How can the food we eat alter our mood?
I was asked to write an article on Food and Mood for a publication, while doing it I was reminded what an important subject it is and how so many people over look this vital connection; here’s some information for you to ponder before you reach for your next ‘pick me up’.
Firstly, if you like sweet things, are addicted to sugar or consider yourself to be an emotional eater, it isn’t your fault! I see so many self-esteem issues associated with a poor diet yet the person(s) responsible is not who you see in the mirror. The person you see in the mirror can take control though.
Who can we blame? Well biology plays a part let’s look at why: –
The biggest influencing factor is the neurological link of food and mood so let’s start by looking at your brain. There are certain areas of your brain which are influenced by pleasure and reward, the more you feed these, the more you ‘dumb down’ the receptors meaning you need more to get the same hit. This is a problem when Sugar is so addictive and hidden in so many foods!
The second reason why you may prefer sweet things or find them addictive could harp back to our ancestors; in evolutionary terms many bitter compounds in nature are toxic, so preferring sweet tastes could be a protective mechanism. But, remember we are not hunter-gatherers anymore so do not need to worry about this!
Emotional Eating – that can cover stress/tired/comfort/boredom/habitual eating). This occurs when the chemical balance in the brain is altered. That can be artificially altered by eating too much sugar and trans-fats or by excess caffeine and alcohol, but how should you create the right chemical balance?
Let’s get a little bit science-y I love this about nutrition. You eat a food and it goes on a biological journey which can alter your mood. But, how do we eat enough of the right foods to make us happy?
Protein. Make sure you eat enough protein! Protein is made up of amino acids, these are the components which are essential to all areas of our health. Often an amino acid will act as a precursor in a biosynthetic pathway, in the case of neurotransmitters (the things which alter our mood, making us happy, alert, calm, motivated, sleepy etc) the amino acids you need to eat are:
• Tyrosine to create dopamine
• Tryptophan to make serotonin
• Tyrosine to make norepinephrine
• Choline to make acetylcholine
These neurotransmitters in turn affect your happiness, mood stability, mental alertness and memory.
There are many other links relating to food and mood, this is a very quick summary for more information on the nutritional subjects I cover in my private consultations, Learn over Lunch events or to purchase my book which looks at the nutritional impact on a child’s brain please visit;
Thanks for reading,