You are What You Eat: How Food Affects Your Mood
Humor is defined as a mood, a state of mind. Does your mood variation have any connection with food? Is what we will try to address throughout this article mentioning nutrients and foods that, in addition to providing us with physical health, can contribute to increasing “joy” by modifying moods.
The way our moods “show up” can interfere with many areas of our lives, from the ability to work to more social issues such as love or family relationships. In fact, mood changes can modify important aspects like immune function, appetite, sleep, concentration and libido.
Can Food Actually Influence our Mood?
The relationship between eating and humor is effectively a subject of worldwide interest occupying research centers such as the food and mood institute, which adds data on the influence of diet on mood.
Many people try to control their general mood by changing habits such as exercising outdoors or, when they are already deeply unmotivated and depressed, seek medical and drug help.
Eating is one of life’s pleasures and, whenever possible, we like to eat the foods we enjoy, usually avoiding those we least like. However, the influence of food on the body is not only related to organoleptic properties. Effectively, the consumption of food we enjoy can liven up our moods, making us feel happier in the first phase. However, often the body’s reaction to these foods, some time after ingestion, may be reversed.
Mechanisms that explain the relation between nutrition versus humor
There are several mechanisms that explain the relationship between food and mood. Here are some possible examples:
- Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline influence the way we think, feel, and behave in a general way. Effectively, they can be affected by how we eat.
- Blood sugar fluctuations, which occur due to what we ingest, are associated with mood and energy changes.
- Low levels of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can influence mental health.
Food and neurotransmitters
Our nerve cells transmit signals through the brain and body in order to regulate behavior and different bodily functions. These signals pass from one cell to another through chemical substances – the neurotransmitters. Are, therefore, substances that allow the communication between the cells of our brain (neurons). In order for the nervous system to function successfully, enough of these chemicals must be released.
Some of these neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, play an important role in regulating mood. Luckily our body “manufactures” these substances from components present in the foods included in our diet. In order for this synthesis of neurotransmitters to occur at the cerebral level, the levels of precursors, namely tryptophan and tyrosine, are therefore determinant.
Proteins – How to Improve Mood Through Nutrition
In order to maintain proper levels of serotonin – associated with improved sleep quality, reduced pain, reduced appetite and relaxation – it is necessary to consume foods that are the source of tryptophan. Foods such as legumes (beans, grains and peas), fish, eggs, lean meats and meat offer good doses of this amino acid.
There are even studies that point out that supplementation with this amino acid may be useful in ameliorating the symptoms associated with mild depressive states.
In turn, tyrosine influences the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters that promote alertness. The “recipe for good mood” goes well beyond the proper consumption of these amino acids, and there are several other nutrients essential for regulating our well-being.
Have you noticed, of course, how moody we are when we avoid carbohydrates in general, such as bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes, rice … this happens, for example, when we try to lose weight. This excessive cut may contribute to a doubly negative outcome. On the one hand, we abandon the diet and, on the other, the bad mood accompanies us. In fact, the intake of “good quality” carbohydrates seems to favor the entry of tryptophan into the brain, promoting the production of serotonin.
On the other hand, the consumption of simple sugars is not ideal, because the immediate release of insulin caused by the rapid entry of sugar into the blood causes a sudden drop in sugar – hypoglycaemia, which generates reactions such as anxiety.
The goal is to keep blood sugar as constant as possible without large variations. For this, you should avoid the consumption of simple sugars (present in foods like sweets, cakes, cookies, etc.), as well as large periods of fasting. The consumption of complex carbohydrates allows a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Fruits and vegetables
Other great allies for good humor are fruits and vegetables, essentially the biological version. They are foods rich in antioxidants that have the ability to protect all cells of the body against free radicals, especially the brain.
In addition to proven cardiovascular benefits, this polyunsaturated fatty acid, which is found primarily in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, trout and herring, is one of the major structural components of the brain. Studies have shown that low levels of omega-3 are associated with mood changes, poor memory and vision, depression, and other neurological problems.
Supplementation with omega-3 showed very positive results in some of the mentioned situations.
The importance of the water is incomparable. Has varied functions in the body, being essential for all physiological processes as well as for all organs and systems. The brain is one of them, requiring about 8 large glasses of water per day (approximately 2 liters). There are even studies that demonstrate the importance of water: they mention that when the thirst mechanism is felt there is already a slight dehydration, and may even influence mood, thinking ability and energy levels.
Vitamins and Minerals
Certain vitamins and minerals also have a positive mood effect. One of the examples are the b-complex vitamins, namely folic acid, vitamin b6 and b12. Folic acid, in its active form, is of extreme importance for the recycling of some bodily substances like neurotransmitters. Vitamin B6 is required for brain functions, including the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
Regarding vitamin B12, studies show that its deficiency is related to episodes of depression. The main minerals associated with good mood are magnesium, calcium, selenium and zinc.
Magnesium is a mineral of great importance at various levels, participating in energy production, muscle contraction and maintenance of heart function, as well as in conjunction with calcium, to ensure a good impulse of nerve transmission, in part through influence over The neurotransmitters.
The relationship between zinc levels and depression is significant in some studies, recommending foods such as seafood, nuts and whole grains because they are a source of this mineral. Like zinc, selenium is important for good mood, and depressed and anxious people are in need.
Oilseeds (nuts and almonds), whole wheat and sunflower seeds are important food sources.
Considering the increasingly fast and demanding pace of life and the difficulty in making a varied diet, supplementation with a vitamin and mineral complex can contribute to increased attention and mood.
In England, the Food and Mood Project, which consisted of studying dietary and nutritional strategies to improve emotional and mental health, revealed interesting data. Essentially, it has shown that changes in what we eat can be positively positive for mental health. About 200 people took a recommended diet and evaluated the impact of nutritional change on their moods.
The diet implied the application of strategies, namely: reduction of sugar, alcohol, additives, saturated fats, milk and derivatives; Increased intake of water, vegetables, fruit, fiber, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, protein and organic foods. Experience has shown that 26% of people had improved emotional instability, 24% in depression and 26% in panic attacks and anxiety.
Further study is needed until this relationship is fully established, but it is important to take into account what has already been discovered and to opt for a healthier diet. All in the name of good humor!