Our diet has much more to do with our mood than we often realize. If you’re like me, you may notice yourself getting a little cranky if you’re hungry (the word hangry describes this perfectly) or you may find yourself feeling pleasant after a delicious meal – the foods we eat affect our mood on a chemical level.
Much of this mood regulation has to do with something called serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is found mostly in the gut – in fact, up to 90% is found in the GI tract. A low level of serotonin is often characteristic of depression. This is another reason why a nutritious diet is so important. Eating a balanced diet that is composed mostly of whole foods and low in artificial additives or preservatives helps to support our gut health, which in turn, supports our mental and emotional health.
When we’re feeling depressed, however, we may be more likely to search for comfort through our food choices – seeking out options that are often high in calories and sugar, while being low in actual nutritional value. The kicker is that these foods often end up making us feel worse both physically and emotionally.
A recent randomized control research study actually found that individuals suffering from depression were able to significantly reduce their symptoms by switching to a whole-foods, Mediterranean style diet and limiting their consumption of processed foods and sweets. After just 12 weeks, the group that changed their diet showed demonstrably improved status compared with the group that received social support, but didn’t alter their diets. So although our natural tendencies may be to seek out comfort foods when we’re stressed or have a lot on our minds, mindfully making diet a part of our self-care routines during these times affects much more than our energy levels.
Of course, depression is complicated and a few different interventions may be utilized, but this study shows that diet is certainly one that should be considered and offers interesting implications as to how closely our moods are affected by the foods we eat.
This concept of the food/mood connection absolutely fascinates me – can’t wait to share more on this topic! Stay tuned 🙂
Lots of love,