Your mood can actually be influenced by the food you eat. Foods contain nutrients that address your health and well-being, and mental health is part of that arena. If you regularly feel stressed, irritable or depressed then you might want to take a look at your diet to see if certain foods are causing these negative emotions. Here are some ways that your diet could be affecting your mood.
Food and Neurotransmitters
The relationship between diet and mood can be best understood by learning about neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals or hormones that the brain and nervous system require in order to function normally. For instance, when your brain produces high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, you begin to feel more alert. When your brain produces the hormone serotonin, your anxiety is reduced and you feel more calm and relaxed.
So what do neurotransmitters have to do with food? Plenty. It has been found that carbohydrates can raise the amounts of serotonin in your body. Have you ever eaten a large meal of pasta or bread and felt drowsy afterward? This is because the carbohydrates in the meal stimulated the production of tryptophan in your brain, another hormone that helps the body produce serotonin. Norepinephrine and dopamine, on the other hand, are boosted by eating foods that are rich in protein.
Diet and Stress
If you lead a busy life then you probably find yourself stressed regularly. Whether it’s a deadline at work or financial problems, you probably find yourself feeling anxious and restless because of your stressful problem. In the past, you probably reached for something sweet to make yourself feel better, such as a bar of chocolate. Indeed, not only does chocolate increase your levels of serotonin but it also triggers a release of endorphins which in turn cause feelings of euphoria. However, these effects are only short-lived and it’s much better to opt for healthier sources of carbohydrates, such as cereals or bread with whole grains.
Diet and Depression
If you have been feeling bouts of depression, you might want to start eating foods that are rich in essential fatty acids (EFA), such as omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that people who are depressed have lower amounts of essential fatty acids than people who are relatively happy. Foods that contain plenty of healthy fatty acids include mackerel, herring and flaxseeds. To increase your serotonin levels, you might also try eating bananas, brown rice or whole wheat bread.
Diet and Fatigue
Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not the primary nutrients you need for an increase in energy. If you’re often feeling tired and fatigued then you might want to incorporate protein-rich foods into your diet. This is because protein is transformed into the building blocks of amino acids, some of which are responsible for helping your body produce neurotransmitters. Eggs, milk, poultry and legumes are examples of foods that are high in protein.