While many of the inventions science fiction writers wrote about in the 1950s or 1960s seem silly when compared to today’s tech (tricorder vs. iPhone, anyone?), sometimes there’s an old idea that holds up as being great and not just because it’s campy fun! Anytime an old science fiction movie shows a pill that instantly feeds you for a day, heals a physical ailment, or brings happiness & healing, it still seems like a great deal if it existed. Who wouldn’t want becoming happy to be as easy as popping a single pill?
Well, it turns out the single pill to alter mood might not be entirely necessary. It turns out many of us have a lot more control over our mood than we realize! Food isn’t just fuel for physical energy or the nutrition we need for survival. The types and quality of food choices you make might be going a long way towards what kind of mood you are most likely to experience.
So how does this work? How do you shift your diet to strengthen good moods and help chase away bad ones? Read on to find out more!
Your Gut Bacteria Is Important
While studying the connection of food and mood, doctors at the University of Michigan have revealed through research that a surprising amount of emotional and physical well being comes from a place not many people would expect: the bacteria in your stomach!1
The gut bacteria in people varies greatly, and there’s more than one type. However, a common type seen as “good bacteria” in your gut seems to have a surprising number of influences on the body. People who tend to be in good shape physically and emotionally have an abundance of this type of gut bacteria in their stomachs. The “gut microbiome” as it is called can be a good indicator of a person’s overall health.
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The type, quantity, and quality of food you eat has a direct effect on the bacteria found here, as well.
Good for the Heart, Good for the Brain
Many different types of food can be healthy, and so much of the right eating choices are going to depend on the overall diet a person eats, what kinds of vitamins or minerals their body needs, as well as individual physiology.
Why is this? Because each person is a little bit different and genetics do matter when it comes to how the body processes food and nutrients. Just as each person will have different factors affecting how emotional they get in any direction or based on influence, food effects can be a little different, although some general rules still apply.
For a diet, you want to look at healthy sources of protein like eggs, seafood, low-fat Greek yogurt, and lean organic meat. You want to make sure you have plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens and a variety of colorful veggies that often means you’re getting a variety of different vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
B-Vitamins are essential, and they need to be a part of your diet if you want to give yourself the best shot at fostering a good mood through food.
Generally, if a diet is good for weight control or your heart, it is going to be good for your brain, as well. Moreover, there’s no denying the power of the mind when it comes to affecting mood.
Why Is Sugar So Dangerous?
Sugar gets dumped on a lot, and there’s a lot of good reasons for that. First of all, sugar decimates the good bacteria in the stomach which opens up the door for harmful bacteria to go nuts. This creates a feedback loop in people struggling with weight and the side effects that often come with excess weight such as anxiety, stress, and poor health.
In other words, cutting out sugar isn’t just right for the diet or physical health, but it plays a part in mental health and emotional health, as well. That means sugar is something that can hammer you in negative ways after the initial sugar high by hurting physical, mental, and emotional (mood) health all at the same time. That’s not a good deal for a temporary buzz!
The brain can is helped by good fuel, and it can be damaged by junk food.3 This information isn’t just from dietitians, but several studies done by Harvard Medical School seem to confirm the idea that sugar and junk food can have serious negative consequences to brain health.
What Is a Good Mood Diet?
The idea of using diet as a method to help get rid of mood swings is going to be appealing because it offers so much control. Part of this is going to involve following basic nutritional rules while on the other side of things you will also need to customize to your specific dietary needs. If you notice long-term mood benefits from adding more of a particular food to a diet or removing a different type, that can be a pretty good sign of heading in the right direction, and you should record that information!
Another step is looking to make sure you’re getting everything you need. Are you getting enough protein? Do you have enough B Vitamins? Are you focusing on getting more Omega-3 fatty acids for heart and mood health? All of these are steps that can help with the process of eating for mood.4
The best first step is to cut out all white sugar (or as much as possible), all junk food, and all heavily processed food. Stick to more natural foods, whole foods, and focus on getting certain vitamins and minerals and you’ll be on the right track to eat your way to a better mood.
Is This True for Everyone?
No. There are general rules. You want to have enough protein. You may want to consider a B vitamin supplement if your diet doesn’t quite provide enough vitamins to get that emotional stability you want. Some people find they do well on moderate carbs a la Mediterranean Diet while in some cases people are so intolerant of most foods they go to a carnivore (all meat) or vegan (all plant) diet.
Depending on your situation, one of these more extreme diets might be the best option you can hope for to meet your body’s individual needs, although most people will find a balance works best. It is never a bad idea before planning out your mood diet to visit a doctor and get allergy tests done as well.
How Effective Can Food Be?
We’ve talked about many different factors that affect mood, and while diet will not be a 100% magic pill for most people, it is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to help yourself. The effects of diet on mood are not subtle: some big leaps can be made here! Since this is entirely under your control, as are practices like forest bathing, meditation, and aromatherapy, it’s something that should be in your arsenal for striving towards a happier and more content mood.
As you can see, diet does have an incredible effect on a person’s mood. We’ve known for quite some time that nutrition and physical health were connected, and there was a strong growing collection of data arguing that mental health was also attached. Studies keep on confirming a fundamental truth that really shouldn’t be surprising: your dietary choices directly affect your mood.
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