You are what you eat. Often, this age-old phrase is used in reference to physical ability and appearance. However, could it be that what you eat also affects your mood? Interestingly, mounting research suggests that eating particular foods and staying away from others can increase mood stability. In fact, what you eat can even encourage or shift your bad mood. That’s why it’s time to discover your mood-food connection so you can defeat the doldrums before they start.
Food as Feelings
When you think about how food is connected to feelings, another well-known saying might come to mind: comfort food. Look deeper into the meaning of comfort food and you’ll find a link to our ancestors. For pre-historic humans, high salt, sugar, and fat content meant living to see another day since these components help the body retain water and stay fuller longer (1). So, it was good for them to eat this way as a reward system (1). Since we aren’t cavemen anymore, eating comfort foods can cause more harm than good.
Food that Fights a Bad Mood
So if the food we eat can impact our mood, how can we sway this connection in our favor? To begin, you might consider identifying foods that improve or stabilize mood. For instance, wild salmon can fight depression because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids (4). Surprisingly, tomatoes are also thought to be mood enhancers because they contain iron and vitamin B6, which are both important for the production of mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (4). Another food that regulates serotonin is garlic because it contains chromium (4). As you can see, all of these mood-improving foods get their properties from the vitamins and minerals they provide.
Switch Your Food, Change Your Mood
Today, if we are stressed, we often seek out foods high in fat, sugar, or salt (2). That’s why a final step in making the food-mood connection is to change out some of your old comfort foods that are high in sugar, salt, or fat for good mood foods that are high in essential vitamins and minerals. All it really takes to retrain your brain is to offer your body some salt, sugar, or protein alongside a feeling-friendly food, like kale. For example, try baking your own kale chips instead of pulling out that bag of potato chips from the grocery store (1). At once, you’ll satisfy your craving and boost your mood.
Yours in good health,
- Middlekauff, T. (2011). MOOD FOOD. Current Health Teens, 38(3), 16.
- Roberts, C. (2008). The effects of stress on food choice, mood and bodyweight in healthy women. Nutrition Bulletin, 33(1), 33-39.
- Challem, J. (2007, May). finding your food-mood solution. Better Nutrition. p. 52.
- GRAHAM, T., & RAMSEY, D. (2012). THE Happiness Diet. Prevention, 64(1), 52.