Mood swings happen. No one likes to feel down in the dumps but the reality is that between work, school, and family, it can be difficult to stay upbeat, energized, and happy all of the time.
Certainly, eliminating a stressor or two, and practicing self-care, can help. What if we told you that healthier eating plays a role in your mood and mental health?
Food nourishes our bodies, and if we don’t put the “right” things in, it is hard to get the “right” things out.
To help you better understand how healthier eating affects your mental state, we’ve gathered the important scientific details and even included some mood-boosting foods to get you started in the right direction!
How Does Healthier Eating Affect Mood?
On the surface, it seems strange that healthier eating would have anything to do with mood, but when you start to dig a little deeper, the connection becomes clear.
Think about it, we often feel more energized when we eat protein-rich foods and a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables. If we eat heavy, starchy foods full of processed ingredients and white sugar, we often feel sluggish.
A diet of nutrient-rich foods and antioxidants will fuel your body, provide energy, and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates and processed sugars can promote inflammation and oxidative stress, preventing your body and your brain from performing as they should. What’s more, this can worsen mental health conditions like depression.
The Brain-Gut Connection
Over the last few years, science has begun to explore the gut, or “little brain,” and the brain-gut connection. While there is still a lot left to learn, the current knowledge suggests that healthier eating habits play a pivotal role.
The human body produces neurotransmitters that impact our mood. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin.
Serotonin helps to regulate sleep, appetite, pain, and mood. Interestingly, 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, where there are millions of neurons. These neurons, and serotonin production, are influenced by “good” gut bacteria contained in the microbiome.
These good bacteria reduce inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and activate the pathways that run between the gut and brain.
Mood-Boosting Foods for Healthier Eating
Fortunately, many foods can help us support gut health, boost mood, and improve overall well-being.
In general, healthier eating habits mean that you will want to avoid highly processed foods with unhealthy ingredients that are high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Focus instead on whole foods or foods that have healthier ingredients.
Look for foods that are higher in fiber while cutting down on sugar. Instead of fruit and vegetable juices, try to eat more fresh and frozen (without added sugar!) fruits and vegetables.
To give you a clearer path towards healthier eating, here are some foods that have been known to have a positive impact on mood:
Healthier eating should include colorful foods that are full of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are antioxidant compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright color.
Berries, like blueberries and blackberries, are rich in antioxidants that can reduce and manage mood disorders.
At the moment, it is not entirely clear how these compounds work, but they appear to play a role in managing symptoms associated with depression.
Anthocyanin, for example, is a phytonutrient that gives some berries their purple-blue pigment. In a study exploring diet and antioxidants, diets rich in anthocyanins were associated with improved cognitive health.
• Fatty Fish
When following a healthier eating plan, many people believe that fat is a no-go. But, the reality is that proper amounts of good fats, like omega fatty acids, can be beneficial in a number of ways.
Fatty fish, like salmon and Albacore tuna, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats have been linked to reduced rates of depression.
More research needs to be done to identify the effectiveness of omega 3s and fish oils at improving mood, but the information gathered to date is promising.
Legumes, like beans, peas, and lentils, are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber. What’s more, they are full of nutrients that can elevate mood and are easier to work into a healthier eating plan.
Legumes contain B vitamins which help increase serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid. Each of these substances plays a key role in mood regulation.
These foods are also sources of zinc, magnesium, selenium, and non-heme iron, nutrients that have been linked to elevated moods.
Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, which can help synthesize mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
While bananas contain a fair amount of natural sugar, they also contain fiber. When sugar is eaten with fiber, its release into the bloodstream is slowed, allowing for more controlled blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar can cause significant mood swings. Bananas can satisfy the craving for something sweet without destroying your healthier eating habits!
Pre-ripe bananas, those with a little green left on the peel, are a source of prebiotics. Prebiotics help to nourish healthy gut bacteria. A healthy gut, with a healthy microbiome, has been known to stabilize mood disorders.
Grab a Snack You Can Feel Good About
Healthier eating clearly impacts mood. While we may not yet understand all the science behind the ways food can make us feel good, it won’t do any harm to improve our diets in the meantime!
For most of us, eating healthier snacks is the key to maintaining healthier eating habits. All of the foods listed above can support your efforts to stay in a positive frame of mind and combat fatigue but sometimes eating a piece of salmon or a bowl of beans is not particularly convenient (or desirable!).
Thankfully, Harvest Snaps can help!
Our gluten-free, peanut-free baked snacks are packed with plant-powered goodness in every snap! Made with green peas, black beans, or red lentils as the first ingredient, they fit right in with your healthier eating goals!
And with multiple flavor options, and three snack varieties, these are a perfect match for everyone!
- Snack Crisps
The classic Snack Crisps are shaped like pea pods and give a satisfying crunch. The #1 ingredient is always veggie and is available in 7 tasty and unique flavors (such as Wasabi Ranch, Mango Chili Lime, and Black Pepper), they bring all the joy of better-for-you eating with all the satisfaction of your favorite salty snack!
Made from red lentils, Crunchions take snacking to a whole new level! This baked snack is ring-shaped which adds a layer of fun while still holding true as a better-for-you option. With less salt and more flavor than similarly shaped corn-based snacks, Crunchions will quickly become your new go-to. Choose from Kick’n BBQ, Tangy Sweet Chili, and Sour Cream & Onion.
- Popper Duos
Made from green peas, Popper Duos come in a fun, pop-able round shape with a perfect crunch! We pair 2 scrumptious flavors in one playful bite! Choose from BBQ & Ranch, Salsa & Cheddar, and Yellow & White Cheddar.
Wherever you are in your healthier eating journey, take Harvest Snaps along for the ride!