“Love yourself enough to live a healthy lifestyle.” – Jules Robson
I’ve written about mental health before, more and more people are talking about their mental health. This is so important for our society. But I need to put a disclaimer here first. This post is about mood boosting foods, nutrients and science. This post won’t cure anything, I’m not a doctor. If you are depressed, please seek help. Here are some of my favorite free resources.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- As always, my dms are open, you may not know me but I’m a good listener.
Now that the important part is done, let’s talk food.
You have probably noticed that when you eat certain foods, your body and mind react in certain ways. Changing what you eat can change how you feel – and for the better. The foods you put in your mouth have a direct effect on your mood.
If you suffer from a mild depression or bad mood, you may be able to help control it based on what you eat. Eating lots of fatty foods – like cheeses, pizza, fast food and other friend foods – can have a very negative effect on your body.
How Does Diet Affect Your Mood?
“You are what you eat.” This is probably the most widely known of clichés, and also probably the most accurate.
Both physically and mentally, the foods you eat affect how you act and feel, because the chemicals in foods solicit responses from your body. Neurotransmitters – or chemical communicators – in your brain are stimulated by food, and if they are under stimulated, you are too.
The most widely studied neurotransmitter is serotonin, because it is the substance in your brain that balances chemicals – and therefore helps balance your mood. These chemicals are provided by the foods you eat.
When serotonin levels in your brain are normal, your mood will be at its best. However, if your serotonin levels fluctuate drastically, you are likely to have feelings of anxiety, agitation and lack of focus – some symptoms of depression.
To live a healthy lifestyle, it is important to keep balanced amounts of serotonin in your brain.
Maintaining a diet that contains protein and fat – not the fat you get from ice cream and candy bars, but the kind you get from meat, fish, and avocado – will help keep your moods level.
Keeping Your Good Mood
With the fast-paced lives everyone leads today, it’s easy to fall into an unhealthy lifestyle – one with a fast-food diet and little or no exercise.
Sugar and carbohydrates will give you a serotonin boost for a while, but eventually your body’s serotonin levels will be totally depleted, the crash. When that happens it can take a while – maybe even as long as two weeks – to rebuild the serotonin and get back to a healthy and happy level.
While there are other options available out there to enhance your mood – such as supplements from health stores like GNC – the best way to maintain a happy lifestyle is to eat a balanced diet and manage your serotonin levels naturally.
Using a food diary, or even a calorie-monitoring Web site like FitDay, is a good way to keep track of your diet. Many online diet trackers will also have a place for you to record exercise, daily moods and weight.
We live in a stressful world and it is hard to keep some circumstances under control. 2020 happened, 2021 went wild, hopefully 2022 calms down. We know that a well balanced diet and exercise can help us to reduce our stress level. It is often a matter of changing your lifestyle and limiting foods which increase the stress hormones and adrenaline, for example caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
People often have the habit to eat a snack, fast food or go out for dinner instead of cooking a healthy meal at home. They will gain weight and all these foods increase their stress level. It may seem a daunting task to prepare a healthy meal at home because you are in a hurry and don’t want to lose time. Creating a healthy plan is often easier than you imagine but requires planning ahead and using the necessary food supplies which reduce stress.
Here are some foods which may help you to reduce stress and necessary to include in your diet:
Proteins are essential in our diet and provide a source of energy. This food supply will strengthen our muscles and bones and keep us physically healthy. Some examples of protein rich foods are chicken, fish, lean beef, milk, yogurt, beans and soy.
Carbohydrates are important food supplies to improve our mood. Foods rich in carbohydrates are whole grains (for example brown rice and wheat pasta), bananas, potatoes, grapefruit juice, cooked carrots, raw blueberries and nuts.
Potassium is an important nutrient which may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. This food supply will strengthen our muscles and relieve stress. Foods rich in potassium are almonds, salmon, chicken, fresh orange juice and lima beans.
Zinc and Copper
Zinc will speed the metabolic process of proteins. This will prevent proteins to convert in fat. Copper may benefit your heart. Foods which are rich in these nutrients are chicken, kidney, oysters, rice and soy.
Iron will help to transport oxygen through our bloodstream to our brains and will reduce our stress level. Foods rich in iron are eggs, potatoes, lean meat, dried fruit and potatoes.
A well balanced diet is a necessity for everyone; it provides all the necessary vitamins and nutrients which you need to live healthy. It is also vital to change some food habits which will help you to fight against the stress which we encounter in our daily life. Here are some tips which may help you to reduce stress:
Drink plenty of water
Water is vital to our body because our muscles, brains and lungs need water to function. Our body contains between 60% and 70% water and this is necessary to regulate our body temperature and to transfer oxygen to all our organs. We need to drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated. Drinking water will improve our immune system and relax all our muscles. I wrote a blog with easy ways to drink more water, you should read it.
Eat less but more times each day
Some doctors recommend limiting the proportions you eat but more times each day. You can eat 6 times a small proportion of food than 3 heavy meals.
Limit drinking coffee and tea
Drinking coffee and tea doesn’t harm your health as long you drink in moderate quantities. These beverages contain caffeine and will increase the adrenaline in your body. It is also recommended to avoid decaffeinated alternatives because these contain chemicals which will harm your health. Caffeine is known to increase anxiety. Caffeine’s jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event.
Drinking alcohol can best be avoided or certainly limited. An excess of alcohol will dehydrate your body and is supposed to increase depression and aggression. It is best you limit the intake to two glasses of wine or even beer. Alcohol is a known depressant.
Limit salt and fat
Food which contains saturated fats will increase your level of cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and a high blood pressure. An excessive level of salt in your diet will also harm your health because this can raise the blood pressure and result in heart problems.
A healthy lifestyle which contains a well balanced diet and a habit of regular exercise will reduce stress easily. Start simple, avoid fast food and limit desserts with sugar. These can easily be replaced by healthier alternatives, for example fruit or juice. By following a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water, you will combat the stress out of your body.
Consider a multivitamin. Nutrients such as vitamins B, C and E, Omega-3s and folic acid aid the body in stress reduction.
Stress can be affected by diet. When under stress, many seek comfort foods to cope with demands. Others skip meals altogether. Whether overeating or being undernourished, diet has a direct effect upon the body and its relation to anxiety and stress.
The Body’s Reaction to Stress
Stress can lead to hypertension, diabetes, obesity, acid reflux, GERD, depression, ulcers and irritable bowl syndrome. Diet can help soothe the nerves and reverse the effects of these illnesses.
Irritability, stress and anxiety can be calmed by foods rich in Vitamin B-12, antioxidants, vitamins C and E and folic acid. These nutrients aid the immune system, boost metabolism, and can calm the mood receptors in the brain.
Foods that Fight Stress
Asparagus contains folic acid, vitamins B and C and contains a mood stabilizer. The nutrients in asparagus help form serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter found in the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous systems. Serotonin regulates mood, sleep, appetite, muscle contraction and aids in memory retention, and concentration.
Spinach provides magnesium a natural stress reducer. Spinach contains high levels of iron, calcium, folic acid and zinc. This vegetable, consumed raw or cooked, provides most of the nutrients recommended by the USDA.
Fish high in Omega-3s helps prevent stress spikes in times of crisis. Omega-3s are also important to the circulatory system. Omega-3s reduce heart rate, triglycerides and blood pressure. Stress can cause the blood pressure to increase. The addition of Omega-3s helps lower this attribute that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which boosts the immune system. Stress radically reduces the bodies ability to fight infection. The addition of vitamin C can drastically reduce the chance of illness and infection. Fruits high in vitamin C include grapefruit, oranges, lemon and lime.
Foods to Avoid While Under Stress
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulator. When the body is already experiencing stress, additional caffeine can increase heart rate, blood pressure and headaches. When stress and anxiety are present in the body, an additional stimulant is the last thing the body needs.
Consumption of coffee, soda and diet-drinks are high in the US. These drinks are consumed more from habit more than to satisfy thirst. The addition of sugar in these liquids also increases heart rate, palpitations, constriction of the blood vessels and can lead to diabetes.
Candy and other sugar-packed foods bring a burst of energy followed by a crash. This sudden increase and decrease in the circulatory system can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Alcohol may reduce the immediate sensations of stress but actually raises adrenaline levels that create additional stress on the liver, immune system and cerebral functions.
Alcohol causes deficiency in the immune system and increases the chance of infection.
While calming in small quantities, more than one alcoholic beverage a day can lead to additional stress.
The Body’s Best Defense is a Well Balanced Diet
The best stress reducer is a balanced diet high in vitamins B-12, C and E, Omega-3s, iron, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and zinc. Eliminating or decreasing unnecessary salts, sugars and caffeine can greatly increase the body’s natural defense systems and create a feeling of well being.
Depression and anxiety can be caused by various factors. What we eat can worsen anxiety and stress levels. Excess processed foods and unbalanced diets can cause symptoms.
Clinical depression affects over ten percent of the population and most people experience some level of stress, anxiety or depression. In the northern hemisphere, the winter months cause two out of every 100 people to also suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causing fluctuations of mood, fatigue, weight gain, irritability and anxiety.
Throughout the year, the stress of daily life and personal circumstance can also cause feelings of depression and anxiety. Stress, anxiety and panic affects the ability to think clearly, make effective decisions and cope with even simple tasks. More severe forms of depression can persist for weeks to years. These common mental health conditions may be treated effectively by medication, supplements and by other treatments.
Can Food Cause Low Energy and Mood Swings?
Food and diet affects the body in many different ways; it increases energy levels or causes fatigue, it clouds the mind or makes thinking more clear. Food can also cause depression, irritability and mood swings.
The carbohydrate cravings associated with depression signal the body’s need for the amino acid tryptophan, which the brain converts to serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters that affect mood. However these cravings may also cause weight gain, triggering further depression and anxiety from a negative body image.
Antidepressant medications and herbal supplements such as St. John’s Wort, stop this vicious cycle by increasing levels of serotonin and other chemical messengers of the brain so that irregular food cravings are diminished.
Though drug treatment can be very beneficial on its own, for best results combine it with other positive lifestyle changes. Food and diet could be causing depression and is an important factor to begin with. The timeless adage, “eat breakfast fit for a king (or queen)” still applies. A breakfast containing some protein, complex carbohydrates and milk or fruit juices provides stamina throughout the day, reduces food cravings and elevates mood and brain function.
Eat breakfast no more than two hours after waking up and avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugary cereals which provide a burst of energy and then a sharp drop. Decrease stimulants such as caffeine which have the same effect.
Balance Hormone Levels with the Right Nutrition
Lean protein such as chicken and turkey is high in tryptophan, important in the body’s production of serotonin. Lentils and corn are also good sources of this essential amino acid. Eat whole, unrefined foods as much as possible, especially plant based food. Fish such as salmon, mackerel or tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D which also help healthy brain function and can stave off depression.
Additionally, cardiovascular and strength exercises three to five times a week boosts the immune system and lifts the mood and maintains a healthy body weight. Particularly in SAD, being outside during the day is very uplifting.
Other methods to cope with depression and stress include prioritizing responsibilities and sharing concerns with family and friends to get a better perspective on life. Prayer and meditation may also help.
There is no denying that life can be stressful. Between jobs, family, traffic and everything else life throws at people, it is a wonder that anyone can get anything accomplished some days! It is no wonder why some people keep a secret stash of chocolate and bath salts.
Feeling a bit stressed? Is your pending job promotion causing you sleepless nights and fits of anxiety? Then try one of these calming foods:
These great tasting nuts are not just great on a salad, they can also help calm you. Almonds contain many vitamins including the B-complex and minerals like magnesium and calcium. These specific vitamins and minerals have been linked to decreasing stress in anxiety studies.
The avocado can actually be considered a “super fruit” in many ways. It contains many vitamins including E, C and B6. It also contains minerals like fiber, calcium and magnesium. Eating avocados can help ease constipation, insomnia and even menopausal symptoms in women.
This is not just a fabulous breakfast choice, oatmeal can also be eaten before bed. The reason you can safely eat it before going to sleep is that oatmeal helps your body process the amino acid, tryptophan, which leads to a calming effect. Amino acids help your body produce neurotransmitters that determine your moods. It only makes sense to eat a food that can help your body produce good moods! Oatmeal contains carbohydrates that help bring on a feeling of calm and help you deal with stress.
This wonderfully green, leafy food contains folic acid which is thought to help counter depression. It also contains magnesium which can also have a calming effect on people. In some people, depression is brought on by a deficiency of folic acid. It has been found that an increase of as little as 200 micrograms of folic acid is enough to decrease depression. This can be obtained by eating a cup of cooked spinach. Please note: this is not a suggestion that simply eating spinach will make depression disappear, only that it may help decrease it.
It really is quite amazing the positive effect certain foods can have on people. Some of the best remedies for a bad mood can be found in nature. The calming effect these foods can have, with regular consumption, is worth giving them a try.
The best part about some of these calming foods is that they are readily available at most local grocery stores and do not have to be specially ordered.
Many have a love-hate relationship with it. This unhealthy relationship with it has led to many eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, all due to a sadness and disappointment within the individual. There is however, a healthy way to look at food, and its relationship with the body.
A good place to start is looking at foods that help the mood, and improve the individual’s outlook on life. There are ten primary categories that tend to help lift moods. They include salmon, walnuts, eggs, grain bread, green tea, coffee, dark chocolate, legumes, red meat, and seaweed.
In salmon, there are several different types of healthy fats that the body needs. The fats will encourage the cells to produce the equally important hormones that tend to lift the mood. Cooked correctly, it is also a filling healthy alternative to other meats as well. Other fish types tend to be healthier than other meats, but this is considered to be one of the best (if not the best) options.
Nuts as a whole are seen as a great source of protein and with minimum sodium, a great snack. Walnuts are the healthiest nuts available, and the healthy fats help lower blood cholesterol levels and improve blood flow around the body.
Eggs are considered a healthy food in moderation by culture anyway. What many do not realize is that they are a good source of choline. Choline helps with many “functions including optimal cell membrane function and neurotransmission thought.” Increased brain function improves the mood as well, like that mental fog finally lifting after a long nap.
Grain bread or other low GI carbohydrates can provide energy without that dreaded crash that comes with those with a higher GI rate. Green tea also helps with regulating blood sugar levels, in addition to keeping the body hydrated.
Coffee is frequently looked upon as an unhealthy staple in the daily diets. This makes sense as many coffees from chains have too much sugar included. However, a simple cup of coffee, with a milk base, will give that caffeine boost, as well as low GI carbohydrates. Legumes include any type of beans. They are a type of carbohydrates that slowly digests, and helps regulate the mood.
Red meat, in moderation, can be a mood lifter too. Many women will suffer with low iron and with a few servings of red meat (or other high iron foods) will help bring the iron counts up. The accompanying exhaustion that comes with low iron will also be relieved.
Many women can verify that chocolate improves the mood on a regular basis. However, with the choice of dark chocolate (as opposed to milk chocolate, or other alternatives) healthy antioxidants are introduced to the system as well. Seaweed is an odd choice, but it is a great source of iodine. Iodine in turn is required for thyroid and metabolic function, which helps raise energy and mood.
These are just some of the mood lifting foods available. Many others exist as well, but they tend to fall into similar categories with the foods mentioned. These foods with plenty of exercise will definitely improve the mood of any individual.
From this wild deep dive into how foods affect your mood, I’ve learned that healthy whole foods are the way to go. Fruits, greens, healthy fats like nuts and fish, are the way to go. Stay away from processed sugary foods. Love your body and love your mind!