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Food for Our Moods: Eating to Support Our Overall Well-Being

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

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Science now confirms it: What we eat can significantly impact more than just our body weight. It’s true…nutrition influences how we feel both physically and emotionally. Our food choices affect our minds and our moods, and can contribute to problems with lethargy, attention, behavior, anxiety, and depression.

It’s no wonder that many people today seem more impulsive, distractible, irritable, angry, or anxious. While our fast-paced lives can make stress management a bit challenging, our difficulties are compounded by how we choose to nourish our bodies. Simply put, with all the rushing around that we do, we typically tend to neglect our eating habits. We may skip meals when we are rushed and then grab a fast-food meal or a packaged snack to satisfy our intense hunger.

In the Standard American Diet (known as SAD), our daily intake often consists of highly processed, refined foods. Convenience foods, while quick and easy, are often void of essential nutrients. These foods in their altered states end up making us feel worse, not only because they lack nutrients, enzymes, fiber and essential fats, but also because they often contain artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, pesticides, and other unnecessary additives. Incidentally, mood problems have been linked to many additives in processed foods.

When our diets are made up of ‘fake foods’, we often feel unnecessarily sad, angry or nervous, and we may have difficulty focusing. We may also be caught in a cycle of binge eating and binge dieting, as our bodies continue to seek balance, craving foods in search of essential nutrients.

Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods quickly boost and then drop our blood sugar levels. Not only can this pattern affect our overall physical health, but the fluctuations in our blood sugar can lead to rapidly changing moods. Junk foods and snacks are missing vital nutrients that our brains need to produce the chemicals (neurotransmitters) that support better moods and behavior.

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So how do we stabilize our blood sugar levels and moods?

First, try to minimize sugary treats, soft drinks, and refined carbohydrates. Focus on eating “Good Mood Foods’ including high quality, lean protein, unprocessed or minimally processed grains, fruits, and high-fiber vegetables. Minimize the ‘Bad Mood Foods’ like sugar, white flour, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and other food chemicals.

Other healthy habits that can help:

  • Get the right kind and right amount of fats. Omega-3 essential fatty acids have a positive effect on mood. Along with many other health benefits, they support the brain’s production of mood-lifting neurotransmitters. EFAs have shown very positive study outcomes in the treatment of depression. Good food sources include walnuts, salmon, sardines, flaxseeds and Omega-3 fortified eggs.

  • Increase soluble fiber foods in the diet. Soluble fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels as it slows the absorption of sugar into the blood. Helpful foods include beans, peas, oatmeal, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples.

  • Drink plenty of pure, clean water every day. Dehydration affects our emotional stability.

  • Try to pay attention to how you feel immediately after eating and for the following several hours. Keeping a simple food journal can be helpful to identify patterns.

  • Be aware of possible food sensitivities that may be contributing to your mood concerns.

  • During times of stress, it’s especially important to eat nutrient-dense foods to sustain our bodies. When feeling stressed, try eating almonds, broccoli, brown rice, kale, and poultry. Avoid or minimize white bread, cookies, candy, fast food, and alcohol.

Along with making healthy food choices, other helpers for balancing out our moods include proper rest, exercise, getting a healthy dose of sunshine, listening to music, deep breathing and as simple as it sounds…smiling.

Want to talk more about about how food choices impact our mental health?

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All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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