Carrots or cookies? Water or soda?
We make choices every day on how to curb our hunger pains and quench our thirst. But these decisions are so much more than taste for our mouths and fuel for our bodies—they play a crucial role in our overall health in affecting mood, brain function and memory.
Laura Sheets, bariatric clinical dietitian at Mercy Health – Weight Management Solutions in our Toledo market, noted the importance of maintaining a balanced diet by incorporating a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. She also cautions against the temporary satisfaction offered by high sugar, processed and fast foods, which may lead to sluggishness and irritability.
“It’s not just about eating – it’s about nourishing our bodies with the right choices,” Laura says.
Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, can disrupt blood sugar levels, inducing irritability, fatigue and brain fog. Instead, Laura notes that balanced meals can help keep energy levels consistent throughout the day and therefore a better mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids: nurturing the brain
A crucial player in the mood-boosting arena are omega-3 fatty acids, which is found abundantly in fish, as well as plant sources like chia seeds and hemp seeds.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are like superheroes for our brain,” Laura says. “They combat inflammation and contribute to a positive mood by addressing symptoms of depression.”
Magnesium and vitamin D: allies for mood enhancement
Laura also highlights the significance of magnesium – found in seeds, nuts, beans, whole grains and dark chocolate – which can help with better sleep as well as relieving stress and anxiety.
And then there’s vitamin D. Seasonal depression and mood disorders can be common during the winter months when there are shorter days and longer nights. But a lack of vitamin D can add to the blues. So, while there may be a lack of vitamin D coming from sunlight, we can still get our fair share through foods such as eggs, egg yolks, fatty fish and liver.
The gut-brain connection: probiotics for mood health
Emerging trends in nutritional psychology focus on probiotics and their influence on gut health, subsequently impacting overall mood. Laura recommends incorporating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso into your diet to foster both gut and brain health.
“The majority of serotonin, the feel-good hormone that our bodies make, is produced in the gut,” she explains. “So, maintaining gut health directly impacts our serotonin levels and helps our mood.”
Managing emotional eating: a balanced approach
Regular meals along with a balanced diet is the best way to address emotional eating as they help curb cravings and preventing overeating. Skipping meals can lead to heightened hunger and unhealthy indulgences.
“Eating a balanced diet, including a large volume and variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy helps us get a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, which in turn helps control our appetite,” Laura adds.
A holistic approach to mental well-being
Navigating the intricate relationship between food and mood necessitates an understanding that everyone is unique.
“The pursuit of a mood-boosting diet is personal and requires consideration of individual health needs and consultation with a health care professional,” Laura shares.
As we strive for enhanced mental well-being, let our plates serve as canvases for vibrant, nutrient-rich foods that nourish not just our bodies but our moods as well.