Does Food Affect Mood?
The short answer is yes! Moods and emotions are not only a mental issue, but a gut issue. There is a direct relationship in the body between the gut and the brain, called the gut-brain axis.
The Gut-Brain Axis
The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of direct communication between the central nervous system (CNS), which is found in the brain and spinal cord, and the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is found in the gastrointestinal (GI) system, aka- the gut. This direct channel is often why the gut is referred to as the second brain!
70% of the immune system is in the gut, therefore what you eat can affect your health, stress responses, weight, and energy throughout the day.
95% of the serotonin in your body is produced in the gut, that’s almost 100%! Serotonin is the happy chemical that acts as a mood stabilizer. Once again, what you eat can either boost serotonin levels or hinder them.
Studies show time and time again that what we eat influences our mood, energy levels, motivation, and ultimately our behaviour. The first step to supporting your mood is reducing your exposure to what damages it.
Foods That Lower Mood
To avoid mood swings, fatigue, and aggression, we must stay away from foods that have little to no nutrition. It is important to remember that calories do not equal nutrients. Foods that are high in calories but give little benefit to helping the body function well include:
Fast food: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, also Subway.
Processed food: Hot dogs, French fries, soda, fruit juices, pretzels, Kraft cheese, etc.
Gluten: White pasta, white bread, pizza, croissants, most baked goods.
Refined sugar: Cereal such as Lucky Charms, Froot Loops; Cereal bars, pastries/cake, ice-cream, etc.
Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, saccharin (found in Equal, Splenda, Sweet 'N Low).
Vegetable oils: Soybean, canola, sunflower oil, etc.
Alcohol: Beer, hard liquors.
These foods cause bloating, sluggishness, and fatigue, which then leads to brain fog. The brain gets fogged from all these types of food because they cause inflammation in the gut. With inflammation present in the gut, it goes up to the brain, which then makes it difficult to be happy.
The real damage comes when this inflammation leads to poor mood and bad reactions towards others. Bad behaviour that was not caused by anger at all, but in fact caused by the brain fog which disallowed a mindful way of speaking.
The best way to avoid this brain fog is to focus on eating real, whole foods!
Foods That Lift Mood
Whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and good fats can make people less aggressive and more attentive. This leads to better focus and higher productivity. Most humans feel down when they were not able to accomplish what they set out to do in a day, and they blame themselves. Really, they should be looking at their nutrition levels and realizing that their lack of motivation is not an actual mental dis-order but coming from malnutrition.
To eat whole foods means to eat natural products and not products that come in boxes. Foods that are natural and help the body function well include:
Fruits: Berries, oranges, mango, etc.
Vegetables: Peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Leafy Greens: Lettuce, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, etc.
Herbs: Parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, chives, etc.
Lean Protein: Organic chicken/beef/pork, wild caught fish, eggs, etc.
Healthy fats: Avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, etc.
Complex carbohydrates: Rice, beans, quinoa, potatoes, barley, etc.
Probiotics: Unsweetened yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, some aged cheeses.
Prebiotics: Garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, chicory root.
These foods contain the fuel the body needs to thrive. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and so much more! Eating whole foods, on no account, causes inflammation. In fact, they are known as anti-inflammatory foods.
When we avoid and prevent inflammation to occur in the body, brain fog doesn’t have a chance to creep up and settle in. On the contrary, eating nutritious food is known to lower inflammation, boost the immune system, reduce oxidative stress, increase bone density, and muscle mass, improve focus, and ultimately improve mood.
Therefore, it is safe to say that eating well consistently, can consistently keep you in a good mood!
One may notice that those who live an active life are often in a good mood. Not only are they boosting their mood by exercising, but they are fueling their activity by eating nutritious, whole foods. This healthy lifestyle boosts the immune system and boosts mood, resulting in a happy and prosperous life day after day. A winning combination!