Food and Mood Go Hand in Hand

Nicole Palmieri, who is currently studying Dietetics at the University of Dayton, shared with Healthy Lombard that…

We all know to some extent that potato chips and candy make us feel lethargic and leave us hungry, while fruits and vegetables make us feel energized and clear-headed. However, is it really that simple?

We eat differently for various reasons, depending on what kind of foods are accessible to us, how we are feeling before eating if we are socializing with others or are alone, and so much more. Whatever it is that leads us to choose our next meal, the food choices affect how we feel.

For one, eating a diet plentiful in healthy fats, protein, and fiber help keep blood glucose levels stable. Regulating blood sugar levels help one to feel less irritable, depressed, and anxious. In opposition, too high or too low of a blood sugar level makes one feel constant mood swings. Foods such as beans, lentils, broccoli, apples, and whole grains are great choices to help stabilize your blood sugar, and consequently your mood.

The Mediterranean Diet is associated with improved mood and anxiety levels because it emphasizes whole, non-processed foods, especially fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Healthy fats like olive oil, omega-3-rich fish, avocados, nuts, and legumes promote cell production, protect our organs, and generate important hormones. Most notably, omega-3 and omega-6-rich foods help the brain to function well, benefitting an individual’s mental clarity and focus.

On the other hand, sugary foods like cakes, cookies, and flavored beverages may bring joy at the moment, but overconsumption of these items can affect our mood drastically. Sugar is addictive, and too much of it can lead to inflammation, which is caused by cytokines, or inflammatory messengers. These cytokines that cause inflammation have been linked to causing depressive moods in many studies, like this one. Adding on to that, too much sugar is known to cause hypoglycemia, where the amount of sugar in one’s blood drops too low. This leads to feelings of irritability and can enact unstable hormone levels, throwing off our mood.

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a food enhancer in many processed, canned, and fast foods. There is a controversy about whether this additive is safe, but it cannot be denied that MSG adds flavor that contributes to one’s level of satisfaction with their food. However, it is a popular phenomenon that consuming too many foods with MSG can make one feel the “MSG symptom complex,” which includes headaches, feeling flushed, sweaty, and fatigued. Too much of these foods can dampen one’s mood with constant exhaustion of these symptoms.

Whether you are eating a nutritionally dense or sparse food choice, if you are enjoying what you are eating, the pleasure you feel biting into that crisp apple or delectable doughnut will release feel-good hormones, like serotonin. Eating some of these foods, such as the doughnut or too many cookies, will inevitably leave you feeling lethargic after the sugar crash hits. Being mindful of how the food we consume affects our mood can impact the choices we make daily, and shift our choices to feel more mentally clear, emotionally stable, and physically energized!




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