Over the past few years, there have been many studies that make the connection between how some foods can help improve your mood, while others not so much. We know now that unhealthy eating patterns are able to cause mood swings. This is largely due to blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances that come from not eating a balanced diet, or choosing to snack on things like junk food.
The Link Between Food and Mental Health
While there is no conclusive evidence that your diet can cause depression or other mood disorders, there is still a good reason to focus on your diet choices with the hopes of protecting your mental health. There is evidence that eating a diet that is rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein like chicken or fish, helps to keep us healthy and our mood even.
This type of diet has also been linked with lower blood pressure, improved cognitive function, and lower instances of diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.
Unhealthy Eating Habits That Affect Your Mood
Skipping meals. Making a habit out of missing a meal, especially if it’s breakfast, can cause low blood sugar. This causes you to feel weak and sluggish through the day.
Not eating entire food groups. We all have preferences, but if you reduce the variety found in your diet then it can be hard for your body to get all of the essential nutrients that it needs to function properly. Having low levels of zinc, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids are linked to bad moods and low energy.
Eating too many refined carbs. Eating high amounts of unhealthy, processed carbohydrates, like white bread or dessert pastries, can cause your blood sugar to spike and fall rapidly. This leads to “sugar crashes” and irritability.
Manage Your Mood with Food
Here are a few tips you can follow to help explore your relationship with how you eat and how you feel.
Eat regularly. If you let your blood sugar drop then you might begin to feel tired, irritable and depressed. Eating on a regular schedule and eating foods that release energy slowly will help you keep your sugar and energy levels stable.
Examples of slow-releasing energy foods include pasta, rice, oats, whole grain bread, nuts and seeds.
Stay hydrated. If you aren’t drinking enough fluids during the day, you might find that you have trouble concentrating on your work or thinking clearly. You might also become constipated, which could make you feel even more frustrated. Experts recommend that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
Have a varied diet. Vegetables and fruits contain many of the minerals, vitamins and fiber that we need to keep us healthy, both mentally and physically. Making sure that you eat a variety of different colored vegetables and fruits each day will mean that you are getting the variety of nutrients your body needs to feel good.
Look after your gut health. Did you know that your gut can directly affect how you feel emotionally? If you feel stressed out or have anxiety, this can actually cause your gut to slow down or speed up. To keep your digestion healthy, make sure you consume plenty of fiber, stay hydrated and exercise frequently.
Get enough protein. Protein is known for containing amino acids, the chemicals that your brain uses to regulate your thoughts and feelings. Protein also helps keep you fuller for longer. You can find protein in lean meat, fish, eggs or nuts.
Manage caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that will help give you quick bursts of energy but it may cause feelings of anxiety or depression, cause disturbances in your sleep, or give you withdrawal symptoms.
Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, soda and other types of energy drinks. If you drink tea, coffee or soda, then try switching over to decaffeinated versions to help curb your caffeine intake. If you find that you feel much better when you reduce your caffeine intake it might be best that you avoid consuming it altogether.
Just like any other medical condition, understanding your risk and how you can minimize them is important in feeling good both mentally and physically. It’s just as important to understand where you should make changes to both your diet and lifestyle. Working with a health professional like a nutritionist can help give you added guidance. We know that certain vitamin and mineral needs can be influenced by our genetics.
Getting a better understanding of how your body responds to certain nutrients can help you optimize your diet and eating patterns so you can maintain your health. A dietary DNA test and personalized nutrition planned can help you eat the best for your genes.