You wouldn’t necessarily relate the foods you eat to your emotional state, but it turns out that your diet can have a powerful influence on your mood, your feelings, and your attitude.
It turns out that your brain and your intestines work together to produce a feel-good chemical called serotonin, and that is a direct connection between your digestion and your happiness.
What Foods Should I Eat?
Your food choices may be a significant predictor of your overall outlook on life. For example, a popular eating style, known as the “Mediterranean Diet,” consists of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, with less processed foods and sugary treats.
Besides helping to avoid heart disease and cancer, the Mediterranean diet also has a positive effect on mental health – in fact, a recent study said those who eat this way are less likely to be depressed.
What Should I Not Eat?
At the other end of the dietary spectrum is the so-called “Fast Food Diet” – stuff like burgers and fries, pizza, donuts, soda, and so on. Because this diet is high in sugar and unhealthy fats, it disturbs the balance of omega-3 fatty acids, and that imbalance can make you feel pessimistic, aggressive, and depressed.
But there are a variety of current dietary approaches that lie in between these polarities, and each comes along with its particular benefits.
For example, you hear a lot about a “ketogenic” diet, which emphasizes healthy fat intake and reduces eating carbohydrates. This seems like an effective way to lose weight, but it also increases the production of a brain chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which makes your brain work better, by improving focus and decreasing stress and anxiety. It can even have a positive effect on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Vegetarians And Vegans
Vegetarians eat fruits and vegetables, so their diet is generally rich in vitamins and minerals and low in unhealthy fats. They also get lots of fiber, which helps their digestion to work better. This often translates to less negativity and overall good feelings.
The more austere cousins of vegetarians are vegans – while vegetarians may choose to eat dairy and eggs, vegans eat no animal foods at all. The latest research shows that vegans are happier than carnivores and less likely to become depressed. In fact, vegans on average have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, weigh less, and have higher levels of key minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, not to mention vitamin C. The sum total of these chemical advantages is a reduction in anxiety and stress and more feelings of optimism and happiness.
What Not To Do
Sometimes people who want to lose weight increase their caffeine intake, and reduce their carbohydrates, but these choices may injure mental health even if they may support weight reduction. Caffeine makes you anxious and jittery while interfering with sleep, which can lead to a depressive, deprived state. Denying yourself carbohydrates can have a similar impact – those who don’t get enough complex carbs often feel fatigued, anxious, angry, depressed, and tense.
Not getting enough iron, found in brown rice, soybeans, and spinach, or B-vitamins like thiamine, found in whole grains, seeds, and yeast, can also affect emotional state – insufficient iron causes fatigue, lack of focus and depression, while a thiamine deficiency leads to a variety of mental and emotional maladies, including loss of confidence, fatigue, listlessness, introversion, and overall bad mood.
It should be obvious that what we eat plays a major role in the way we feel, and by developing suitable eating habits, we can avoid anxiety and depression and encourage happiness and joy. Let’s decide to learn about what foods are best for us, and commit to feeding ourselves in the best way possible. Your brain will thank you for it.