Have you ever wondered why your mood suddenly crashed in the middle of the day, or why you’re feeling unusually “blue?” The answer may trace back to what you are eating. It’s important to eat foods with nutrients that keep your brain healthy and your blood sugar from getting too high or too low. This can be accomplished by ensuring you have a balanced diet with a focus on 3 brain supporting nutrients- protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Proteins are made of essential amino acids. These specific proteins cannot be made by the human body and have to come from food. Proteins are also the building blocks for hormones. One of the hormones affecting mood changes is dopamine which creates feelings of pleasure and motivation. Another mood related hormone is serotonin, which is responsible for mood regulation and overall feelings of happiness. Good food sources for the amino acids that make these hormones are eggs, milk, cheese, fish, oats, nuts, and seeds. Eating enough of these foods may help you feel happier!
Your blood sugar is affected by both the amount and type of carbohydrates you eat. After carbohydrates enter your body, they are broken down into simple sugars called glucose. These sugars are what the body and brain use for most of their energy. Eating large amounts of foods with simple carbohydrates can cause the amount of glucose in the blood to rise quickly and then drop quickly. When this happens and your blood sugar is too low, you can experience a condition called hypoglycemia, which can lower brain function plus lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. This can often be resolved by eating a food containing complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat pasta, kidney beans, oatmeal, green peas, brown rice, or a piece of fruit. This will rebalance your blood sugar and may help improve your mood. Eating regular, balanced meals can help to avoid these shifts in mood because they take longer to break down into glucose. This means that there will be a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, avoiding rapid spikes and drops. It’s also important to eat balanced meals throughout the day with a fat, a protein, and a carbohydrate.
Fats also play an important role in your mood. Half of the weight of your brain is from fats, and the main types of fat found in your brain cells are called polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are also known as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits such as lowering inflammation. Inflammation is linked to mood conditions like depression, so eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful. These fats can be found in foods such as salmon, tuna, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and avocado. Eating large amounts of fats like butter, lard, margarine, and the oils used in fried foods can actually increase inflammation in some people.
A healthy, balanced diet is a great way to support mental health in a natural way. At the Bastyr Center for Natural Health and Bastyr University Clinic we can teach you how to follow a balanced and healthy eating pattern that will support your mental and physical well-being. Call to schedule an appointment today!
Devon Marlantes is a dietetic intern at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She firmly believes in disease prevention through nutrition, with particular interests in cardiovascular health and oncology.