Indulging in your favorite comfort foods may initially feel good, but that initial rush of dopamine is not long-term. It may be harder to make a healthy choice with you’re feeling down, but evidence suggests that a consistently healthy diet will improve your mood for the long haul.
How food affects your mood is not yet fully understood — but the connection is there. Read more about it below.
1. How Food Affects Your Mood and Blood
The human brain needs glucose to function. In fact, blood glucose is the brain’s primary source of energy. That means blood sugar that is too high or too low can cause mood swings.
Too little blood sugar may cause a person to feel slightly intoxicated. Too much, however, is much less enjoyable. It feels like an adrenaline rush, heightening anxiety, fatigue, and brain fog.
2. Antioxidants Improve Blood Flow
Over time, blood vessels suffer damage from free radicals, a process known as oxidative stress. This actually wreaks havoc all over the body, but antioxidative foods can help prevent this damage.
By protecting the blood vessels from oxidative stress, antioxidants help blood vessels function better, which improves blood circulation. The brain needs enough blood pumping through it for it to function properly and regulate your mood.
3. The Microbiome Makes Serotonin
We often assume our brain controls how we feel, but it’s a little-known fact that the gut produces 95% of all the serotonin in the human body.
For the gut to do its job properly, it needs healthy food. Highly processed food increases inflammation in the gut, leading to less serotonin production. That means a worse mood.
4. Nutrients Make Neurotransmitters
The body needs the right nutrients to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. If we eat junk food, our body won’t be able to produce as much of these happiness hormones, bringing our mood down.
Even if cooking isn’t your strong suit, you can easily work a superfood powder into your daily routine to get more nutrients.
5. Serotonin Needs Amino Acids
Foods rich in amino acids, like tryptophan or omega-3 fatty acids, give the body the fuel it needs to produce more neurotransmitters. Serotonin especially relies on tryptophan for its production. More serotonin means a better mood.
Foods high in tryptophan include:
By eating these foods, you provide your body with this essential amino acid used in serotonin production. Most of the body’s serotonin receptors are actually located in the gut, so diet has a huge impact on serotonin levels.
Choosing a Healthy Diet
The communication between the brain and the gut’s microbiome is largely what determines how food affects your mood. Before reaching for a bag of potato chips, consider swapping it out for a healthier alternative. Make sure to work in a protein every three hours to keep your blood sugar at a manageable level.
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