Nutrition and Your Mood

I was running out the door the other day as I often do and realized that I needed to bring something for lunch. I quickly scanned the cupboards and refrigerator and tossed in a cliff bar, a few oranges and any other prepackaged item I could find while popping a few cookies into my mouth because?… I was in a hurry. I’m sure you can relate. On these days I often find myself swinging by a coffee shop and getting a snack, usually involving chocolate, or heading into a CVS or Walgreens to round out my appetite. By the middle of the day I can already tell that I feel off, that it’s harder to concentrate, that I feel sluggish and tired and that my mood shifts from feeling like I have a little extra pep in my step to wanting to hit the couch as soon as I get home and close out the world. My tolerance for crying kiddos lessens and I notice I’d rather watch tv than engage in other things that make me happy. At this point I reverse my day and try to determine what is making me feel so crummy? More often that not it’s poor decisions about my nutrition.

A friendly reminder that what we eat, can in fact, influence how we feel physically and emotionally. The food we eat and the chemicals in our brains work together to help keep us moving throughout the day. A few types of foods to keep in mind when wanting to stay physically moving and emotionally stable include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

* CARBOHYDRATES: Carbohydrates actually facilitate the production of serotonin, which is a chemical that has been shown to contribute to a sense of well-being and happiness. With the old fad of the Atkins diet and the newer Paleo diet, this can be missing in people’s day. On the flip side, it is important not to overindulge as this can have the opposite affect and cause fatigue.

* PROTEIN: Protein increases the chemicals/hormones dopamine and norepinephrin and help facilitate concentration and alertness.

* FATS: Omega-3, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats and are essential for optimal brain function and mental health, among other health benefits. Don’t be afraid to have these fats in your nutritional plan! A few examples include olive oil, safflower oil, salmon, tuna, butternuts and sunflower, avocados, olives, nuts in their raw form, kale and spinach.

Poor nutrition or lack of a variety of healthy foods can contribute to depression by limiting the availability of these specific nutrients. So don’t forget that keeping a healthy balanced nutritional plan is not only important for your physical health but also help stabilize your mood.

Written by Sonja Kromroy, MA, LPC