Food and mood. Joined at the hip. We may think we just eat to satisfy our hunger and appetite but so much of our consumption both influences and is influenced by mood and mental attitude. Food can be the cause and effect of both negative and positive mood situations.
The eating disorder charity Beat estimates that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic one of our specialist skills is in this area. In recent blogs we have talked about eating disorders, how to recognize and recover from them. Check out our articles on binge eating disorder and also anorexia and bulimia in our teenage angst article.
So here we thought we would look at a different slant and celebrate how food can be used to uplift moods and attitudes.
Connection Between Mood And Food?
Food has both a scientific and psychological influence on our mood. From a scientific point of view there are a number of examples of how food can affect your mood…
- The most obvious example of the impact of science is the allergic reaction to certain foods that individuals have.
- Blood sugar fluctuations are also caused by food and can influence mood swings and energy levels.
- Deficiency of certain vitamins and key ingredients can also affect mood. A deficiency of vitamin D has been shown to influence depression while low levels of zinc are linked with eating disorders, and omega 3 oil deficiency associated with depression.
- Artificial chemicals in food can also cause abnormal mood reactions.
The psychological effect of food is ever-present. Many of us will be familiar with the positive sensation of sharing a cup of tea with a friend or enjoying a long and luxurious lunch. But the psychological effect of food situations must always be balanced with the type of food consumed. Processed food, caffeine and alcohol may be enjoyable in the situation but can also be contributors to depression and anxiety.
Foods And Situations To Avoid
When we’re feeling low and depressed one of the last things on our mind is eating properly. However, we would be well placed to avoid various foods and habits that can exacerbate a negative mind situation. For example…
- Skipping breakfast. Eating breakfast gets the day off to a good start and avoids the potential to binge on a large lunch. It is best to eat smaller portions throughout the day.
- Caffeine is a stimulant but it is also a dehydrator and its withdrawal symptoms can make us feel anxious, irritable and low. Try and reduce or replace your intake of caffeine.
- Alcohol also dehydrates and as it depletes B vitamins it can also lead to low mood.
- Sugar is another food to avoid in large quantities. It spikes blood sugar which can lead to fatigue and irritability when our glucose level drops.
- Processed foods will not only pile on the pounds but they are also likely to make us tired and can potentially lead to insulin imbalance and inflammation. This can elevate levels of C-reactive proteins associated with an increased risk of psychological distress and depression.
- Trans-fats or hydrogenated fats such as those found in biscuits and cakes, may make you feel good in the moment but this kind of fat isn’t good for your mood or your physical health.
Foods To Embrace
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate food to help you improve your mood, give you more energy and help you think clearly. Here are a few mood boosting foods and situations..
- First up make sure you stay hydrated. Drinking water is vital for a healthy mind and body. Try and consume the minimum six to eight glasses per day to help change and maintain a positive outlook.
- Keep your fruit and vegetable intake high. At a minimum your five a day – that means a handful for each of these portions. This gives you the right nutrients and fibres to maintain a healthy gut which can affect how you feel emotionally.
- Choose foods that release energy slowly such as oats and unrefined wholegrains.
- Protein is really important as it contains amino acids. These make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. You’ll find protein in lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese and also nuts and seeds
- The right kind of fats are crucial for your brain. Healthy fats such as omega 3 keep the brain in good shape and can fight off the feelings of depression. Healthy fats can be found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, nuts, and also olive and sunflower oil, seeds, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.
So, food can be a force for good. But remember you don’t need to change everything overnight. Make changes in small steps. If the changes you make are causing you to feel unhappy or guilty then just re-adjust. Remember you are doing this for your well-being and a sense of feeling good is what you must be looking for.
However we know that food can be a burden as well as a pleasure so, if your relationship with food has become negative to the degree that it is seriously affecting your overall mental health then please do contact us for a confidential chat.