How the Food You Eat Directly Affects Your Mood (Gut-Brain Connection) | What's With Wheat

We all know our emotions can impact the kind of foods we want to consume. However, did you know that the food you eat also has a significant impact on your mood?  Think about how you feel; how your body feels after shovelling down a pizza, or a big bowl of pasta. Do you feel sluggish and tired, or super energetic? Think about how you feel after a coffee – are you a little perkier, more attentive and awake than without it? Or think about when you haven’t eaten for a while and begin to feel tired, irritable and snappy.

Food has an enormous influence over our moods and how it makes us feel. When we know what foods boosts our mood and energy levels and what inhibits it, it can become an extremely handy tool in your pursuit to feeling great on a daily basis.

You may be thinking where do I start?

Well, a good place to start is to avoid foods that create inflammation in the body which can directly affect your mood or negatively impact the integrity of your intestinal lining and digestive system.  Here are a few of the most common mood draining foods.

Mood Draining Foods

  • Food additives/chemicals/preservatives – which can lead to mood swings, headaches, migraines, bloating, inflammation, rashes and more
  • Added sugars and artificial sweeteners – after the inevitable high and sugar crash (blood sugar issues), it increases feelings of anxiety, irritability, depression and mood swings
  • Gluten – a number of studies indicate that gluten can have a detrimental effect on mood and promote anxiety, depression and aggression as well as inhibiting the production of serotonin. Additionally, many grains are sprayed with pesticides such as Roundup which affects your mood, mental health, causes nutritional deficiencies and alters the gut flora
  • Excessive caffeine – too much alters your mood, can increase feelings of anxiety and leave you feeling more exhausted (after the coffee crash)
  • Alcohol – can trigger hormones that increase feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Processed Soy – causes hormonal imbalances as it can lead to exhaustion and irritability
  • Refined vegetable oils – are rich in omega-6 fatty acids which increase inflammation
  • Drugs

It isn’t all bad news though as there is an abundance of whole foods that contribute to promoting good moods. Here are a few of the best mood boosting foods.

Feel Good Foods

  • Vegetables – are rich in fibre which is anti-inflammatory, contains prebiotics, promotes a healthy gut microbiome, aids hormonal balance and detoxification, helping you to feel good
  • Omega’s 3 Rich Foods – such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and Inca Inchi Oil help improve mood regulation and decreases inflammation
  • Free range eggs – are a great source of Vitamin A, D, E, K and choline which is vital for our neurotransmitters related to mood and energy
  • Chicken and Turkey – are rich sources of tryptophan which is used to make serotonin and melatonin which are important for regulating moods and sleep
  • Bone broth and (quality) gelatin – can naturally boost mental focus, clarity and happy hormones and acts similarly to an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant without all the negative side effects of medication
  • Nuts and Seeds – such as Brazil nuts are rich in selenium which has been shown to help depression, irritability, anxiety and lethargy
  • Cacao (chocolate) – releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels
  • Green or matcha tea – is rich in antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties, not to mention it’s also very comforting
  • Spicy foods – spicy and warming foods improve circulation and cause your brain to release endorphins and help boost your mood
  • Seaweed – such as dulse is a rich source of iodine which is required for thyroid and metabolic function as well as optimal energy and mood
  • Berries – contain antioxidants that aid your brain in the production of dopamine
  • Organic coffee (in moderation) – coffee affects our neurotransmitters related to boosting mood and also has an anti-depressant effect
  • Turmeric – the curcumin found in turmeric has been found to enhance mood and help with depression and has incredible anti-inflammatory properties

Don’t let the foods you eat leave you feeling down, lethargic or irritable. Once you eliminate the unhealthy, processed and refined foods from your diet and switch to real food straight from nature, you may quickly discover that you not only physically feel better, but your moods are now stable and you have more enthusiasm for life too.

But wait, there’s more!

Gut impacts brain

Further to this, there is new research showing that there is a clear connection between the health of our gut and the health of our brain. In fact, the gut has long been known as the ‘second brain’. Our gut and brain are connected through several different pathways – you may know this to be true if you’ve ever felt butterflies in your stomach, or felt your stomach flip when you’ve been nervous or scared.
Did you know that our gut microbiome promotes a normal gastrointestinal function, regulates our metabolism, nutrient absorption, houses 80% of our immune system, 70% of dopamine (adrenaline) and 90% of serotonin are produced in our guts.

Watch this short video for a beautifully summarised visual explanation:

Youtube gut brain link

With this in mind, it should be clear that it’s necessary to avoid foods that drain your moods and instead eat foods that improve your mood.

As a nutritionist, I am constantly recommending my clients to implement traditional foods such as bone broth, chicken soups and fermented foods into their everyday diets, in order to improve the function and diversity of their microbiome.

  • Fermented Foods – such as kimchi, cashew cheese, sauerkraut, kefir, sour cream and cultured veggies help boost immunity, digestion and the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics which have been found to help alleviate anxiety, depression, irritability and lower stress-induced hormones
  • Probiotic Supplement – If you don’t eat fermented foods regularly then you may have to consider supplementing your diet so you get your daily dose of probiotics which will help rebalance the gut’s natural flora.

Lime_dill_dip   Cultured_Carrot_Beet_Chilli

Jordan Pie
Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner