Is Food Affecting Your Mood?

Mood and food go hand in hand, a reality every person might experience; from the baby that shrieks to be fed to cranky holiday dinner guests when the meal is late. Being hungry, tired, or having unhealthy eating patterns can influence mood swings, according to Tiffany Rios, Shore Physicians Group Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, who added that blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances are often to blame.

“The right food can support a healthy mood, but the wrong foods can potentially exacerbate problematic inflammation and underlying causes of depression,” Rios said. To aid the body in improving the symptoms of depression Rios suggested adding probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D and B-vitamin rich foods.

Some examples of B-vitamin rich foods include beans, lentils, eggs, leafy greens and bananas as well as omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish, walnuts, chia and flaxseeds. Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, organic cow’s milk, mushrooms, and fatty fish like sardines, tuna and salmon.

Sugar Plays a Big Role

Rios explained that excess sugar consumption is correlated with several disease states including dysbiosis: a condition where there are more harmful bacteria populating in the gut than helpful bacteria. This relates to depression because up to 95% of our serotonin is produced in the digestive system. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and aids digestion. So, if the digestive system is off balance, it really can affect our mood.

Be On the Lookout for Other Forms of Sugar

To make improvements, Rios indicates the easiest thing to do is reduce the added sugar in your diet. As a reminder, Rios said sugar can be found in many forms in the foods we consume, like evaporated cane sugar, molasses, and brown rice syrup to name just a few. Sugar might have many aliases, but it is still added sugar intake. When reading the ingredient list on foods look for words ending in “ose” like fructose, sucrose, maltose, or dextrose; they are all added sugars. Be wise to added sugar with ingredients like concentrations of juices, fruit nectars, honey, and agave.

“Read the ingredient labels and remember, the higher up the list the ingredient is, the more of it there is in the product,” said Rios. “If you see that a food has greater than 8g of added sugar per serving, keep in mind that is equivalent to eating two packets of sugar.” The recommended daily allowance of sugar is about 25mg but Rios said in the case of sugar, less is better.

“These sugars can exacerbate the growth of harmful bacteria that stunt our ability to digest and absorb the nutrients needed to support a healthy mood,” said Rios. “Try taking a probiotic AND consuming probiotic rich food like kefir, plain yogurt, asparagus, sauerkraut and kombucha,” said Rios. “Non-starchy vegetables are excellent sources of pre-biotic fiber and support a healthy gut as well.”

Foods That Can Throw the Body Off

Eating large quantities of fast foods, processed foods, added or refined sugar can alter blood sugar levels, and when blood sugar levels are unstable this can very often lead to fatigue and lethargy, which are often a precursor to depressed mood, according to Rios. “While added sugar can cause issues for our mood, the lack of certain microorganisms may also play a role,” said Rios. “Lastly, alcohol is a known depressant and causes added stress on the liver to detoxify the body. So, if you are feeling down and drinking more than four drinks per week, you might want to reconsider your habits.”

Can Too Much Protein Have a Similar Effect on Mood?

Eating too much of anything can make us feel lethargic because it is excess stress on our bodies to store the nutrients as fat. It places a burden on our liver which can throw our metabolism off track. When it comes to protein, choosing the right types of protein is important. Lean meats, fish, eggs and legumes are less associated with depression than fatty meats or fried foods.

To avoid that sluggish feeling, Rios said to try to stay away from fried foods, large portions and refined sugars.

Charge It Up!

Rios suggested that to get your gut health back on track, try to build a diet that is diverse in plant rich polyphenols, fiber and lean proteins. Reduce your intake of added sugars, processed foods and choose more home cooked high fiber meals more often. Choose beans, lentils, eggs, fatty fish, organic dairy products, high fiber grains like quinoa or whole wheat breads, non-starchy vegetables, fresh fruits like bananas and berries, nuts and seeds.

To schedule a consultation with Tiffany Rios call 609-653-5300.