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How What You Eat Can Affect Your Mood

Have you ever been laying in your disheveled room, stress eating a bag of Sour Patch Kids for the fifth time that week and just felt… even worse? Aside from that extremely specific example, many of us have experienced a similar situation and wondered why the phrase “comfort food” existed, considering we aren’t being comforted at all! This is because the type of food we eat is directly linked to how we feel—both physically and mentally.

Now, that doesn’t exactly mean that the moment you bite into a Twix bar you’re going to turn into the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It also doesn’t mean that the second you digest your fruit salad, your whole life is going to become a ray of sunshine. However, the point is that what you decide to put into your mini-temple over time can affect not only how you look, but also how you feel!

 

According to an article by ABC News Health, there is science behind why certain foods can be attributed to your low or high mood. Some examples of foods that are linked to low mood are:

 

Sugar

According to Sarah Dash, a PhD student at Deakin University studying food and mood, continuously consuming sugary products can negatively affect the lining of our guts and prevent it from blocking out damaging substances. The ABC News article exclaims that because of this, small molecules can enter our bloodstream and cause inflammation which is a risk factor for depression.

 

Like I stated earlier, this can happen over a certain period of time—like weeks or months—and may not be the sole contributor to one’s change of mood. It is, however, definitely a factor that can play a supporting role in our low mood.  

Processed Foods

Now this one is tricky. Dr. Paul Bernard, head of a university’s Gut Neuroscience Laboratory, stated that because there are so many additions to processed foods, it becomes very difficult to point out a specific ingredient that is causing low mood. However, the general consensus from researchers and food-eaters alike is that significantly decreasing or erasing processed foods from our diets can improve our overall gut health. In turn, this can improve our mental health. This is because “the nerves in your gut directly communicate with the brain,” Dr. Bernard said. Meaning, if “your gut is happy then that gets communicated with your brain in a positive way,” which can then increase your mood or vice versa if your gut is unhappy.

Along with foods that can decrease your mood, there are also foods that can increase it! Some examples of foods that are linked to a higher mood are:

 

Chocolate

Yes, I know. I literally just said that sugar can lead to low mood. However, chocolate—specifically dark chocolate—is somewhat different. According to Ms. Dash, dark chocolate has actually been found to have a positive link between food and mood. This is because they have anti-inflammatory properties. As it was mentioned earlier in the article, this is very beneficial because inflammation throughout the body is a risk factor for depression. Dark chocolate’s anti-inflammatory properties can therefore help block out some of those depression risk factors that could lower our mood.

 

With that being said, I’m not directly saying to stuff your face with dark chocolate any chance you can get, but it is definitely a worthy alternative if you have a sweet tooth like me!

 

Shakes/Smoothies

This category specifically makes me happy because I would like to consider myself what some people call a “shake-a-holic.” Any fruit or vegetable you can blend and make into a thick, flavorful cup of deliciousness- I want it!

Fortunately for me, this addiction is actually a positive attribute to my high mood. According to Ms. Dash and Dr. Bernard, shakes that contain greens and fruits replenish your body with a high fiber intake which make your gut—and therefore your overall mood—very happy. Even though it is still good to have whole fruits and vegetables in your diet for jaw/teeth health reasons, shakes/smoothies can still be a tasty alternative for unhealthy foods that would otherwise make you unhappy!

 

So, the next time you’re getting ready to cope with life-stress, or even if you’re just wanting something to snack on, remember that what you feed your body can affect how you feed your mood. You have the power to guide it in the negative or positive direction!

 

Works Cited

Bullen, James. “The Foods Making You Feel Sad, Mad or ‘High on Life’.” ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9 June 2017, www.abc.net.au/news/health/2017-06-10/your-experiences-with-food-and-mood/8590710.

My name is Taylor Melville and I am a Senior at Florida State University majoring in Clinical Professions- Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences. I have a passion for writing/journaling, painting, and health+wellness education, specifically regarding women’s health. In the near future, I plan to get my Master’s in Biomedical Sciences before matriculating into medical school to later become a Family Medicine physician with a concentration in Obstetrics/Gynecology.

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