‘You are what you eat,’ is a common expression used to warn people against a diet full of sugary snacks and drinks. However, is there some truth in this old expression? Science would suggest so.
Your brain is full of chemicals called neurotransmitters and these regulate our moods. Protein foods such as fish, chicken, eggs, and nuts provide chemicals called amino acids which form the foundation of these neurotransmitters. Vitamins and minerals, consumed through eating, help to convert these acids into fully functioning neurotransmitters.
In 1983 a study was performed by Spring et al. in which 184 adults consumed either a protein or carbohydrate full meal. Then, after 2 hours, their moods were assessed to see how their meals had affected them. Females tended to report feeling sleepy after eating carbohydrates whereas men stated they felt calm. Additionally, those over 40 participated in a test and reported that they sustained a selective attention span following their lunch of carbs.
What can eating well do for your mood?
Improving your diet can help you: have more positivity and positive feelings; provide you with more energy; supply you with a clearer mind for clearer thinking, and keep your moods calm.
If you find that your emotions/moods tend to be all over the place, look at your diet and see if something you’re eating could be affecting your feelings.
How can I improve my eating habits?
The easy answer is to have a healthy, balanced diet. But how do you achieve this? Well, you need to make sure you’re eating breakfast every day: breakfast starts your day off right because it activates your metabolism; essentially waking your body up.
Eat smaller portions throughout the day as opposed to large lunch or dinner. Include your 5 a day of fruit and veg wherever you can in these meals: they contain essential mineral, vitamins and fibre your body needs to keep you healthy. Throw in some oily fish, seeds and nuts (walnuts and almonds mainly) – these contain good, oily fats such as Omega 3 and 6.
Avoid foods that will make your blood sugar increase rapidly such as sweets, energy drinks, fizzy drinks, and alcohol.
How can what you drink also affect your mood?
Not staying hydrated can also make you feel tired, groggy and distracted throughout the day. Make sure you’re drinking the recommended 2 litres of water to make sure your body stays hydrated and healthy.
Caffeinated drinks are also not good for your diet: caffeine makes you need the toilet frequently which means you’re not getting the hydration you need. It’s also a stimulant that can make you feel depressed and keep you awake. You can also suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches and feeling low when you try and stop drinking caffeinated drinks, especially if you consume a large quantity throughout the day.
Essentially, food does affect our moods. The best thing you can do is make sure you’re eating enough of the right things and staying hydrated during the day to avoid entering a ‘food slum.’