‘Waking up on the wrong side of the bed’ is a saying – but it also feels like a very real thing.
Irritability, grumpiness and anxiety – we often attribute these feelings to lack of sleep, hormones or other factors outside of our control.
And, while these factors certainly have an effect on our mood, the food we eat is also to blame.
Supporter vs Stressor Foods
When it comes to improving our mood through food, there are two paths we can take; either up your intake of supporter foods or cut out stressor foods.
Supporter foods include complex carbohydrates like fruit and vegetables (particularly bananas, pumpkin, spinach and pineapple), whole grains, healthy fats and proteins. Stressor foods include alcohol, caffeine, added sugars, refined wheat and processed fats.
Cutting down on stressors can result in improvements in anxiety, panic attacks and general mood swings, and having a positive dietary and nutritional strategy will help to improve our general emotional and mental health
So why do ‘Support Foods’ make us feel better?
You’ve probably heard of serotonin, the happy hormone that our body produces naturally. Serotonin also helps to regulate sleep, appetite and impulse control. This hormone is made partly of an essential amino acid called tryptophan; which can’t be produced in the body, only absorbed through natural food sources and supplements.
Basically, the higher the levels of serotonin in the brain, the happier we feel! If our bodies are not absorbing enough tryptophan, the production of serotonin will be reduced, resulting in low moods, anxiety and even depression.
So, what about your gut?
Around 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, which is one of the many reasons why gut health is so important! The stomach is often referred to as a “second brain”, and that’s because so many complex happenings take place here – for example, it has its own independent nervous systems and also produces the neurochemicals that the brain uses for processes such as mood, memory and learning.
A healthy gut is home to healthy bacteria that ensure it’s working properly, by metabolising and producing the right chemicals, proteins and nutrients to give you energy, helping to restore your vitality and make you feel happy!
Foods that are high in good bacteria and aid gut health include:
Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi)
Beans and legumes
Cruciferous (dark green leafy) vegetables
Improve your mood with the right foods
Becoming more in tune with your body, environment and diet will all help you make smarter food choices, positively influencing your mood and happiness.
In winter, or during periods of increased hormone activity (menstruation, menopause), your serotonin levels can drop. It is important to pay attention to your gut health by avoiding stressor foods and actively seeking out supporter foods.
Get into the mindset that happiness and health start in the kitchen!
Train yourself into the habit of eating regular nutrient-dense meals, carrying healthy snacks on you and planning your meals in advance. These practical strategies will help you avoid craving fatty or sugary stressor foods, and help regulate your mood. Keeping a food and mood diary can also awareness to how you feel – you may be surprised at how noticeable the effects of different foods and drinks have on your mood and body, and how quickly!
Whether you decide to increase the supporter foods in your diet or decrease stressor ones, the decision to respect your body and the foods you put in it will naturally help you feel healthier, happier and lighter – both inside and out!