Chances are you’ve experienced that ‘hangry’ feeling when you haven't eaten in a while-we know we have! Well there’s good reason for that! Food has a powerful effect on our minds. The good news is: your mood is not fully out of your control! With a few mindful changes, we can get a handle on how our bodies react to certain foods, and we can in turn, better control our mood. Here are some tips for doing just that.
Fruits and veggies to the rescue
The benefits of fruits and veggies blow our minds! They go beyond just helping us meet our nutrient, vitamin and mineral needs. It’s been proven that people who eat more fruits and veggies are less likely to experience depression and anxiety and experience greater life satisfaction, motivation, energy and level of engagement (1). Yep, we’re not making this up.
Here are some tips to get the most out of your fruits and veggies:
- The brighter the better: Look for vibrant and bright colors, such as deep purple, dark greens, orange, red and yellow when you're in the produce aisle. These rich colors hold loads of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Show love to the imperfect ones in the bunch: Embrace the extra curves, bumps and colors. Imperfect produce is just as nutritious and delicious as its perfect counterpart and is budget-friendly.
Healthy Fats aren’t just good for your heart
Eating foods that have omega 3’s and omega 6’s help keep our brain healthy and are being researched as part of a strategy to help those individuals living with depression and anxiety disorders (2).
Avocados, nuts, seeds and especially extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are all excellent sources of plant-based healthy fats.
Reach for minimally processed EVOO when possible to ensure you’re getting all the natural antioxidants and nutrients found in this awesome oil.
Conversely, eating foods high in unhealthy fats tend to have the opposite effect on mood. Trans fats have shown to wreak havoc on your mental health. They can increase inflammation in the brain, which is directly linked to depression. Studies have also shown that high levels of trans fats may also reduce serotonin production in the brain, leading to depression.
Don’t get Hangry!
Although the term hangry may not be a scientific term, we all know that it is a very real feeling that creeps up when our stomachs are trying to tell us something. Tiredness, frustration and irritability are common side effects of being ‘hangry’. Eating on a regular basis, in combination with choosing the right type of foods, will help keep the hangry feelings in check!
Eating on a regular basis will look differently for everyone. But for the most part, regular is ensuring that you do not feel those hunger pangs throughout the day. If time is not on your side and you are having trouble sneaking in meals or snacks throughout the day, here are a few tips we use around our office:
- #mealprep the night before or even the week before. Designating one day of the week for some good batch cooking is a great way to keep your fridge stocked and your stomach happy.
- Stock your desk with nutritious on-the-go snacks, such as nuts, seeds, or even your homemade energy balls, to help you during that crunch time.
- Make breakfast the night before to help kick start your day off right! Explore the versatility of overnight oats and smoothies.
Stay hydrated a glass at a time
You don’t need us to tell you to drink more water! There are so many reasons why H2O is essential. We’ve all had days where we experienced brain fog and couldn’t concentrate. Staying hydrated may help reduce those feelings and keep you thinking clearly and sharply. Key findings from a study at the Hydration for Health Initiative indicated that a reduction in water intake lead participants to become less calm, less content, less vigorous, and reported lower positive emotions. Yikes! Time to grab a glass!
Although H20 needs vary from person to person, consider these tips:
- Aim for 2-3 liter's each day as a start. If this seems daunting to you, try to gradually increase your H20 each day
- Add some flavor to your glass. Stay clear of artificially sweetened water beverages and focus on using plant-based flavor enhancers. Be adventurous with fruits, vegetables and herbs. We love lemon & fresh basil, or strawberries & rosemary
Show your gut some love
Foods that are rich in prebiotics, probiotics and fiber are the key players for a happy and healthy gut. But did you know that our gut health can affect our mental health? The gut-brain axis is a scientifically complex system that is in constant communication with one another. It sounds scientific...because it is! When our gut health is not at its best (this is referred to as dysbiosis) the signals and messages sent between our gut and brain can impact our behavior and mood (4).
Foods that show you gut some love include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, garlic, artichokes, bananas, onions, fermented products and products with probiotics added.
It’s Science, but not Rocket Science
Our bodies have a powerful way of telling us when they like or dislike. We don’t claim to know all the answers, but what we do know is eating more healthy, clean plant-food is a sure-fire way to feeling good on the inside and out! So next time you notice a change in your mood, take time to reflect on what may have caused this change. After all, we are what we eat!
- Conner TS, Brookie KL, Carr AC, Mainvil LA, Vissers MCM (2017). Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE 12(2):e0171206. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171206
- Larrieu T and Laye S (2018). Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety. Front. Physiol. 9:1047. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01047
- Mind (2015). Mind for Better Mental Health: Exploring Food and Mood. Information Retrieved from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/#.XBEgT6fMxdg
- Sirisinha S (2016). The potential impact of gut microbiota on your health: current status and future challenges. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol 2016;34:249-264 DOI 10.12932/AP0803