Fad diets come and go, but one thing always stays the same: your body needs proper nutrition in order to function properly. When you don’t get proper nutrients, there are consequences – one of which is negative effects on your mood and the way you feel.
Besides feeling sluggish after overeating or loading up on sugars or unhealthy fats, you probably feel guilty. There’s a very obvious connection between the foods you eat and the way you feel. But there’s also something deeper at play.
Some people eat when they feel sad, depressed or lonely. But others feeling the same way eat nothing at all to cope with their feelings. Is there a scientific connection between the way we eat and how we feel? Let’s investigate this link and see if we can figure out the best way to eat well and maintain happiness, without restricting ourselves to boring food.
Optimal Nutrition for a Healthy Mind and Body
Before we delve into the connection between food and mood, let’s begin by investigating what the human body actually needs to stay properly nourished. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the human body needs the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Healthy foods that properly nourish the human body are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, fruits and vegetables. It is recommended you get the vitamins and minerals you need through the food you eat. That’s why it’s important to eat well, satiating your hunger with foods that benefit your health instead of providing nothing but empty calories.
Overfed and Undernourished
Food processing has stripped what we need to stay healthy from the food supply, leaving the majority of Americans without the proper nutrients. We live in a fast food nation, with a whopping 80% of Americans admitting to eating fast food at least once per month and one-third of Americans considered obese.
Besides the weight gain that comes with poor eating habits, the effects on mood are undeniable as well. One study investigating adults with mood disorders found a direct relationship between depression and maniac behavior and diets lacking essential nutrients.
A Deeper Relationship Between Food and Mood
Beyond the evidence found in the studies, think for a moment about a time when food made you feel good. And this doesn’t refer to the short-lived gratification that comes with eating a thick slice of chocolate cake. Consider, instead, a meal you have eaten that makes you feel good, tastes good and is also good for you. There is no guilt that comes with such a meal. Hopefully the meal was nutritious, packed full of protein and vegetables or other healthy options — a no guilt meal. Let’s call this scenario 1.
Conversely, in scenario 2, think about a time when you ate something and were later filled with regret. Whether it was multiple slices of pizza, a supersized fast food value meal or some other form of food lacking proper nutrition, you likely felt badly afterward. Maybe you became bloated, or perhaps you felt fatigued and guilty.
People who continually place themselves in scenario 1 likely have smaller waistlines, better sleep habits, fewer instances of diabetes and other diseases, and less stress. People who often find themselves in scenario 2 are likely caught in a negative cycle. They eat poorly, feel guilty and bad about it, and then eat the wrong foods again as they deal with their negative emotions and guilt.
You Have the Power to Change the Cycle
Regardless of how hopeless you may feel if you’re caught in scenario 2, you have the power to change it at any time. The positive effects that come with healthy eating, like better mood and more energy, will happen rather quickly. Your food choices have the power to transform your mood within a matter of days, but may come with a few initial side effects, such as headache or irritability, as your body adjusts to fewer toxins and better nutrients. These negative side effects are short lived and should disappear within a day or two.
Indulge in Brain Food
An easy way to start eating healthier and feeling better is to indulge in brain food. Everything in the body is connected, so if your body feels good and you’re eating well, your mood will likely be positive. There are specific foods known to boost brain function, such as the following:
- Flax seeds
- Low-GI whole grains
- Black currants
- Pumpkin seeds
If you begin slowly, adjusting your diet in an effort to eat healthier and feel better, you will experience fewer symptoms that come with drastically changing your diet. In other words, it will be easier on you than an abrupt change.
Making healthy food choices to feel good is all about balance. If you eat nothing but plain chicken and healthy vegetables every day, you might begin to feel better, but you’ll quickly become bored. Food should be enjoyed! If you train yourself to reach for healthier options without being overly restrictive, you will reap the benefits and not be bored with what you eat.
Finding the Right Balance
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the happiness diet, which is based on balancing fats, carbs and protein. Nothing is restricted on the happy diet and no food groups are eliminated. So you won’t experience a vitamin deficiency, and you should never feel hungry or grumpy, as long as you make an effort to eat nutritious meals and reach for healthy snacks.
Balance is the key to feeling good, and it starts with your diet. Aim to fill your plate with lots of different colors, and don’t load up with foods from one particular group and neglect another. Don’t restrict yourself, but maintain portion control.
Every Body is Different
Listen to your body and learn what’s right for you, because everyone is different. Some people can have the occasional soda without suffering any consequences, but others can’t. Some people find they need more of a particular vitamin for optimal benefits. Listen to your body and learn what’s right for you. After some time, you will become acutely aware of how your food affects how you feel. If it helps, keep a journal and log your food and mood for a few weeks, and see if you notice any patterns.
Does Your Diet Have the Power to Change Your Life?
Many people want to know if eating the right foods can help you be less stressed, be happier and live a more fulfilling life. The answer is a resounding “yes!” Learn to eat what makes you feel good in the long-term, and don’t live by harsh restrictions. Once you do, you will surely find yourself an all-around happier, and healthier, individual.