Feeling grumpy or a little down in the dumps? It could be the foods you eat! The food-mood connection has been the subject of recent research, and many experts now recognize that certain foods have a powerful effect on mood. Motivating our decisions is also money, as we ask ourselves how to eat healthy on a budget and the answer is simple: plan ahead!
It stands to reason. Food has chemical properties, vitamins, and minerals. Recent research has shown that the nutrients in food are precursors to neurotransmitters. Depending on which foods you eat, you develop certain levels of those neurotransmitters, which can vastly affect mood. The secret, however, lies in knowing which foods have an overall net positive effect on mood, and which assert a negative effect.
Mood Draining Foods
First, let’s look at the foods that can negatively affect your mood.
Foods that contain naturally occurring substances called goitrogens have a negative impact on the thyroid. This can lead to exhaustion and irritability, among other things. Products made from soy contain goitrogens, which interfere with thyroid function and can greatly affect mood.
Alternatives: Drink nut milks such as almond milk, and look for other healthy plant sources of proteins such as nuts, legumes, or grains like quinoa.
Fermented soy products, such as tempeh and miso are acceptable because the fermentation process disables some of soy’s negative properties.
2. Diet soda:
Many people choose diet soda, believing it is a healthy choice. Diet soft drinks, however, are loaded with chemicals including artificial sweetener. Many people who consume diet soda report a number of health issues including headaches and mood swings.
Alternatives: Drink fresh water with a squeeze of lemon.
It may seem that consuming sugar in any of its forms (including agave or high-fructose corn syrup) provides a natural energy pick me up. The truth is it leads to a rise in blood glucose. As your blood glucose rises, your body releases insulin to return it to safe levels. As blood glucose normalizes, you may experience an energy dip with resultant mood changes.
Alternatives: Try natural sweeteners like stevia or xylitol.
A cup of coffee seems like a pick-me-up, and many people rely on caffeinated beverages to give them the boost they need to start their day. Caffeine, however, works on the adrenaline centers of the brain, and can trigger anxiety. With such anxiety can come irritability and mood swings.
Alternatives: Start your day with a Glowing Green Smoothie. It will give you energy without negatively affecting your mood.
Feel Good Foods
Just as certain foods can negatively impact moods, others can lift you up and make you feel terrific.
1. Complex carbohydrates:
Eating unrefined carbohydrates can boost the level of serotonin in your brain, which can elevate your mood. The trick is in finding those carbohydrates that are minimally processed and don’t lead to blood sugar spikes and troughs.
Foods to try: quinoa, millet, steel cut oatmeal or oat groats (not instant), brown rice
2. High-selenium foods:
Selenium deficiency can lead to irritability, depression and thyroid problems. Eating foods high in selenium, however, can support thyroid function and boost mood, but don’t overdo it. Your body doesn’t need much selenium, and you should be able to get adequate amounts from dietary sources.
Foods to try: Brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms
3. High folate foods:
Folate deficiency has been linked to depression, because it can decrease serotonin levels in the brain. Eating foods high in this B vitamin can overcome deficiencies, boosting your mood.
Foods to try: Dark, leafy greens like spinach, and legumes like lentils or kidney beans.
4. Foods containing omega-3 fats:
A 2006 study at the University of Pittsburgh showed that people with lower blood levels of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids had an increased likelihood of mild depression and poor moods. Eating foods high in this valuable fat can improve mood.
Foods to try: Flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds
5. Foods high in vitamin D:
Vitamin D comes predominately from sunlight absorption. In northern climates and during the winter, many people suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to mood problems. Because of this, many experts recommend vitamin D supplementation or eating foods high in this nutrient during the winter or in northern climates.
Foods to try: Shiitake mushrooms
6. Fatty plant foods:
The brain needs fat to function properly. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom suggests that all fats are bad for you, leaving people woefully deficient in this brain-friendly macronutrient required for healthy function. While you don’t need a lot of fat to boost your mood, you do need some. Beauty fat is important for moisturized, youthful skin.
Foods to try: Avocado, coconut oil, nuts
7. Spicy foods:
Need a little pick-me-up? Spicy, warming foods can increase circulation, cause your brain to release endorphins, and help boost your mood.
Foods to try: Chili peppers
8. Foods high in magnesium:
Many people are deficient in this essential nutrient, or wind up with an imbalance of calcium to magnesium. The mineral, however, has mild muscle relaxing qualities that can help reduce stress and improve mood.
Foods to try: Artichoke, beet greens, almonds, kidney beans
9. Iron-rich foods:
If you don’t have enough iron in your blood, you may experience exhaustion, depression, and irritability. Eating iron-rich foods can assure you keep your red blood cells pumped up with oxygen, keeping you in a great mood.
Foods to try: Pumpkin seeds, legumes, sea vegetables
10. Glowing Green Smoothie:
How you start your day makes a huge difference. While many have interpreted “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” to mean that they must eat a large, dense, breakfast, I believe that high-protein, heavy breakfasts start you off sluggishly. That can weigh you down physically and mentally all day long. Likewise, skipping breakfast can lead to blood sugar problems, also affecting mood. The Glowing Green Smoothie is the perfect option for breakfast, because it is a light meal that gives you tons of energy but doesn’t weigh you down.
Don’t let the foods you eat leave you down in the dumps! Once you start eating a healthy, unprocessed diet containing the nutrients your body needs, you may quickly discover that you not only feel physically better, but that your moods are better than they have ever been.