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Is there a Food and Mood Connection?

food and mood connection
food-mood-connection-happy-healthy

Though we often attribute our moods to seemingly unseen (yet often real) forces such as the time of the day and major life events, we should give food a serious thought as a mood influencer. We should consider the food and mood connection. 

There is an unfortunate mood-disorder pandemic plaguing the world. Aside from the obvious widespread accounts of depression, anxiety, and panic, many people are just not feeling as good as they’d like to feel. People deal with chronic fatigue, sluggishness, a general lack of motivation, and lethargy.

We become what we eat. We are what we eat and how we digest. Researchers now think that much of our body finishes giving us an entirely new set of cells every 7 to 10 years. How those cells will function will largely depend on how we are and have been eating. 

Most of us already know what foods are deemed healthy and unhealthy. More recently, longevity studies have been conducted in the “Blue Zones” where residents eat Mediterranean diets, fish, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

On the flip side, a shift in paradigm is occurring in this age of information where many of us now understand the harmful and even dangerous potential of foods we once deemed “normal” or “okay” to eat. These include fast food, pizza, hot dogs, pastries, refined sugars, packaged, and highly processed foods. We’re realizing how detrimental these foods are to the body, and yes, to our moods.

Exploring the Food and Mood Connection

According to a 2015 review published in Missouri Medicine, several nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, B9 (folate), and zinc, can cause symptoms of depression and dementia such as low mood, fatigue, cognitive decline, and irritability. The review pulled this information from two studies examining the nutrients in-depth. This specific example of food and mood connection shows that when it comes to feeling good via food, it comes down to feeding our brains the right vitamins and minerals we can only get from the right foods. 

The Right Foods

As a prelude to the right foods to eat in order to address the food and mood connection, we should ironically go over the wrong foods first. Anything processed should be avoided. Also, avoid packaged foods with ingredients you don’t recognize, fast food, factory-farmed meats, conventional dairy, refined white bread, sugar that doesn’t come from fruit, honey, or maple syrup, and unwholesome condiments.

As a rule of thumb for the right foods, just know that foods that are good for the body are good for our mood as well. Look at primarily vegetables, ancient grains (such as oats and Kamut), fruits, beans, legumes and ( if allowed in your particular your diet) fish and organic, pasture-raised chicken and eggs. 

Also aim to get an abundance of these specific foods that have been proven to be especially beneficial for the brain, and thus, the mood.

These include sardines, salmon, walnuts, and seeds such as chia, hemp, flax and eggs. As reported in this study, there have been novel insights into the effect of and omega-3 fatty acids on brain function. The study linked above shows the importance of Omega-3s for brain function and how “vitamin B12 is known to have fundamental roles in the brain function at all ages and also in the prevention of disorders of CNS development, mood disorders and dementias including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in elderly people.”

Food-and-mood-connection-cacao

Foods with Plenty of Tryptophan and Theobromine

Bananas and cacao are examples of food that contain plenty of tryptophan, an amino acid and precursor to melatonin and serotonin. 

However, there’s a catch. Bananas help produce serotonin (a feel-good hormone), yes, but research has shown that this form of serotonin can’t pass the blood-brain barrier, though it may, in general, increases the amount of serotonin the brain is able to produce. 

Cacao contains tryptophan, too, as well as theobromine. Theobromine is a compound similar to caffeine that is found in chocolate and may have beneficial mood-boosting properties when consumed in “reasonable” amounts.

Foods High in Flavonoids, Such as Wild Blueberries

Blueberries contain high concentrations of flavonoids which have been shown to improve mood.

Wild blueberries are best as they’ve been shown to contain higher concentrations of flavonoids. When buying these blueberries, look for “wild” on the packaging. Normal blueberries are monocropped and grown conventionally, while wild blueberries are picked from their natural environments.

Recap: The Importance of the Food and Mood Connection

As a prelude to the right foods to eat in order to address the food and mood connection, we should ironically go over the wrong foods first. Anything processed should be avoided. Also, avoid packaged foods with ingredients you don’t recognize, fast food, factory-farmed meats, conventional dairy, refined white bread, sugar that doesn’t come from fruit, honey, or maple syrup, and unwholesome condiments.

food-mood-connection-happy kids-veggies

As a rule of thumb for the right foods, just know that foods that are good for the body are good for our mood as well. Look at primarily vegetables, ancient grains (such as oats and Kamut), fruits, beans, legumes and (if allowed in your particular diet) fish and organic, pasture-raised chicken and eggs.

In exploring the food and mood connection, we see a solution lies in paying close attention to what we eat. We see that certain foods hinder our ability to feel good while other foods chalked full of nutrients improve our capacity to feel joy and have energy.

I’ll close with a quote by nature author Michael Pollan: “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandfather wouldn’t recognize as food. There are a great many food-like items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food. Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Non-dairy creamer? Stay away from these.” 

To look after our wellness and mood, we should look to nature’s offerings, especially: the blueberries, the nuts, and the vegetables.

Try making a routine out of eating healthy. Subscribe to healthy eating journals for recipe ideas to use each week. Try meal prepping and including the foods listed above into your meals every week. Doing this consistently should render you impactful results, especially when paired with a concistent exercise routine and other lifestyle choices that promote overall mental wellness, such as sleep and meditation. 

Want learn more tips and actionable information to optimize your health? Explore TelMD.

Let’s make wellness contagious!™