Did you know that your mood and emotions can trigger food cravings, cause you to overeat or kill your appetite entirely? But the opposite also holds true in that the food you eat can make or break your mood, making you happy, angry, anxious or depressed. This is apparent not only in the minutes after you’ve eaten but also over time, as your diet helps to shape your mental health from the inside out.
How Does Food Impact Your Mood?
I simply cannot overstate the importance of your food choices when it comes to your emotions and overall mental health. Research based-evidence shows that in essence, we have TWO brains—one in our head, and one in our gut—both of which are created from the same tissue during fetal development.
These two systems are connected via the Vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from our brain stem down to our abdomen. It is now well established that the Vagus nerve is the primary route our gut bacteria use to transmit information to our brain. Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore crucial when trying to address one’s mental state.
The Top 5 Mood Killers
In this regard, the modern Western diet has several things working against our mental well-being. Below are the top 5 items you should stay away from if you want to restore your emotions and feel happy again.
- Genetically modified foods (a.k.a. GMO) can significantly alter your gut flora, thereby promoting pathogens while decimating the beneficial microbes necessary for optimal mental and physical health. Corn is in most foods (corn syrup) and unless the package reads “Certified Organic” and/or “Non GMO Verified”, assume it has been altered and will destroy your gut flora, your emotions and your health. So, don’t buy, don’t eat, period.
- Glyphosate—the most widely used herbicide on food crops in the world with nearly 1 BILLION pounds applied every year—has been shown to cause both nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals (which are critical for brain function and mood control), and systemic toxicity. Moreover, recent cell research has found that it is so toxic it exhibits carcinogenicity (meaning, it causes cancer!) in the nearly unbelievable parts-per-trillion concentration range. Please refer to www.EWG.org website and click on the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” for more information.
- High-fructose diets also feed pathogens in your gut, allowing them to overtake beneficial bacteria. Furthermore, sugar suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in your brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia. Sugar consumption also triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that promote chronic inflammation. In the long term, inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of your immune system and wreaks havoc on your brain as well as your heart, your bones and joints. White sugar and refined grains contribute to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling, which also play a significant role in your mental health.
- Artificial food ingredients such as artificial sweetener (aspartame) and artificial colors (red 40, yellow 5, blue 1) will wreak havoc with your brain function. Health conditions including ADHD, depression and panic attacks are known potential side effects of such items consumption. For more information on that subject, refer to my previous article Toxic Dyes in Your “Food”.
- Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, oats and barley, may negatively impact mood and brain health. In fact, a number of studies indicate that wheat can have a detrimental effect on mood, promoting depression and even more serious mental health problems such as schizophrenia. One mechanism that can help explain the mysterious connection between wheat and mental health problems is the fact that wheat inhibits production of serotonin, a neurotransmitters found not just in your brain, but also in your gut. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain!
The Top 5 Mood Boosters
Nourishing your gut health is essential to maintaining a positive mood and the good news is, individual food choices may make a difference in how you feel mentally and emotionally. Here my top 5 choice to help boost your spirits, as each is known to have a positive impact on
- Dark Chocolate – If you get a nice mood boost whenever you sink your teeth into a bar of pure, unadulterated chocolate, it is not happenstance. There’s actually a chemical reason called anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It’s a derivative of the Sanskrit word “bliss,” and one of the great things about chocolate is that it not only produces this compound, it also contains other chemicals that prolongs the “feel-good” aspects of anandamide. Chocolate has even been referred to as “the new anti-anxiety drug.” Word of caution: you must choose a brand with at least 72% cacao, and make sure the list of ingredients does not include any high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil or dye.
- Protein – A high-quality source of protein – like organic, pasture-raised eggs, wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, organic raw cheese, or a handful of raw nuts – helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady for enhanced energy and mood.
- Bananas – They contain dopamine, a natural reward chemical that boosts your mood. They’re also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6, which help to soothe your nervous system, and magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive mood. Just be careful to limit them if you have insulin/leptin resistance.
- Turmeric – Curcumin, the pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow-orange color, is thought to be the primary component responsible for many of its medicinal effects. Among them, curcumin has neuroprotective properties and may enhance mood and possibly help with depression.
- Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats – Found in cold water fish (salmon, sardines, halibut, trout), the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play a role in your emotional well-being. One study in Brain Behavior and Immunity, showed a 20% reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3, while past research has shown omega-3 fats work just as well as antidepressants in preventing the signs of depression, but without any of the side effects.