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February 2020

Can Food Affect Your Mood?

Over the past few years researchers have been studying the link between food and mood more closely.  Research found that what and when you eat can affect mood as well as anxiety and depression.  It appears healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains (along with omega 3-fats) are not only good for the body but also the mind and mood.

Connecting Food and Mood
This connection may be due to the effect that food has on the gut microbiome.  The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in the intestine which influence brain chemistry.  There is a “microbiome-gut-brain axis” which links emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with intestinal functions.

This connection is clear when stress or anger causes your stomach to be “tied up in knots” or when you have a “gut feeling”.

When blood sugar levels are low, stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) are released.  These hormones can make us feel tense or anxious.  This can contribute to anger or other emotions and, when combined with hunger, may make you feel “hangry”.

Foods to Choose for Mood
Studies suggest that a Mediterranean-style diet with minimally processed foods have lower rates of depression.  This eating pattern along with probiotic-rich and fermented foods promotes a diverse gut microbiome which is linked to mood.  Choose the following to lift your mood and your overall health.

  • Fiber-Rich Foods – can trigger the production of serotonin, which is a natural mood stabilizer.  Fiber also slows down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream.  Both affect mood. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are excellent sources of fiber.
  • Vitamin C Rich Foods – may help decrease stress hormones including cortisol. Strawberries, citrus fruit and cabbage are good sources.
  • Omega-3 ‘s & Healthy Fats – may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.  They can help reduce inflammation which is linked to mood.  Include fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.  Flax seed meal is also a source of omega-3 fats.  Olive and avocado oils are healthy fats.
  • Probiotics – may reduce inflammation in the gut.  Yogurt, kefir, acidophilus along with fermented products such as kimchi are good sources.
  • Tryptophan-Rich Foods – can boost serotonin levels.  Good choices include salmon, poultry, eggs, tofu, spinach and low-fat dairy products.  Have a healthy carb (whole grain, fresh fruit or vegetable) with tryptophan-rich foods to enhance serotonin availability.

Minimize or avoid processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, trans fats and artificial sweeteners as they  may negatively alter the gut microbiome.  Sugar and refined carbohydrates along with alcohol and caffeine can trigger mood swings.  Moderation is the key when it comes to these foods and a healthy eating pattern.


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