I think you and I can both agree that we sometimes get mood swings. Whether they are good or bad mood swings — is up to you.
I find it difficult at times to ALWAYS be happy and in a good mood when I am stressed about work or family related matters, etc.
Does it have to be like that?
Well it turns out that you can actually be in a GREAT mood, more often than you think. Almost all of us have suffered from mood swings at one time or another, right?
- 1 Where Does Your Mood Come From?
- 2 Can Eating Right Boost Your Mood?
- 3 1. The Bacterial Boost
- 3.0.1 “Researchers have known that the brain sends signals to your gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms. This study shows what has been suspected but until now had been proved only in animal studies: that signals travel the opposite way as well. Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,’ Dr. Kirsten Tillisch said. ‘Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”
- 4 2. Fats Can Feel Good
- 5 3. The Power of Proteins
- 6 4. Carbohydrates Attribute To Your Moods
- 7 5. Happy Meals Have Fruits and Vegetables
- 8 6. The Coconut Cure
- 9 7. Hot Beverages To The Rescue
- 10 8. Sweet Delight
- 11 Take Home Message
There are a number of mood boosting foods and natural mood enhancers that can help improve your mood. In today’s post, I want to share with you foods that fight depression and improve your mood. I’ll share with you what foods I focus on eating to help make me happy.
I also want to share with you the natural mood boosters that put me in a good mood!
Where Does Your Mood Come From?
When I think about my mood, I think about whether or not I am happy. I think I can speak for all of us, but being happy is what I want all the time.
Did you know…
Mood swings are controlled by your hormones that function as messengers to manage every aspect of your health?
And, as impossible as it is to have a near perfect hormonal balance, certain mood boosting foods can help boost your hormone functioning.
Other than your hormones, brain chemicals that transmit information to and from the brain also play an important role in controlling your moods and behavior.
These brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, are influenced by:
- Environmental factors
- Genetic factors and
- External emotional stimulus
You cannot impose any control over external emotional disturbances, regulating your food habits and nutrition is a great way to normalize your neurotransmitter levels.
Let’s take a closer look at how certain foods can change the way you feel.
Can Eating Right Boost Your Mood?
Nutritional neuroscience is an entire new discipline that emphasizes that nutritional factors are tightly linked to human cognition, behavior, and emotions.
Studies have proven that your gut activity might influence your emotions and behavioral patterns.
According to recent research your mood can benefit from certain gut bacteria that produce chemicals used during brain signaling such as:
- Dopamine – involved in many different functions including movement, motivation, reward — and addiction.
- Serotonin – serotonin can affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function.
- Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid (GABA) – inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity.
A diagnostic study performed on 12 subjects suffering from borderline personality disorders indicated a direct correlation between altered serotonin levels and symptomatic behavior of the subjects. Meaning, the researchers found that human aggression and suicide were associated with lower levels of serotonin.
Additionally animal models suffering from depression were tested positive for brain GABA deficits and GABA agonists that generated antidepressant like effects on them. What this means is that, lower levels of GABA caused higher amounts of depression and bipolar moods.
It’s important to make sure these chemical levels are within good ranges to have a balanced healthy mood.
So where does food fit into all of this?
The list goes on…
Other foods that can affect your mood enhancing brain chemicals include:
- Fish oil
- Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, green leafy veggies and beet root
Even chocolate can help change your mood and have a powerful impact on your emotions.
So let’s take a look at how all of these foods affect your mood.
1. The Bacterial Boost
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are:
- Good for your health and
- Naturally found in your body
Your body hosts many types of microbes on your skin, your mouth, and in your gastrointestinal tract.
It has been estimated that more than 1000 different species of bacteria make their homes inside your body — some of these may actually benefit your health.
An animal study published in Molecular Psychiatry in 2014 stated that the presence of a microbiota (micro-organisms that live in your body) is essential for normal social behavior.
In this study a group of 2-4 mice were raised in a bacteria-free bubble and studied for factors such as social interactions and sociability.
These mice reported an increase in response to stress and social impairments just as observed in most neurological disorders.
Contrary to this…
Exposing them to beneficial gut microbiota led to a miraculous reversal in their social interactions and improved all symptoms associated with neurological disorders.
This proved that there is an obvious link between the gut microbiota and emotional/mental behavioral changes.
Another study performed at the California Institute of Technology concluded that using probiotics can lead to a significant improvement in Gastro-Intestinal (GI) tract problems and behavioral symptoms in autistic mice models.
In particular, they were more likely to communicate with other mice, had reduced anxiety, and were less likely to engage in a repetitive digging behavior.
Bacteria is not just for mice…
(Alex Redmond) Instagram page
In 2011 human subjects exposed to a combination of probiotics such as Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum saw a significant reduction in depression and anxiety patterns after 30 days.
A study from UCLA found that changing gut bacteria through diet affects your brain’s function.
In the study, 36 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 55 were divided in three groups:
- The treatment group ate yogurt containing several probiotics thought to have a beneficial impact on intestinal health, twice a day for one month
- Another group ate a “sham” product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
- Control group ate no product at all
The researchers found that women who regularly consumed beneficial bacteria known as probiotics through yogurt showed altered brain function, both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.
Scientists at UCLA quoted:
“Researchers have known that the brain sends signals to your gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms. This study shows what has been suspected but until now had been proved only in animal studies: that signals travel the opposite way as well. Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,’ Dr. Kirsten Tillisch said. ‘Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”
Science provides abundant evidence to prove that the use of probiotics can improve gut microbiota and positively influence your mood and stress levels.
How often do you eat yogurt?
2. Fats Can Feel Good
Our body is made up of an aggregation of tiny units called cells. We all know that, but…
Did you know…
Each cell is surrounded by a protective boundary known as the cell membrane? These membranes are partially made up of omega-3-fatty acids.
Omega-3-fatty acids are commonly found in:
- Vegetable oils
- Nuts (especially walnuts)
- Flax seeds
- Flaxseed oil
- Leafy vegetables
In 1998, scientist had noted extremely low levels of omega-3-fatty acids in the red blood cells of patients suffering from depression.
This was not enough proof to confirm the effects of omega-3-fatty acids on your mood.
So what happened?
Another clinical trial of course!
Another clinical trial was performed on 30 depressed patients in 1999 a year later.
According to the results, almost 64% of the patients who consumed 10 grams of fish oil daily for 4 months, showed a significant improvement in their symptoms and mood patterns.
Researchers have pointed out that an increase in omega-3-fatty acids makes it easier for the neurotransmitter serotonin to pass through the cell membrane of your neurons, a.k.a — your nerve cells.
This suggests that, omega-3-fatty acids may have a direct effect on serotonin which plays a crucial role in uplifting your mood.
In countries with a high average consumption of fish, there tends to be lower levels of depression within these populations.
A handful of such studies have confirmed that omega-3-fatty acids can soothe your depression.
So next time you feel low…
Head straight to the kitchen and cook yourself some fish or snack on nuts to feel the difference!
3. The Power of Proteins
Proteins play a very crucial role in the development and functioning of your brain.
Proteins supply various amino acids to your body such as:
- Tryptophan (found in banana peels)
- Tyrosine – an amino acid that is used to produce noradrenaline and dopamine
- Valine – provides glucose to working or active muscles to ensure that those muscle’s fibers don’t break down
- Leucine – contributes to regulation of blood-sugar levels; growth and repair of muscle and bone tissue; growth hormone production; and wound healing.
These amino acids are used up to make certain neurotransmitters that help your brain to communicate with the rest of your body.
Specific neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrin and dopamine play a vital role in maintaining your mood, memory as well as learning abilities.
High quality protein sources such as eggs, almonds, chicken or turkey can also help regulate your blood pressure. These protein sources can also maintain a steady mood and aid with your energy levels.
Researchers have carried out several multi-disciplinary studies on the effects of protein deficiencies and the development of brains in mice models.
These studies have concluded that many physiological behavior patterns are closely linked with the intake of protein rich foods.
On a side note…
You might eat red meat, which is high in protein, but personally, I stay away from red meat since it has been linked to cancer. I have not eaten red meat in almost two years now.
Anyway, according to an animal study on mice, the exposure of 100mg/kg of tyrosine (found in protein rich foods), a neurotransmitter precursor for about 4.5 hours showed a significant reduction in behavioral and neurochemical deficits.
Another study performed on 29 patients with high stress levels confirmed positive effects of tryptophan on stress vulnerability.
During the study the consumption of whey protein (a commonly used form of powdered protein) showed a considerable increase in the plasma levels of tryptophan.
Increased levels of tryptophan, an amino acid directly associated with the neurotransmitter serotonin, resulted in an improvement in memory and stress vulnerability among all the subjects. If you are interested in foods to help boost memory, you can check one of my previous articles here.
A protein rich diet can positively affect the levels of neurochemicals which can help improve your mood patterns.
4. Carbohydrates Attribute To Your Moods
WebMD says that the connection between mood and carbs is closely linked to the activity of a non-essential amino acid called tryptophan.
Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin that plays a vital role in regulating your mood.
Did you know that consuming 300 grams of carbohydrates daily can have similar effects on regulating your moods? If you are interested in knowing how many carbs you should eat to lose weight, you can check that post here.
But wait a minute!
If carbs and proteins both supply tryptophan should I really be consuming more carbs to improve my mood?
From further research I found that the tryptophan supplied by proteins faces a stiff competition from other amino acids supplied by protein rich foods.
Thus consuming more carbs seems to negate any such competition and allows increased levels of tryptophan to enter your brain.
More Carbohydrates = More Tryptophan = Better Moods
One clinical study performed on 184 people consuming a carbohydrate rich and poor protein diet showed greater levels of calmness among men as opposed to the results observed in women. The women actually felt more tired.
You must remember…
Consuming simple carbs (ones that can digest quickly to enter your bloodstream) can lead to a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels causing sharp fluctuations in your mood and behavior.
So make sure that you choose whole grains, fruits and lentils as your carb source to reduce your anxiety and mood issues.
Try and focus on low glycemic indexed foods as well.
5. Happy Meals Have Fruits and Vegetables
But can the same food also help with mood alterations?
If you are someone who suffers from depression or is always in a bad mood, I think its safe to say, it’s difficult to eat healthy foods such as healthy breakfasts, and be active each day.
- Reduce the feeling of depression
- Protect your brain against feeling depressed
- Enhance the feeling of relaxation when coupled with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant rich foods
Simply adding a banana to your meals can increase the amounts of vitamins that generate a soothing effect on your nervous system.
These green leafy vegetables give you high concentrations of vitamin B and folate which are both associate to a reduction in negative moods.
Though we all turn to junk foods and sugar on our bad days, eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables can help lift your spirits and stay healthy.
6. The Coconut Cure
For decades, coconuts were considered a source of unhealthy fats that clogged your arteries.
But not anymore…
Coconuts are now considered to be a super food that can treat a series of diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to tooth decay.
Our brains require a steady supply of fat in order to give you a mood boost.
Coconuts are one of the best known sources of fat aiding prevention for depression, memory loss and stress attacks.
This is because they are composed of Medium-Chain-Triglycerides (MTCs) that are quickly absorbed and digested in the body making these fats easily available to the brain cells to generate mood boosting effects.
Coconuts can help fuel neurotransmitters such a serotonin to regulate your mood and your hormones.
They help with:
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- General anxiety
- Poor focus
- Mild depression
Though coconut oil gets most of the spotlight when it comes to health benefits, it’s better to consume sources of coconut that are rich in fiber and protein to maximized profits.
7. Hot Beverages To The Rescue
Two crossover studies evaluated the effects of tea and coffee on mood and physiological responses. The results indicated both of these beverages were associated with an increase in mood.
Based on a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine women who consume 2-3 cups of coffee daily are 15% less likely to develop depression for 10 years. Those who consume 4 or more cups of coffee daily are 20% less likely to develop depression for 20 years!
Researchers have revealed that a moderate amount of caffeine consumption (<6 cups a day) can considerably reduce the symptoms of depression.
While caffeine is the main source of coffee, you can also find caffeine in:
- Energy drinks
- Soft drinks
Avoiding added sugars and energy drinks is a healthier option. Read my article on sugar alternatives here, and the dangers of aspartame here. I stay as far away from sodas and energy drinks as I can, and so should you.
Relying on a hot cup of tea or coffee to kick-start your day is a great idea!
8. Sweet Delight
If you made it this far in the post, close your eyes for one second. Imagine a piece of dark chocolate melting in your mouth after a long day at work. Can you already feel all your stress fade away?
In a randomized clinical trial published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the researchers had healthy middle-aged subjects consume dark chocolate containing 500 and 250 milligrams of polyphenols.
After 30 days of consuming the prescribed chocolate, all 72 participants who completed the trial showed a significant increase in their calmness and contentedness compared to the rest.
Scientists recommend that consuming 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate everyday for 2 weeks can help reduce your stress hormone levels.
Chocolate has been well-known to increase serotonin levels also contains small quantities of phenylethylamine. This compound acts like an amphetamine, stimulating your brain cells to release dopamine.
Chocolate can be an amazing mood lifter when eaten in moderation. I aim to only eat dark chocolate and not milk chocolate since it is much healthier and filled with antioxidants.
Take Home Message
Stress and depression may affect your mood even when you don’t realize it. Eating the right feel good foods can help with boosting your moods.
There are a lot of activities and practices you can do to relieve stress and become happier in life. I always suggest starting with eating the right mood boosting foods to fight depression and stress. By paying attention to the foods you eat, you can have a positive effect on how you feel.
Steering away from comfort foods and sticking to more nutritious food options can help improve your mood in a healthier manner. Also, if you have a sweet tooth, try making healthy desserts instead.
I tend to say this in every post because it is so true.
You are what you eat!
The mood foods mentioned above help with fighting depression, stress, and anxiety. Eating properly is important for your health. Sticking to eating foods that boost your mood is vital to being happy and focused.
What foods do you eat to stay in a good mood? Write your responses in the comments section below!