Sometimes happiness feels like an elusive emotion. You may think that you’re doing everything you can to improve your mood, but that’s not always the case. Pursuing hobbies, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are important behaviors, but there’s another major factor that affects your mood: Dietary habits. Read on to get the scoop on how your nutritional choices affect your mood so you can make smart choices during mealtimes.
Avoid Processed Foods
Before you dial up delivery from a local pizza place or Chinese restaurant, learn how processed food can impact your emotions. Processed foods are often high in omega-6, a fatty acid that can cause inflammation throughout your body. It’s also common to find high amounts of sodium and trans fats in processed food. These are generally not good for your body. Like omega-6 fatty acids, sodium and trans fats are inflammatory agents and can affect your blood pressure.
You might be wondering why inflammation matters when it comes to your emotions. Inflammation can affect nearly any part of your body, including your brain. When your brain becomes inflamed, you may notice a decline in cognitive function. This means it’s difficult for you to learn or retain information. Brain inflammation also impacts your mood, and some medical experts believe there is a link between mental illness and inflammation of the brain.
Aside from the impact inflammation has on your brain, you may experience pain in your joints or other parts of your body after consuming inflammation-inciting foods. You may feel angry, depressed, or anxious as you think about the pain.
Limit Sugar Consumption
It can be difficult to say no to ice cream cones and cookies, but indulging your sweet tooth may have a negative impact on your emotions. Sugar causes inflammation, which you learned was bad for your body in the section above. It also encourages the production of adrenaline, a chemical that can make you feel anxious. If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety, or if you have a drug or alcohol problem, consuming sugar may increase the symptoms of your condition.
Sugar is addictive, and some experts have even compared it to cocaine. When you experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms associated with sugar consumption, you may feel tired, depressed, or irritated. You may also experience these symptoms after a sugar binge because your blood sugar spikes temporarily before crashing.
Try sweetening foods and beverages with honey, maple syrup, or stevia if you find it difficult to eliminate sugar from your diet. When used in moderation, these make excellent substitutes for sugar. Your body may be able to tolerate these substances better than refined sugar.
Identify Your Psychological Triggers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a healthy diet generally includes fresh produce, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all dietary recommendation because everyone has different nutritional needs. It’s also important to consider that psychological aspect of food when you decide what to eat. Some healthy foods may trigger bad memories or feelings of shame or anger.
For example, let’s say that you grew up in a toxic environment. Your mother’s favorite food was blueberries, but she never shared with you or your siblings. As an adult, you can afford to buy blueberries, and you have a way to get to the supermarket. You know that blueberries are packed with nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamin C, and you want to include them in your diet. Unfortunately, eating blueberries reminds you of your unhappy childhood, and you become depressed each time you consume them.
You can discuss psychological triggers with a mental health professional or your primary care physician, but ultimately, you may decide to avoid certain foods. Your medical provider can help you choose alternatives, either in the form of whole foods or supplements, to ensure that you don’t miss needed nutrients.
Food has a powerful impact on your emotions. Create a healthy nutrition plan that includes a mix of protein and carbs, and talk to your doctor about any psychological barriers that impact your diet.