You may know that eating balanced meals and snacks is the best way to nourish your body, but did you know that this eating pattern also helps balance the chemicals in your brain that affect your mood?

Feeling “hangry?”

Image Woman Stressed Image Woman Stressed Image Woman Stressed

What we choose to eat and drink can have a significant effect on our moods.

Skipping meals and relying on sugar (soda, sweet tea, candy) for energy can cause blood sugar spikes and blood sugar crashes that are reflected in our moods, causing mood swings.

You may know that eating balanced meals and snacks is the best way to nourish your body, but did you know that this eating pattern also helps balance the chemicals in your brain that affect your mood?Consuming regular meals and snacks that contain healthy carbohydrate (with fiber) and protein can stabilize blood sugar and thus stabilize mood. A balance of carbs and protein creates a balance of the neurotransmitters in our brains, which make us feel relaxed but also focused and alert.

When we eat carbohydrates, serotonin levels in the brain rise, making us feel happy and relaxed. “Good” carbohydrates come from plants:  whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. These foods contain fiber, which slows digestion and the release of sugar into the bloodstream. The slow, steady release of sugar keeps our blood sugar and mood stable. Plant foods also contain loads of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which can decrease inflammation and boost our moods! Depression is associated with increased inflammation. Studies looking at eating patterns suggest that those who consume five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables are happier and have a higher sense of wellbeing.

When we eat protein, brain levels of norepinephrine and dopamine increase, making us feel alert, coordinated and focused. Healthy protein foods include lean meats, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, or nut butters.  Other healthy protein foods such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna) and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which also help stabilize mood and behavior.

Having a healthy gut can influence the mood. Recent studies suggest that consuming probiotic foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi,  populate our guts with good bacteria, which can positively influence our moods through the gut - brain connection. Eating probiotic foods, as well as prebiotic foods (high fiber fruits and vegetables), changes the bacteria in the gut and may reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Limiting caffeine consumption can also help with mood stability. High intakes of caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety and cause restlessness, irritability, mood swings and headaches. Clearing caffeine from the body takes 8 hours, so consuming caffeine in the latter part of the day can interfere with sleep. Poor sleep quality can definitely put a damper on our moods.

Because our bodies are about 50 percent water and our brains are roughly 80 percent water, inadequate fluid intake can affect mood by causing tiredness, dizziness, headaches and mood swings. Shoot for at least 64 ounces of water daily to stay hydrated.

So, to keep from feeling “hangry”:

  • Eat regular, balanced meals and snacks with good carbs and protein
  • Include a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotic foods
  • Limit caffeine
  • Drink 64 ounces of water daily