Food and mood: breaking with mood-sappy eating habits
Updated: Jan 14, 2022
When bad moods are associated with junk food, it is often because our emotional state is the cause of unhealthy food consumption. But what about the opposite perspective, where poor nutrition is responsible for our bad moods?
Do you ever feel down, out of sorts, run out of energy, or unmotivated? I think we can all recognize ourselves in these situations, and if this is your case, you should know that your feelings may well be related to what you eat. Yes, because nutrition would indeed have an influence on mood.
There are many factors that cause mood to fluctuate, such as anxiety, the winter season (seasonal affective disorder), hormonal changes, especially in women (premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, menopause) and diet. When we think about food, we realize that we are regularly exposed to content advocating the beneficial effects of a healthy and balanced diet on physical health. However, more and more scientific studies are trying to find out if there is a link between nutrition and mental health (depression, anxiety).
GOOD FOOD, GOOD MOOD
Some studies have found evidence of a link between the food eaten and the risk of developing depression. People who eat a diet high in sugary (added sugar), processed foods, refined grains (e.g. white bread, white rice) and red meats are more likely to develop or worsen depression. Other observations have also shown that the Mediterranean diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, fish and seafood, chicken, legumes, nuts, seeds) would be associated with a lower risk of depression. The same correlation was noted with the traditional Japanese diet (washoku). However, since there are other factors involved in cases of depression, the results of these studies are not yet conclusive.
While the research findings are not entirely clear on the relationship between food and the risk of depression at this time, there is a consensus in the health community that you can improve your mood, increase your energy and have a clearer head by following a healthy diet. So I'm approaching this topic not from a mental health perspective, but rather from a mental wellness perspective. In other words, I am talking about mood as an emotional disposition, not as an emotional disorder.
By way of clarification, it is important to understand that mental well-being is about feeling good (thanks to good management of thoughts and emotions), being functional in daily life and being able to live pleasantly despite the good and bad times. This requires being active, as it is a continuous process of maintaining a state of well-being. One of the possible actions to flourish is therefore to take care of oneself and the adoption of a good diet is part of the self-care that contributes to enhance mental well-being.
"If you want life to smile at you, give it your good mood first."
EAT GOOD, FEEL GOOD
If you are reading this article, it is possible that, like me, you are looking for information that can help you in your relationship with food, especially if this information can also help you manage some of your mood swings. The possibility that our food choices may affect us in this way should be enough to motivate us to try the experiment and observe the results. After all, we have nothing to lose, but rather everything to gain.
So it's time to review our eating habits to make sure they aren't hurting our minds. And if you happen to be doing well already, then your goal will be to make sure you don't lose those healthy habits, since you now know that the benefits of the meals, snacks and beverages you consume can be as much about your physical as your mental well-being. In other words, neglecting your diet could be doing you double harm.
As for me, I am always on the lookout for anything that can help me live better and the importance I place on my well-being continues to grow with age. As a child, I had no limits on my consumption of sugary, fatty and refined foods. I was overweight and my body mass was quite large for my age. It was in my teens that I went on my first diet and started to pay attention to what I ate, as I had become sensitive to the way my peers see me. Food brought me temporary pleasure, but the feeling of discouragement caused by my appearance was continual. I must say that I have learned a lot over the years about healthy eating habits and today I know that in order to feel good physically and mentally I must eat in moderation all those bad foods that make me salivate. I know that we don't live to eat, but we do eat to live, and I aspire to live well.
"eating is a necessity but eating healthy is an art"
EATING HABITS TO BREAK
So if you find that you have one or more of the bad habits listed below, from now on you should commit to improving your mood by taking control of your nutrition. From now on, it will no longer be a matter of eating your emotions or neglecting your diet. Gobbling down a ton of chips, ice cream, desserts, soda or anything else of that kind without moderation is no longer tolerable, because your emotional state is at stake. We will therefore work on regulating our mood, and thus improve our psychological well-being, by getting rid of the following eating habits:
Make sure you give your body all the calories it needs by eating regularly throughout the day. The body needs vitamins and minerals and it also needs carbohydrates to function. Carbohydrates are our source of energy and lack of them causes fatigue and irritability. Be careful to avoid refined carbohydrates which cause rapid rises and falls in glucose levels which increases depressive symptoms. The important thing to remember is to maintain a regular intake of healthy, balanced food throughout the day.
Regularly drinking sugary drinks and not enough water
The simple fact that our bodies are 60% water is a good indication that we need water to function. It is recommended to drink 2 liters of water per day. If it's a little too much for you to start drinking all at once, gradually increase your intake until you reach that amount. I do this every time I have to add or remove foods from my diet and it works. Also know that you can drink tea or herbal teas, but limit the sugar and don't drink tea excessively because it contains caffeine (theine). Too much caffeine causes a jolt of energy followed unfortunately by a drop in energy, thus fatigue which can make you irritable. In the same vein, be careful not to drink too many energy drinks or coffee.
Eat a lot of refined and processed foods and little fruit, vegetables and legumes
Although it is not necessary to go as far as adopting a plant-based diet, enriching your diet with plants is a good idea. The idea is to give them more space on your plate. So don't be dismissive of vegetables, fruits, legumes, tubers and whole grain foods if you are, and consider cutting back on cookies, cakes and other snack foods, as well as fried foods.
Eat a lot of red meat
Red meat (beef, lamb, mutton, goat, etc.) is a staple for many people. If you are a red meat fan, you can continue to eat red meat but in smaller amounts, and when you choose to include it in a meal, opt for the leaner parts.
Eating too much junk food and bad fat (saturated and trans fats)
If you have cravings for hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, pizza and other high-calorie dishes, make them occasional treats. It is necessary to limit the intake of these foods which are poor in nutrients and contain bad fats. Note that palm oil and coconut oil are saturated fats, so consume them in moderation. Unsaturated fats such as omega 3 should be preferred. Fish and seafood are often recommended as a source of omega 3. Flax and chia seeds also contain them. I add ground flax seeds to my smoothies. A deficiency in omega 3 can cause fatigue and seems to lead to depression.
If you would like to learn more about this issue or if you think you need nutritional supplements, contact a nutritionist who will be able to guide you through the process.
For my part, since I've made a lot of dietary changes over the years, I have to say that I'm doing pretty well when I look at this list of bad eating habits. So the challenge for me is to not fall back into my old unhealthy habits. What about you? Are you on the right track? Let me know in the comments.
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(Ma qualité de vie means My quality of life in French.)
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