The Food/Mood Connection

No question that what you eat can affect how you feel, right?

Mental health and brain health are both extremely complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods.  While, we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we do know a few ways that food impacts our moods.

First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate. They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.

Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings.

Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.

Mood-boosting Foods

  1. Some nutrient deficiencies look like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies, including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.

  2. Make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.

  3. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great, too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your feel happy hormone) and melatonin (your sleepy time hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.

  4. Fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely brain food and may help to ease some symptoms.

  5. Make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.

Mood-busting Foods

You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.

“But it makes me feel good!”

 Yes, some of these mood-busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good…for now.

A few other things to avoid are:

●     Alcohol – (nervous system depressant)

●     Caffeine – (may worsen anxious feelings and ability to sleep)

●     Sugar – (messes with your blood sugar and can worsen inflammation).

TL;DR –

Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily.

See my recipe for mood-boosting fruit salad!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-and-mood

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/how-to-fight-depression-naturally-with-nutrition

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/foods-increase-happiness/

Pssst… Want my printable healthy recipe book?

It’s all yours. You’ll find it in my free resource library… get access here

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site. 

Why am I always hungry?

If you often feel hungry, you are not alone!

There are many reasons to feel hungry. Of course, the most obvious one is that you are actually physically hungry. Perhaps your stomach is empty, your blood sugar has dropped, and your hunger hormones are going nuts!

But other times, the hunger may not be physical hunger. It may be a craving or an emotional trigger. These are common reasons why some people eat too much. It could be brought on by a certain type of diet, stress, or other things going on in life. 

It’s easy to mistake psychological hunger for physical hunger.

I’m going to talk about the difference between both of these types of hunger, and give you some tips how to figure out which is which.

Physical hunger vs. psychological hunger

Your physical hunger is regulated by the body through your hunger hormones. And of course, it should be. You don’t want to be completely drained of fuel and nutrients for a long time. So, you’re programmed to seek food when your body physically needs it. Some of those physical needs are that your stomach is empty or your blood sugar has dropped.

Psychological or emotional hunger is eating to overcome boredom, sadness, stress, etc. It’s based on a thought, feeling, situation, or behavior. It’s what happens when you see a great food commercial or smell a bakery. It’s not from your empty stomach or low blood sugar.

How can you tell which is which? 

Eight steps to figure out if you’re physically hungry or not

1 – The first thing you need to do is stop to evaluate. Scarfing down that protein bar at the first sign of hunger isn’t necessarily going to help you.

2 – Now that you’ve stopped. Pay attention to where this hunger is coming from. Can you actually feel or hear your stomach growling? Did you skip a meal, and haven’t eaten in hours? Or are you seeing and smelling something divinely delicious? Perhaps you’re bored, sad, or stressed? Take a peek into all these areas and really pay attention.

3 – Have a big glass of water. Now observe your hunger feeling for at least a minute. Really dig into the source of the feeling. It can be easy to jump to a conclusion, but that may or may not be the right one. So listen to your body and mind very deeply.

4 – If you do find that your feelings may be the source, then lean into them. Acknowledge and observe them. They may just be needing comfort and recognition, even if they sound like they need food. Try deep breathing, having a stretch, or going for a quick walk to release some of these emotions; this also gives your mind a chance to focus on something other than the feeling of hunger.

5 – If you’re pretty sure that your body physically needs nutrition, just wait a few more minutes to make sure.

6 – Now you can be fairly sure whether your hunger was from emotions, boredom, thirst, or actual physical hunger.

7 – If it’s physical hunger, feel free to eat healthy and nutritious food. To fill you up the food you eat should be high in protein, fiber, and water. Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew well and savor every bite.

8 – Rinse and repeat at the next sign of hunger.

TL;DR –

The feeling of hunger can show up for many reasons. Of course, if you’re physically hungry and need the food and nutrients, then this is what it’s for! But often, there is an underlying psychological or emotional reason you might feel hungry. Now you know my eight steps to figure out if your physical body is hungry, or if you’re bored, sad, or stressed.

Use this process over and over again to feed your body what it actually physically needs (and not overdo it).

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ghrelin/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/dealing-with-mysterious-hunger

https://authoritynutrition.com/18-ways-reduce-hunger-appetite/

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-incredibly-filling-foods/

Pssst… Want my printable healthy recipe book?

It’s all yours. You’ll find it in my free resource library… get access here:

 Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.