Mood foods: What to fill up on and what to avoid
Feeling a little moody lately? It’s probably not because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but it could be what you had for breakfast! What you eat can affect your mood, both positively and negatively. So if you’re feeling a little down lately, the answer may lie in the foods you’re feeding your body.
We reached out to nutrition and fitness expert Ebony Jade. Ebony is currently completing her final semester of a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine). She has been working in the health and wellness industry for the last 10 years, including as a certified Personal Trainer. She is deeply passionate about helping women to balance their hormones so they can fulfil their health desires such as weight loss, regulating menstrual cycles, increasing energy, and achieving restful sleep.
In the article below, Ebony outlines exactly how different foods can alter our moods and advises on foods that we should be loading onto our plate, as well as those we should be steering clear of. Heads up: you’re probably consuming some of these on a daily basis.
How foods affect our moods
Most of us are aware of how we feel when we choose to eat foods that nourish our bodies, compared to if the majority of our foods and beverages choices include processed refined sugar laden foods with minimal nutrients. Observe the aftermath of a 5 year olds’ birthday party to see how quickly food and beverages can transform mood!
What we choose to eat becomes a part of us, and for many people they have lost that connection. For example, the amino acids we intake help to form the proteins that support building strong immune systems and growing our muscles. When life throws us challenges, it is rare to hear of someone eating a bowl of vegetables after an intensely stressful day. It is much more likely when they are feeling stressed to hear they polished off some chocolate and a few too many glasses of wine. Quite often when people are feeling stressed and making these types of food and beverage choices, it continues into the next day with too much caffeine and sugary foods. And this becomes a cycle that many people find hard to break.
However, if we choose to nourish ourselves with foods that positively affect our moods – particularly during those more challenging days – our ability to meet these challenges is greater. We have more energy, a higher resilience to stress, and our sleep is often more restful and refreshing. Life can feel so much harder when we are not choosing to nourish our bodies!
Foods that can positively affect our mood
Some foods that can have a positive effect on our mood and lift our energy are from whole food sources containing magnesium, B vitamins, tryptophan and nourishing fats.
Bananas can support in regulating dopamine, which is our feel-good hormone as they contain tyrosine, an amino acid that helps the production of dopamine in the brain. Bananas also contain B group vitamins and magnesium, which are essential to calm the nervous system and relax.
Like bananas, almonds contain tyrosine. Raw almonds are an easy, nutritious snack as they contain high protein, fat and fibre. These help make you feel more satiated as they slow the release of glucose into your blood. If you usually grab coffee or a sugary snack in the afternoon for a pick-me-up, try having a glass of water and a handful of almonds instead.
Greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli and beans are a good source of magnesium, folate and antioxidants to support the production of energy, relaxing muscles, and improving brain health and function.
Cacao contains mood-boosting tryptophan and magnesium. Go for 80 percent dark or raw chocolate as high cacao content will give your body tryptophan to support the production of serotonin and melatonin, which are essential mood and sleep hormones in the body.
Fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, or mackerel), avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds will support your brain to create positive thinking, and thus have been researched for their potential role in preventing ADHD and Alzheimer’s.
Foods that can negatively affect our mood
Some of these can be found in the foods and drinks that many people consume on a daily basis.
Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline which can amplify our already stressful state. It can bring on aggression, frustration and overreacting to minor occurrences. Switching to herbal tea is a better choice, and there are teas such as chamomile which support feelings of calm. If you do drink caffeine, have it before 11am as it can remain within your body for hours and may cause you to have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Alcohol has become an aid many people reach for in the hope they can escape from how they are feeling. Alcohol also contributes to poor sleep quality and feeling less refreshed the next day. When we don’t sleep well our energy is low and we can feel irritable. Alternatively, hydrate with sparkling water with fresh lime or a low sugar Kombucha.
Trans fats are found in fried foods, off the shelf salad dressings, cakes and muffins, and can affect our memory and increase inflammation in the brain.
When we feel like we need sugar or caffeine to get through our day, this can be a sign our adrenals need some care. Additionally, our liver has to detoxify refined sugar substances, along with caffeine, alcohol, and trans fats we intake, and transform them so that they can safely be excreted from our body. If the liver is overloaded with too many of these substances or there are not enough nutrients for this detoxification process to occur, this can lead us to feel sluggish and irritable.
These are commonly found in processed foods and research has revealed they are able to alter our gut microbiota. Fewer healthy gut bacteria than normal can lead to gut-related problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and bloating, which can contribute to low moods.