How Do I Use Food to Get in a Better Mood?
Understanding that there is an intimate connection between your mind and your body is common knowledge; however understanding how food can affect this connection opens a whole new world (cue Aladdin soundtrack) of nutritional science. This solidifies what so many dietitians and nutrition experts tell us: Food can affect your mood.
A study recently published in Nutritional Neuroscience, an International Journal on Nutrition, Diet and the Nervous System, found that the foods you eat can affect your mood. It also found that your foods’ influence on your mood could change as you age.
Apparently, your brain takes 30 years to mature and some experts argue that your brain chemistry changes constantly throughout life. It makes sense. We are wired to be life-long learners.
Researchers sent out a Food-Mood Questionnaire (FMQ) on multiple social media platforms to a variety of social and professional groups, and dissected information provided from participants about diet, exercise and mental distress. This information was then analyzed and compared between participants who were 18 to 29 years old (young adult group) and participants who were 30 years or older (mature adult group).
The results of the study indicated that the young adult participants’ moods were influenced by foods that “increase availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain such as frequent meat consumption and exercise, respectively.” Both red and white meat, along with exercise, increased serotonin (makes us feel important) and dopamine (motivates us) levels in young adults. Vegetarians and non-exercisers reported a higher level of mental distress than their meat-eating friends.
On the other hand, the mature adult participants’ moods were influenced by foods that increased antioxidant availability (fruits, vegetables, cocoa) and foods that typically stimulate the fight-or-flight response via the sympathetic nervous system (caffeine, refined sugars, fasting).
Just as food affects your mood, mood also can affect your food choices and dietary patterns. For example, Cornell University analyzed research linking sad moods to indulgent food choices and happy moods to healthier food choices. The relationship between food and mood seems to be circular and never-ending.
Going beyond food affecting your daily mood and vice versa, how does food affect mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and others? Most research shows a solid connection between nutrition and mental illness, and even recommends nutrition counseling as apart of a robust treatment plan.
This fires up my brain regarding all the research proving how nutrition is so closely intertwined with our brain health. And as we learn more about how extraordinarily connected our mental health is to our physical health, it is undeniable that nutrition plays a hulk-size roll in our overall health through many different pathways. This research was unique from many others, as it analyzed diet choices and patterns in relation to mental distress among the young and mature mind. This tells us that nutritional needs do change as we age, and the results of this study may give us a peek into how.
See the original research here.
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