well as foods rich in vitamin D.
Although tryptophan can be found in several protein-rich foods, other amino acids move from the bloodstream to the brain better. Eating foods high in carbohydrates can actually boost your tryptophan levels and can help reduce the competition for tryptophan, thereby allowing more of it into the brain. It is preferable you take carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables that supply essential nutrients and fibre.
Lower carbohydrate levels in diets can lead fatigue and reduce the desire to exercise after two weeks, especially in overweight adults, according to research conducted by Arizona State University.
Take in More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies have shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) can help fight depression. This is physiologically correct since omega-3s seem to influence neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. Previous research suggests that during depression omega-3 metabolism is abnormal although more recent research has come to disprove the connection between omega-3 and depression. Nevertheless, there are other added benefits of eating fatty fish several times a week. Two to three portions of fish a week is appropriate.
Enjoy a Balanced Breakfast
According to various researchers, eating breakfast regularly can improve your mood and memory, give you more energy all through the day and creates that feeling of calm. And using the same logic, one could reason that missing breakfast would have the opposite effect causing fatigue and anxiety. A good breakfast should be made up of fibre, lean protein, good fat and whole-grain carbs.
Exercise Daily and Slowly lose Weight
In a research carried out by the Center for Health Studies in Seattle, researchers observed a strong connection between depression and obesity, reduced physical exercises and higher calorie intake in a sample data of over 4,600 women between the ages of 40 and 65. Taking obesity out of the data and depression was still linked to lower levels of moderate or vigorous activities.
Most researchers advise that losing weight slowly for obese women can improve their mood. Cutting back too quickly on calories and carbohydrates often lead to irritation. Be sure to include a lot of food rich in omega -3 when following a low-fat diet. Take several servings of fish, ground flaxseed, canola oil, and walnuts.
Have more Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating pattern that consists of balanced and important nutrients that prevent depression such as fruits, nuts, cereals, vegetables, legumes, and fish.
The debate among researchers is if poor nutrient consumption leads to depression or possibly depression makes people begin to take poor diets. A Spanish study shows that men who smoked show a greater rate of depression as folate intakes reduce and the same occurred with women who smoked or were physically active as they showed a rate of depression as vitamin B12 intake declined.
Folates are found in legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables while B-12 are found in lean and low-fat animal products and low-fat dairy products which can all be found in the Mediterranean diet.
Take Enough Vitamin D
While vitamin D is known to increase serotonin levels in the brain, research as has been unable to determine the right quantity you need based factors such as your location, time of the year, nature of your skin and level of sun exposure. According to Dr. Mel Borins of the University of Toronto, people suffering from depression, improve as soon as their vitamin D levels increased over the course of the year especially with those suffering from a seasonal affective disorder. It is advised to get over 600 international units of vitamin D per day from your meal.
Opt for Food Rich in Selenium
In a recent study by Texas Tech University, daily intake of selenium supplements of 200mg for a seven week period saw an improvement in mild and moderate depression in 16 elderly subjects. Several studies before that have also described a relationship between low selenium intakes and weaker minds.
Although there is a need for more research, it is also important to consume foods that help you meet the 55 micrograms daily selenium intake. While there is a possibility of ingesting toxic amounts of selenium from supplements, it is very unlikely when getting it from food.
Foods rich in selenium include whole-grain pasta, Beans, Brazil nuts, skinless chicken and turkey, sardines, oatmeal, oysters, crab, low-fat dairy and much more.
Cut Down on Excess Caffeine
Caffeine is known to aggravate depression in people with sensitivity and for those who need caffeine to stay awake at night; you can expect your mood to be affected the following day. Cut down on excess caffeine for a month and see if there’s any improvement in your mood.
Maintaining your mood with the right Nutritional Strategy
Asides eating the right food, there is more to be done in order to be in good mood always. Some basic nutritional strategies that help with good moods are :
Eating as Often as Possible
Eating meals regularly and having snacks at the same time daily aids keeping your blood sugar levels balanced. Eating as often as possible helps to guarantee that your body is continually fuelled as at when due and this can help ensure that your mood is stable. You might be suffering from hypoglycaemia if you feel a drop in your blood sugar frequently; which causes you to need to eat too often.
Do Not Skip Meals
Sometimes we are tempted to rush out the door in the morning and skip breakfast but this is a bad idea. Your body becomes unable to assimilate food efficiently when you skip a meal and you are more likely to overeat at your next meal to make up for the skipped meal. Conversely, if you eat as at when due, you will be able to stop yourself from having a bad mood.
Know the Food to Avoid
It is very important to know what sort of foods to avoid when trying to eat mood-boosting foods. The most common bad mood food is processed carbohydrates and refined sugar. This sugars can be found in junk foods such as chocolate bars and candies but also in daily foods such as fruit juice and jams and can cause make your blood sugar rise and fall repeatedly within a short period of time. White rice, bread, and biscuits referred to as refined white starch also produce the same effects. While all these foods may please your taste buds, they might have negative effects on your moods by creating a short-lived burst of energy and then leave you feeling tired and cranky afterward. Reduce or avoid alcohol totally as it can affect your sleep.
Here are lists of foods that will boost your mood and help you stay happy and healthy.
You can slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the blood by adding more protein to your diet which will, in turn, augment the release of dopamine and norepinephrine that have been known to improve moods and energy level for a number of hours after eating. Examples of protein choices to add to your meals include poultry, tofu, eggs, seafood and low-fat Greek yogurt.
Vitamins are very important to the body. Vitamin B and D are very helpful in relieving mood disorders. Vitamins D is very important especially for those suffering from seasonal affective disorders. The best source for vitamin D is from direct sunlight, just before you apply sunscreen. You can get a daily dose of vitamin D from multivitamins prescribed by your doctor or naturally from low-fat milk, egg yolks and soymilk.
To help relieve depression, B-12 and folate are the recommended vitamins which can be gotten naturally from oranges, cottage cheese, broccoli, lean beef, oatmeal, salmon, dark leafy greens, and lentils
Food high in complex carbohydrates, and contains soluble fibre can slow down the breakdown of sugar into the bloodstream and augment serotonin, both of which reduces mood swings and depression. For your daily dose of fibre, you can get a generous amount of fibre in peas, beans, pears, oats and Brussels sprouts.
Why you should make Healthy Food Choices
It is obvious from several types of research that there is a relationship between your mood and the food you eat. When you eat food that has a positive effect on your body regularly, you can then begin to help yourself feel better. You can now avoid food that puts you in a bad mood and helps yourself avoid depression.