We’re constantly talking about how food can impact our physical health, but we don’t really focus on how much it can impact our mood. There’s a reason they call our gut the second brain… the gut-brain relationship plays a huge role in how we feel. Here are some major ways food can impact our mood:
- Blood Sugar Levels. If blood sugar levels are too high or low, it can impact your mood, impact your energy, cause irritability, etc. (Your body creates blood sugar by digesting the food that you eat.)
- Neurotransmitters. These are chemicals that send signals from your brain to your body whenever you want to do ANYTHING. They play a role in nearly every function in the body, and they are absolutely impacted by the food you eat. Three of the main neurotransmitters that play a role here are:
- Serotonin- involved in feelings of happiness & regulation of appetite
- Dopamine- regulates motivation
- Melatonin- regulates sleep/wake cycle
- Portion Size. If you eat portions that are way too large, your body basically takes all of its energy and tries to help you digest that food. This leads to a big increase in blood flow to your gut, meaning less blood flow to your brain, causing lower levels of alertness, lower levels of energy, and brain fog… which may explain why you get a little tired after eating a big meal.
- Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency. Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies have been linked to changes in mood. For example, low levels of zinc are associated with eating disorders, low levels of B vitamins are associated with symptoms of schizophrenia, and low levels of omegas are associated with feelings of depression.
- Tryptophan. This is an amino acid that is required for the production of serotonin, melatonin, and niacin. Niacin (aka vitamin B3), specifically, impacts your energy metabolism. Overall, if you have low levels of tryptophan, it can affect your mood, energy levels, and sleep.
Table of Mood-Boosting Foods
|Food||Good Source Of||Effect|
|Cashews||Fiber, minerals, & vitamins||Prevents depression; boosts mood; stabilizes thoughts|
|Peanuts||Tryptophan||Supports serotonin and melatonin production|
|Walnuts||Omega-3 fatty acids||“Brain food”- helps prevent insomnia, depression, and overeating|
|Almonds||B vitamins; tyrosine (precursor for dopamine)||Boosts motivation & energy|
|Brazil Nuts||Selenium||Helps prevent anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue|
|Flax, Chia Seeds, & Salmon||Omega-3 fatty acids||Improves mood|
|Sunflower Seeds||Selenium, magnesium, & tryptophan||Promotes relaxation & calmness|
|Pumpkin Seeds||Tryptophan & magnesium||Promotes relaxation & calmness|
|Hemp Seeds||Magnesium||Promotes relaxation & calmness|
|Sesame Seeds||Zinc||Reduces depression & anxiety|
- Spices. A few spices that can help boost your mood are saffron, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, basil, and fennel. Saffron has also been shown to help women who suffer from PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), reducing depression and pain during this time. Fennel is known to stabilize blood sugar levels and serotonin.
- Chocolate. Everyone’s favorite! Chocolate contains tryptophan, and eating chocolate can help your body release hormones that induce feelings of happiness. The antioxidants in chocolate also help regulate memory and learning. Of course, the darker the chocolate (meaning less sugar) the better :).
- Yin & Yang Foods. Yin & Yang basically represent a balance in our body: Yin is your calm state and Yang is your high energy state. Foods can fall under these categories, with Yang foods being red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, salt, etc., and Yin foods including caffeine, sugar and alcohol, among others. If you eat excessively in one of the categories, your body can come out of balance and will start to crave foods from the opposite category. It is believed in Chinese medicine that the foods that fall in the middle of the Yin/Yang spectrum are in perfect harmony. These foods include whole grains, beans, leafy greens, and most vegetables. Finding a balance of Yin and Yang foods may be a good idea, while mainly sticking to foods in the middle of the spectrum. Click here for a visual of the Yin and Yang food spectrum.
- Foods to Avoid. Processed food, fast food, high sugar foods, fried foods, and other foods high in trans fats are shown to have negative impacts on your mood. There are numerous studies finding links between these foods and feelings of depression, sadness, and lack of motivation.
I always promote whole body health, meaning that the foods you eat shouldn’t be good for one part of your body and bad for the rest. An unprocessed, clean diet will be good for your entire being (mind, body, soul)!