You probably often hear “eating right makes you feel good.” How much truth is in that statement? How does what you eat affect how you FEEL? Are there really foods that can cause you to feel more anxious, more happy, angry, sad? And how safe is binge eating? What effect does that have on your state of mind? Well, we’re about to shed some light on some of these questions.
First, it’s important to say that yes, eating right does make you feel good. It doesn’t only affect your health, but it also affects your mood and your state of mind. Cutting out bad sugars, bad fats, and adding more COLOR to your plate is hard at first, we know. But once you make that change, you will start to feel happier and healthier. One food that is scientifically proven to improve your mood is proteins!! By adding a protein to your meal, you’re slowing down how many carbs are absorbed into your blood, therefore, increasing how much dopamine is released instead! Try adding these healthy proteins into your meals: eggs, chicken, seafood, tofu, and avocados! Fruits and veggies are another good mood food!! Different fruits are chalk full of different vitamins that are sure to boost your mood! For example, bananas contain tryptophan and folate which both help regulate your mood and steer you clear from the negative moods!! Berries are known to carry tons of antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation, and therefore stave off those bad moods and vibes!! Try adding berries and bananas to your morning breakfast to start your day off right! Whether it be in a bowl of oatmeal or cereal, or you make a smoothie, adding a fruit to your daily routine will boost your mood! And as I said before, veggies are also good mood foods! Folic acid helps to minimize depression and fatigue! This can be easily found in your leafy greens, such as spinach or kale!!
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. What’s more, the function of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.
It’s also important to understand that eating right is only the first step at healthy eating hygiene. Having correct eating habits also plays a huge role. Eat often enough, not skipping meals, and knowing what foods to avoid are important in improving your mood. According to the American heart association, it’s normal to crave high sugar and fat foods when depressed or stressed! It’s called comfort food for a reason. However, it’s getting out of that bad mood/bad food cycle that never seems to end. Using food as a coping mechanism can easily turn into binge eating. If the consumption of unhealthy foods goes on for too long, your body will think it’s normal. And the cycle will go on and on. 25% of overweight men and women suffer from a mood disorder. 75% of people with an eating disorder also suffer from depression, so what you eat is important to your mental health.
Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just in the moment, but the next day. Try eating a “clean” diet for two to three weeks — that means cutting out all processed foods and sugar. Add fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha. You also might want to try going dairy-free — and some people even feel that they feel better when their diets are grain-free. See how you feel. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and see how you feel.
When my patients “go clean,” they cannot believe how much better they feel both physically and emotionally, and how much worse they then feel when they reintroduce the foods that are known to enhance inflammation. Give it a try!
There are a few specific vitamins that may be helpful for mood. For example, vitamin D may help relieve mood disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder. Sunlight, before sunscreen application, is often the best source. To get your daily dose of vitamin D, you can also try the following foods. Many doctors recommend adding a multivitamin that contains vitamin D as well.
- low-fat milk
- egg yolks
The vitamins folate and B-12 may help ease depression. To add folate to your diet, try these foods:
- dark leafy greens
Vitamin B-12 can be found in:
- cottage cheese
- lean beef
Adding protein to your meals can help slow the absorption of carbohydrates in your blood and increase the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which may improve your mood and energy for several hours after eating. Try adding these smart protein choices to your diet:
- low-fat Greek yogurt
Foods, like complex carbohydrates, that contain soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and increase serotonin, the “feel good” chemical, both of which decrease mood swings. You can find healthy amounts of fiber in:
- Brussels sprouts
With food, it’s best to take baby steps and not throw yourself into eating healthy. Your body is used to getting comfort foods, so cutting them out cold turkey will be a lot harder. It’s also important to know that you SHOULD NOT skip meals. Do not cut out meals completely. This will have a negative affect on your mood as well!
Start off with cutting out one unhealthy meal a day, and replacing it with a healthy one instead! This could be as slow as taking out that breakfast donut or microwaved sandwich, and replacing it with a bowl of fruit and yogurt, or avocado toast! Getting the right amount of sleep each night is also important, since being overtired can lead to overeating! Teaching yourself to eat when you’re hungry and to stop when you’re full is also important. This way you work on eliminating eating when you’re bored, tired, angry, or stressed. Try your hand at a home cooked meal! Stop going out to eat and take the time to cook a meal for yourself! This is important because you’ll be able to know and understand the ingredients that go into your food and you’ll be able to eat a wider variety of colors!
Breaking the bad eating cycle is hard. But your relationship with food isn’t just important for your physical health, but for your mental health as well! No more hangry eating! Start and finish all of your days right by eating smart!