You’ve undoubtedly heard the adage, “you are what you eat”. Of course, this doesn’t mean if you eat a watermelon, you’ll turn into one. What it does mean is if you eat healthy food, you’ll become healthy; not only healthy in body, but also in mind as well.
Food affects our moods maybe more than we realize, and there’s an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence to support this. In fact, there's a whole new field of study called nutritional psychiatry that is scientific witness to the effectiveness of food as a source for regulating emotion and behavior.
Food is so much more than fuel
Like an expensive car, our brains function best on premium fuel and can be damaged by anything less.
According to Eva Sellhub, MD of Harvard, 95% of the neurotransmitter, Serotonin, is produced within the intestinal tract, that labyrinthine network of intestines that digests what we eat and turns it into various forms of fuel. Since serotonin is one of a number of neurotransmitters that regulate mood, what we eat directly affects how we feel. We could say happiness is in our gut. What’s more, the function of our neurons and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, are highly influenced by the production of the “good” bacteria found in probiotics. Therefore, foods rich in probiotics should be incorporated into your diet. Here are some probiotic abundant foods:
- Pickled cucumber
As you can see, these foods are fermented or cultured with “good” bacteria, whereas the majority of the processed foods and the western diet in general, actually kill the good bacteria. The result of these over-processed and adulterated foods is decreased neurotransmitter formation and depression. Studies have shown that probiotics even decrease anxiety, so if you find these fermented foods unappetizing, purchase some probiotic supplements.
There are a few things we can do to eat right and increase those serotonin levels:
- Pay attention – Start paying attention to what foods directly affect your moods and why.
- Begin a notebook where you can track your progress.
- Eliminate – Eliminate the foods that make you feel bloated, depressed, anxious, etc.
- Go clean – Cut out all processed foods, especially sugar.
- Options – Some people prefer to eliminate dairy products and grains, as well.
Dr. Selhub suggests you “go clean” for at least three weeks to reach a baseline, then you can begin to reintroduce each food individually. Yes, it’s time-consuming but the rewards will far outweigh the sacrifice of time involved.
There are some complex carbohydrates also known to increase serotonin levels that may sound more appealing than the above-fermented ones that will also slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, which will prevent mood swings. They are also a source of fiber. Fill your meals with these as see how you feel:
- Brussel sprouts
There’s a clear relationship between food and your emotions, so watch what you eat. Be happy and eat food that makes happiness and health your priority!
1. Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food. Harvard Health Blog.
2. Mood Food: Can What You Eat Effect Your Happiness? Healthline.
3. 13 Great Probiotic Foods You Should Be Eating.