When was the last time you binged on donuts, cupcakes, and cookies in a single day? Maybe it was a marriage or a birthday party, or was it when you were stressed out?
You must be thinking, what does being stressed have to do with what you eat?
Sure, it does! You may not have realized it, but we often eat foods high in fats and sugar when we are under physical or mental stress. So, do these foods enhance our moods?
To know more, let’s delve into how foods can affect mood.
Foods for good mood
The Gut-Brain connection
Many research studies have shown the existence of a strong gut-brain connection as there is a relay of messages from the gut to the brain and vice versa. So, whatever we eat, healthy or unhealthy, surely affects our mental health. The gut is connected to the brain through many chemicals known as neurotransmitters. And it is these neurotransmitters that are involved in controlling our feelings and emotions.
An example of a neurotransmitter that controls happiness is serotonin. The gut cells produce a large amount of serotonin in the gut, and innumerable microbes are present there.
In addition, several other neurotransmitters are also produced by the gut microbes responsible for controlling feelings of anxiety and fear.
Although a little complex, more research work is being done in this field to understand these phenomena in a better way. So, you should always try to eat foods that help augment the growth of good gut microbes and maintain their balance in the gut. And a balanced gut microbial environment supports good mental and physical health. So eating foods for good mood is in your own hands.
Diet and your mood-Dealing with sugar cravings
Mindless eating during stressful times is a common practice, and people need to understand how doing this may inversely affect their mental health.
Sugary foods tend to tamper with the levels of serotonin released by your brain and gut. When you eat foods rich in carbohydrates, the levels of serotonin increase, but if you regularly consume sugary foods, it may ultimately lead to depletion of serotonin by reducing its supply. This, in turn, can give rise to symptoms of anxiety and depression. A phenomenon is known as a sugar crash.
Chronically high sugar levels in the blood may also lead to inflammation in the brain. This happens due to chronic activation of your immune system and may lead to several mental health issues.
Good food = Good mood
On the other hand, eating a nutritious diet and healthy foods can automatically improve your mood and make you feel better, in addition to taking care of your overall health. So, following the right diet can definitely serve as a mood booster and uplift your spirits.
What does this right diet consist of? Nothing special! Just those foods sitting in your pantry. All you need to do is play with the recipes, and voila, your happy mood is set for the day!
Mood Foods- Foods that boost your mood
- Healthy Fats
These are one of the top foods to keep your brain healthy. The brain is made up of almost 60% fat hence consuming healthy fats supports brain functionality and keeps it healthy. Foods rich in healthy fats also help to reduce inflammation in the brain cells.
Including omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods for good mood is a must. These are fats that your body cannot make and need to be obtained from the foods you consume. They are found in different fish types and also several plant-based foods. Fatty fish such as Tuna and salmon are rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which help combat depression and are excellent for mental well-being.
You should try to eat at least 3 ounces/ 100 gms of these fish a few times a week to benefit from these healthy fats in your diet.
If you are a vegan, worry not because you can get a good share of healthy fat from different kinds of nuts and seeds. They are a great source of chemicals called amino acids that promote the release of the ‘feel good neurotransmitter’- serotonin.
You can count on Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts. Amongst the seeds-sunflower, chia, sesame, and pumpkin seeds are the best sources.
Include about 1 ounce of different nuts and seeds in your daily diet for long-term health benefits.
- Fermented Foods
A great source of probiotics to enhance the functionality of your gut microbes and hence augmentation of your brain health, in addition to enhancing the levels of serotonin. Some research studies have shown a relationship between healthy gut microbes and decreased depression rates.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and traditional buttermilk can support a healthy gut and mind functioning.
- Oats and Whole grains
A rich source of fiber, oats can be enjoyed in different recipes. The fiber helps digest the carbohydrates and sugar slowly, thus helping maintain stable sugar levels in the blood. In turn, the prevention of sugar crashes helps to keep the irritability and anxiety at bay, also leading to a better mood and stable energy levels.
Daily recommendations for women are 25 grams and 38 grams of fiber for men.
Research shows regular intake of fruits is associated with lower depression rates. Being an excellent source of antioxidants, they help fight inflammation and prevent the accumulation of toxic compounds in your body. Fruits such as berries, which owe their purple color to the special pigments present in them, have been shown to reduce the risk of symptoms of depression. Bananas are also great for mental health.
Having about 2 cups of fruits daily can improve your mental as well as physical well-being.
- Beans, peas, and lentils
A great source of B vitamins, they are packed with nutrients that augment the release of several feel-good neurotransmitters. So, they help to uplift your mood and put you in a happier state.
According to the USDA, you should try eating 1- 2 cups of beans per week.
- Dark Chocolate
Who doesn’t like chocolates? Something that can improve your mood instantaneously. Dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, which improve brain health by reducing inflammation. The smell and taste of chocolates satisfy our taste buds and automatically improve our mood.
However, you should avoid eating chocolates that have added sugar, such as milk chocolate.
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