It’s a well-known fact that unhealthy eating habits lead to obesity. However, research now shows that it can contribute to mood swings. Certain foods have been found to help your brain make specific chemicals that have a positive impact on your mood, focus, and attention, while others can leave you moody all day.
Food and Your Mood
You may be wondering what your gut has to do with your mood, right? Well, it turns out there is a strong connection between your diet and your emotional well-being. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in your gut that helps to regulate sleep and appetite, inhibit pain and regulate moods.
Since 90 percent of serotonin receptors are found in your gut, it makes sense that what you eat has a direct impact on your mood.
The gastrointestinal tract is lined with thousands of nerve cells or neurons, which influence the production of neurotransmitters, the chemical substances that transmit messages from your gut to the brain.
The number of “good bacteria” in your gut highly influences the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The healthier foods you eat, the higher the number of these good bacteria, which in turn, positively impacts neurotransmitter production.
On the other hand, if you stuff your gut with junk food, it can lead to inflammation, which in turn, hampers the production.
So, when a patient is prescribed an antidepressant, like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the most common side effects are gut-related.
When the production of neurotransmitters is in plenty, messages are carried more clearly, and this can be reflected in your emotions. However, when production is low, you may experience mood swings.
Sugary, high-calorie foods are particularly to blame for causing inflammation and feeding the “bad” bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Many people resort to these unhealthy treats supposedly for a “boost” of energy.
However, the “feel good” feeling is only temporary, and when it wears out, the side effects can be quite devastating.
Sticking to a healthy diet limits mood fluctuation and provides an overall happier feeling and improved focus.
You Skip Meals
Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can leave you feeling tired and cranky. It’s like driving your electric car with a five percent charge – you won’t go far. The thing is, if you stay too long without eating, your blood sugar drops, and so does your mood.
To avoid feeling weak and tired, aim for a healthy snack or meal every four hours. Avoid skipping breakfast altogether if you want to maintain good moods throughout the day. Kids will also benefit from attentiveness in school and less trouble.
Most importantly, make all your meals healthy. Foods like coffee and donuts for breakfast are not recommended due to high caffeine and sugar content.
You Eat too Many Refined Carbs
Carbohydrates have been demonized for years but they are not all bad, particularly if you stick to complex carbs, like whole-wheat bread, quinoa, potatoes, oats, and brown rice. These carbs are packed with high fiber, vitamins, and mineral content.
Eating simple carbs like white bread, cookies, cake, and other sugary options often causes your blood sugar to rise and fall rapidly, leading to low energy and irritability.
Moreover, research shows that low-carb dieters are more likely to feel depressed, tired, and tense compared to those who eat the daily recommended amount.
You Take Plenty of Fat
Junk foods, like French fries, are full of unhealthy fats that get stored in your waistline, resulting in “love handles”. These greasy foods, especially those high in saturated fat, are associated with dementia and depression.
In addition, a large meal that’s high in fat will most likely leave you feeling sluggish since it takes a lot of work for your body to digest fat.
You Don’t Get Enough Nutrients
There’s a reason eating a balanced diet is highly advisable by health experts and nutritionists. For example, lack of enough iron can lead to depression, lack of focus, and fatigue.
Insufficient thiamine can cause fatigue, inactivity, mood swings, and low self-confidence. Thiamine is found in cereal grains, eggs, pork, yeast, and cauliflower, among other food varieties.
Foods to Boost Your Moods
Now that you understand how food and diet affect your mood, here’s a list of foods that lift your spirits and improve your focus.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body requires for brain development, memory, and mood. Low omega-3 levels have been found to trigger impulsivity, pessimism, and depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna. While there’s no standard dose, experts recommend at least two servings of fatty fish every week.
Fermented foods contain probiotics, live microorganisms that support the growth of “good bacteria” in your gut. In turn, this increases serotonin production, hence good moods. The best types of fermented foods to eat include yogurt, kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut.
Others like beer, bread, and wine may not provide significant sources of probiotics due to cooking and filtering.
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, which helps to synthesize dopamine and serotonin, the two major “feel good” neurotransmitters. As you are aware, bananas are sweet. But the high fiber content slows down the release of the natural sugar into your bloodstream, helping in better mood control.
Other superfoods that will boost your moods include:
- Oats for their fiber.
- Berries for their antioxidants and phenolic compounds.
- Dark chocolate for mood-boosting compounds.
- Fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
- Healthy fats like those found in nuts, poultry, oily fish, and seeds for amino acids that help regulate your thoughts and feelings.
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