Healthful eating is often praised for improving your energy levels, increasing athletic performance, and reducing chronic disease risk. Here’s another reason to choose nutrient-dense foods: Your mood could be affected by what’s on your plate.
There is a reason hangry is in the dictionary. The concept of food and mood being connected is getting more attention. It will likely continue to get attention as more information about hormone regulation, blood sugar, and the brain-gut link. Let’s look at different eating styles and how they can help you gain a new perspective on your emotional well-being.
CONNECTION OF BLOOD SUGAR
Your blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) is the main reason your food choices can lead to happiness, irritability, and other emotional responses.
Your body uses glucose to break down food, which is the main energy source for your brain. Michelle Routhenstein, RD, owner and nutritional counselling practice Entirely Nutrished.
Insulin and glucagon regulate blood glucose levels and decide what should be stored and used. Rosenstein says that if your blood sugar levels drop very low, which can be caused by simple carbs that spike and then crash, it can lead to anxiety, fatigue, nervousness, and irritability.
The effects can be more severe if simple carbs contain added sugar. You may feel hungry if you eat a large slice of cake and don’t eat any other food to slow down the glucose spikes.
SEROTONIN, INFLAMMATION, AND BAD MOODS
Certain foods can also impact how your brain releases serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. Apart from the joy that comes with feeling satisfied, this can lead to a rise in contentment.
Rosenstein says that research suggests low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may be linked to depression, hostility, and impulsive behaviour. Researchers believe a lower release of serotonin could cause these reactions. High intakes of omega-3s are associated with elevated mood and decreased depression.
Rosenstein also states that inflammation plays a significant role in this process. Omega-3 foods such as flaxseed, walnuts and chia seeds increase serotonin and lower systemic inflammation.
She says chronic inflammation can cause C-reactive protein elevations, which are associated with an increased risk of depression.
FROM THE GUT TO YOUR BRAIN
The bacteria found in your stomach is another factor. In the last few years, there has been significant research on the role of the gastrointestinal system in controlling emotions like anger, sadness, and joy.
Harvard Medical School noted how the stomach could affect the brain. For example, if you feel scared, you may also feel nauseated. But, the connection is both positive and negative. The brain can trigger certain emotions by sending signals to your gut.
Researchers note that this is particularly true when it comes to stress. Poor diets can cause inflammation and trigger stress. This causes signals to the brain that increase cortisol, the hormone responsible for the “fight-or-flight” stress response.
This means that if your gut is unhappy, it’s likely that you will be too. Harvard researchers found that if your gut bacteria is not balanced, you may experience nervousness, difficulty relaxing, procrastination, and increased risk for bad habits such as smoking, drinking excessively, and overeating.
THE RIGHT FOODS TO EAT
You are now ready to improve your mental health and physical well-being. What are you putting on your plate?
You’ll be able to focus on gut-friendly foods and reduce inflammation. To encourage microbial diversity, eat more fruits, vegetables and other fibre-rich food. Low diversity has been associated with insulin resistance, obesity, and heart disease.
You might also consider adding prebiotic food. While probiotics are often the focus of media attention, prebiotic options can also be important. These are foods that your beneficial gut bacteria need to thrive. They include whole wheat, beans, onions, garlic, grains, bananas, and even whole wheat.
You can also add fermented foods. You stomach loves fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and beet kvass. You should ensure that you only purchase active products, not pasteurized, canned or frozen ones. Heat can kill beneficial cultures necessary for your digestive health.
Routhenstein suggests folate-rich foods to increase serotonin levels. This can help the hormone release more effectively into the brain. This includes dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, chickpeas, broccoli, chickpeas, and lentils.
It would help if you also took the time to observe how your food choices affect you emotionally. You can be more aware of the relationship between food and mood. This will help you to change your behaviour so that you are directing your emotions in the right direction.