Foods that affect your mood but not your waistline
Updated: May 24
To say that food is the fuel that runs our bodies (just like gasoline is responsible for running vehicles) would be obvious – and most of us know it.
However, at the exact same time, it’s almost impossible to pull ourselves away from all of those salty, sweet, drizzled in ooey-gooey goodness that we’ve fallen in love with over the years. What we really don’t understand is just how much of an impact food has on our mood as well as our waistline.
The truth of the matter is that modern scientists, researchers, nutritionists, and other fitness experts have been long studying the impact that food has on the human body when it comes to mood altering impacts as well as watching the numbers go up or down on a scale. After decades and decades of closely studying all of the different factors that contribute to mood when eating (and using the latest and greatest tools and technologies to do so), most have come to several conclusions.
Food is a major piece of your moods and their ups and downs
Obviously, you understand that without food you simply wouldn’t be able to live, let alone lead a healthy, happy, successful life. However, it’s also true that the wrong foods – at the wrong time and in the wrong amounts – can cause absolute havoc and devastation on your body and mind, to the point where it almost would have been better if you’d skipped that meal entirely.
A number of different studies are showing the different links that specific foods (and their biochemical reaction when introduced into the human body) alter your mind, thought patterns, energy levels, and even your emotions – which is why so many of us continue to reach for ice cream, cake, or cookies when we’re feeling down. Even though food might have started that gloomy mood in the first place.
However, there are also a number of healthy foods that can act as that exact same kind of “pick me up” – without having the downside of crippling your weight loss journey or working to decrease your mood (and health) over the long term.
The way this works is rather interesting. According to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, foods like fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and other legumes have a dramatic impact on regulating or improving a motions and mindsets, whereas sugary snacks, sodas, and fast food have a crippling impact on the exact same kind of emotions.
Obviously, you’re going to want to lean on healthier foods to boost and improve your mood as much as possible – though those same studies suggested that you could probably get away with sneaking one of those “bad meals” once a week or so without completely crippling your short and long term health.
Carbohydrates play a major role in regulating and improving your mood
Now here’s where things get a little bit confusing for a lot of people who are looking to truly unlock the healthiest life they’ve ever lived.
It seems as though we hear that carbs are good for us, then the next day that carbs are horrible for us, and then the next day that they are better than they were two days before. Carbs are probably one of the least well understood food sources that we eat on a regular basis, and it’s critical that you understand exactly what kind of impact they’ll have on your body moving forward.
First, it’s important that you understand the difference between the two major carbohydrate types – fast carbs and slow carbs. While shockingly similar in almost every single way except for how quickly (or slowly) their introduced and broken down into the blood stream, slow carbs and fast carbs will determine exactly what kind of impact that they’ll have on your body and your mood moving forward.
Fast carbs are notorious for completely and totally changing your biochemistry in a hurry, which is why so many different sugars, sodas, and other “bad” foods can pick you up so quickly. However, at the exact same time, they cause major spikes in your blood sugar levels – which almost always have a far worse valley shortly behind that peak (also known as the crash).
Low and slow carbs, the other hand, provide a lesser impact on your mood and emotions because they are more slowly broken down and released into the bloodstream – but they are still able to boost your happiness, reduce your anxiety, and give you energy across the board.
Examples of fast carbs would be soda, candy, and cookies (things to stay away from), whereas examples of slow carbs would be broccoli, legumes, and other leafy vegetables.
Blood sugar and brain chemicals
It’s all about controlling your blood sugar. If you have blood sugar spikes (you’re feeling good at the moment) then your body goes into emergency alert and floods your body with insulin to counteract the sugar. It works but too well causing your blood sugar to drop very low (now you’re feeling down and depressed). Time to have a soda or a donut to bring the mood back up and then the cycle starts anew.
Feel good, crash and burn, eat some garbage, feel good again, then another crash…… It goes on all day long.
Keep your blood sugar stable and your mood stable by eating the right foods, at the right time. Time to start eating a plant based diet which contains very few foods that will spike your blood sugar. Some fruits can be an issue but their fiber and phytonutrients help counteract any sugar high.
Moderate on the fruit if you feel that it makes you go through the emotional roller coaster.
Understand the big difference between feeling hungry and being bored
Another real big reason that so many people continue to struggle with healthy eating is because they are moving forward under the impression that they are always hungry – when nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, if you transition instantly from the “Standard American Diet” that is just chock-full of things you should probably keep out of your body to a healthy eating lifestyle you’re going to notice some real calorie drops and restrictions – but that’s to be expected. A cup full of spinach has nowhere near the same amount of calories or nutrients as a cup full of ice cream, so it’s likely that you’re feeling a little bit on the hungry side when you switch to healthier eating.
What you’re going to want to do here is bump up your portion sizes (very often dramatically – at least at first) and then slowly bring them back down as you get used to eating this healthier lifestyle.
However, there’s another little insidious trait that most people don’t take knowledge when fighting the healthy lifestyle transition, and that’s that you may not be hungry you just might be bored.
The truth of the matter is that very few people who compulsively eat are doing so because there actually feeling their body commanding them to eat something. The reality is that we’ve conditioned ourselves to associate pleasure with eating (and almost always pleasure with eating foods that are bad for us), never really understanding the link between the two actions and therefore never being able to embrace a healthy change.
The next time that you think about reaching for a cupcake or cookie, ask yourself whether or not you’re hungry or bored – or down in the dumps and dealing with some emotional issues – and then choose a healthy alternative (from the list included below) to get you over that hump.
Healthy foods that will improve your moods
Now we come to the real “meat” of the article, so to speak, actually laying out the kinds of exciting, healthy, and tasty foods that you should turn to when you’re looking to improve your moods.
Luckily, Mother Nature has seen fit to provide us with a whole host of mood enhancing foods that help us to keep our short and long term health in order – giving us the extra boost we need without ever having to worry about what our buns and thighs are going to look like after.
While absolutely nowhere near complete and total, you’re still going to have a whole list of foods that you can trust to improve your mood (and very often dramatically) and also improve your health without saddling your body with a bunch of empty calories that will go straight to your hips and belly.
Complex carbohydrates are key to mood stabilization
If you’ve begun to feel like your daily moods are all over the place – up then down then up then down – more than so than an elevator, the odds are fantastic that you’ll be able to completely and totally stabilize those feelings with complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates still have sugar in them, though they are very much “slow carbohydrates”, the kinds of carbohydrates that take a bit longer to break down and introduce into your bloodstream. This “delayed impact” is going to give you a much more slow and steady improvement to your moods, and keep your blood sugar levels just about the same across the board.
Keeping your blood sugar levels (as mentioned above) is absolutely mission critical when looking to regulate your mood at a “happy place”, and foods that are rich in complex carbs:
Steel cut oatmeal
Any whole grains just be sure that they are 100% whole grains
In general: fruits, vegetables and legumes
Foods rich in selenium can almost eliminate depression and irritability
Once you’ve gotten your blood sugar levels regulated, it’s time to look instead at eliminating those dark and often depressing thoughts that may have been plaguing you. If you’ve been struggling with issues of the irritability, depression, and even a bit of weight gain you should look to see what these foods rich in selenium have to offer.
Known for years and years in the medical, scientific, and even pharmaceutical industry as dramatically improving mood across the board, foods that are rich in selenium:
Omega-3 Fats and Your Brain Health
We are beginning to better understand how important Omega 3’s are to our mental health. Your brain is built on fat – over half its weight is fat. Yes you have a fat brain! If you eat poor quality fats then the brain is built out of poor quality materials.
Our western diets are loaded with way too much Omega-6’s and not enough Omega-3’s.
Major research has started to come out showing big improvements in conditions from anxiety to depression to even bipolar symptoms by eating large quantities of healthy Omega-3’s.
As reported on WebMD.com:
After eight weeks of treatment, women who took the supplements had significantly diminished aggression as well as a drop in the severity of depression compared with the placebo group.
No adverse side effects were reported, which researcher Mary C. Zanarini, EdD, of the department of psychiatry at Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues, say is especially important. Taking prescribed medications is one of the biggest problems in treating mental disorders, but in this study 90% of both the fish-oil and placebo-treated groups complied and completed the study.
Researchers say the findings confirm prior studies that show fish oil supplementation is an effective addition to standard treatment for bipolar disorder and recurrent depression. But they say more research is needed to see if fish oil is equally effective in men or in those with more severe symptoms.
Foods you’ll want to add to your diet for their Omega-3 content include:
If you have to eat meat then some fish but try to get the least polluted types like wild Salmon
If not through food then add an effective omega-3 supplement. We like Udo’s oil and also Krill oil works very well.
All in all, it’s relatively simple and straightforward to improve your mood (as well as your short and long term health) just by changing up a handful of the foods that you’ve been eating on a regular basis. Obviously, bigger lifestyle choices and changes will have bigger impacts across the board – but you should try and start small, build up a bit of momentum, and see where things take you.
Diving headfirst into the world of nutrition and how it impacts the human body is fun, exciting, and even therapeutic for some – and the return on your investment will be absolutely through the roof. Definitely look into how you can transform your life by eating a plant based diet. Only eat foods that come directly from Mother Nature and not the processed man made foods that make up the Standard American Diet.