Food And Mood: Is There A Connection?

Could it be possible that what goes into your mouth can control your mood? There are millions of research papers on the Internet that proves that unhealthy eating habit can have a negative health impact on your body but the research suggesting that food can impact on mood is still not clear.

More easy to understand is how the food we eat impact on our physical well-being rather than our emotional state. For example, you need to stay healthy to stay healthy. You can also not be happy if you are not healthy in the first place. Nutrition experts suggest that our overall happiness and state of health is dependent on how properly our digestive system is functioning.

Running stomach, cramp, and constipation are some of the few things that can happen to our tummy. Most times, these conditions tell a lot about what we eat. For example, if dining on food that is not rich in dietary fiber increases the risk of coming down with constipation. if you have ever had a stomach upset before, you will easily understand that it is almost impossible to be happy at such moments.

Different Ways Food Can Affect Our Body

Healthy morning plate

When carbohydrates or sugars are taken into the body, they are broken down to release energy in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) which is the energy molecule of the cell. Other food groups serve different functions in the body too. Protein is broken down to release the amino acids used as the building block of the body’s cells. Lack or insufficiency of any of these food groups in the body has different consequences.

Not consuming enough calories will lead to low blood sugar which starves the body of the basic molecule needed to generate ATP this can occur when an individual skips meals particularly breakfast. The individual will feel foggy and generally tired. Sluggish feeling also robs you of motivation to see any task to completion.

The body also needs essential minerals and vitamins – albeit sometimes in small quantities – to function properly. Consistent consumption of diets lacking in these essential vitamins and minerals can cause severe fatigue and starve the body of the elements needed to produce molecules like serotonin, the brain chemical that makes you ‘feel good’

Individuals with the habit of consuming too much processed foods risk causing a spike in their insulin levels followed by a rapid decline. This unusual insulin activity can lead to low energy and make the person become hungry almost immediately after consuming the sugar-filled product.This also predisposes them to type II diabetes.

Past Studies On The Relationship Of Food And Mood

There are hints that the food we eat may play a great role in our mood particularly depression but the supporting evidence is sketchy says Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s visiting scientist, Patricia Chocano-Bedoya.

Healthy burger with egg toppings

However, there have been several observational studies in the past that pointed at possible links. One of such studies was the Nurses’ Health Study and the Women’s Health Initiative. This study included postmenopausal women and women in their middle ages or older. Another study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2005 found a link between depression and obesity. A similar study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 reported that women who consumed more food rich in Vitamin D had a reduced risk of depression than women who did not.

Besides feeding people with one class of food and checking the possible effects on mood, scientists are also exploring the effect of diet on gut microbiota (the community of organisms that colonize the intestinal tract), oxidative stress (leading to cellular damage), neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to modify its structure, function, and wiring), and chronic inflammation (increase of C-reactive proteins).

What Research Reveal About Food AndMood?

Creamy salmon with red lentil

There are a few studies that linked food to mood including a study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity in 2014. The study established an association between diets of refined grains, soft drinks that are sugar-sweetened, and depression.

Even more recently, a meta-analysis that suggested a relationship between depression and high consumption of meat was published in the European Journal of Nutrition. Chocano-Bedoya is of the opinion that it will be hard to point a single food element to depression considering the fact that there are different factors that can lead to depression. She said,

“There is limited evidence regarding the risk of depression associated with unhealthy dietary habits. Modifiable lifestyle factors such as dietary choices, smoking, and physical activity could affect depression but do not act independently.”

Source: Harvard Health Publishing

Foods That Can Improve Your Mental Health

Consistently, the Mediterranean-style diet which is generally rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grain, olive oil, and lean protein has been linked to lower risk of depression. However, judging from scientifically verified effects of certain foods on the body, these are some of the foods that would likely have a major impact on your mental health – and your mood in extension.

Vitamin B12 And Folic Acid

Assorted fruits and vegetables

These elements are found in abundance in Caesar salad made with skinless chicken breast and romaine lettuce. There are studies that suggest they can prevent central nervous system (CNS) disorders and dementias.

Vegetables And Fruits

These food groups are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants which fight free radicals which have been linked to cancer. Several studies have linked them to improved mood.

Vitamin D

Recent studies suggest that there may be a link between low Vitamin D levels and a higher risk of mood disorders. One of the principle sources of Vitamin D is exposure to early morning sunlight.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish and seafood are the primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids which are considered good fatty acids. There have been series of research on decreasing the risk of depression in men and women using omega-3 fatty acids from sardines, salmon, tuna, herring, and rainbow trout and the results have turned out positive.

From a general point of view, food can directly affect your health and the state of your health has a major stake in your mood.

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