Have you ever heard the term ‘hangry’? It means you are hungry/angry – you’ve got a bad mood that is directly related to being hungry. I get hangry from time to time and it makes me irritable, frustrated and demanding. It’s the lack of food that results in my bad mood just as the consumption of certain foods can cause it to change.
I’m talking about your mom’s delicious casserole that takes you back to your childhood or a hot cup of tea on a cold winter’s night that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Food is fuel for your body and your brain and can have a huge impact on your mood. It comes down to the way the food influences a variety of processes in your body which in turn influence your mood and overall well-being.
Here are 5 examples of ways that food influences mood:
1. The quality of the food you eat is linked to the quality of your mood. Research suggests that people who consume unhealthy, processed and fast food that is high in saturated fat, salt and sugar while low in nutrients are more likely to have mental health issues and symptoms of depression. The opposite is true for those who consume a good quality, balanced diet.1,2
2. Deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals can result in poor mood. A diet low in vitamins and minerals such as iron, Thiamin B1, Niacin B3, Cobalamin B12, folate and selenium can negatively affect your energy, mood and brain function. This leads to feeling weak, tired, depressed, irritable and generally low. Eating a balanced, varied diet which includes meat and fish, fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds and grains may just be the key to preventing vitamin and mineral deficiency and therefore low mood and energy.
3. The gut and the brain are connected. The vagus nerve runs from your brain stem to your abdomen and is used by your gut to transmit information to your brain. Toxicity in your gut can flow all the way up to your brain and cause poor mood as well as a host of other issues. Avoiding sugar and processed foods while making sure to include whole foods, fermented foods and yogurt will ensure a healthy gut flora and a healthy mood.4
4. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to both brain health and an uplifted mood. They can influence behavior and personality too – low levels of omega-3s are associated with depression, pessimism and impulsivity. This is because docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both members of the omega-3 fatty acid family, contribute to the fluidity of the cell membrane which is important in brain development and functioning. Foods high in omega-3s include fish and other seafood, some plants, meat, and nut oils.5,6
5. Keeping your blood sugar levels steady will keep your mood steady too. According to research, eating regular meals and snacks helps to keep your blood sugar levels even. What does this have to do with mood? It comes down to fuel. Your body and mind need fuel (food) to function. Providing a steady source of fuel goes a long way towards preventing bad moods caused by a brain running on fumes. To avoid getting hangry, plan your meals and snacks in advance and do your best to stick to the plan.7
An important caveat
While it is undeniable that the food we eat influences our mood in many different ways, it is important to remember that we are all unique and therefore influenced in different ways by what we consume. We should always strive to eat good quality food, but the degree to which these food choices affect mood will vary from person to person. It is a proven fact that the gut and the brain are connected; nonetheless, while issues with mood for some may lie in their gut flora, they may lie elsewhere for others.
We all have different genes and live within varying environments. What foods are best for you to eat in order to maintain your mood will vary depending on your unique biochemistry. One easy way to take the fuss and confusion out of it is to let science and technology take care of the thinking for you. A program like ph360, which is based on epigenetics and tailored to each individual user, can tell you exactly which foods you should be eating, how best to prepare them and when (as well as a host of other information on exercise, mind, social interactions and more).
The key is to learn what works for you as an individual. The more we know about how our bodies and minds function and what personalized solution is the best one for each of us, the easier it will be to live a healthy life, free of bad moods!
- Jacka FN, Cherbuin N, Anstey KJ, Butterworth P. (2014), Dietary Patterns and Depressive Symptoms over Time: Examining the Relationships with Socioeconomic Position, Health Behaviours and Cardiovascular Risk, PLoS ONE 9(1): e87657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087657
- Kulkarni AA, Swinburn BA, Utter J. (2015), Associations between diet quality and mental health in socially disadvantaged New Zealand adolescents. PubMed Jan;69(1):79-83.
- The Association of UK Dietitians. (2014), Food Fact Sheet: Food and Mood, www.bda.uk.com
- Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severia C. (2015), The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems, Annals of Gastroenterology 28(2): 203–209
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (2006), Omega 3 Fatty Acids Influence Mood, Impulsivity And Personality, Study Indicates. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2006
- Pawels, EK, Volterrani D. (2008), Fatty acid facts, Part I. Essential fatty acids as treatment for depression, or food for mood?. Drug news & perspectives (0214-0934), 21 (8): 446.
- University of Illinois Extension. (2014), What Impacts Blood Glucose Levels?, extension.illinois.edu