How Can Eating Certain Foods Affect your Mood?
There are many ways in which we can all approach our relationship with food! As consumers, we need to realize that our relationship with food is complex. There are many things that are outside of our control that can shift our mood besides just eating. However, certain foods definitely have an effect in facilitating our mood. Also, you must understand this principle: As much as eating certain foods can affect our mood, our mood can also affect the certain foods we eat. In the list below, I will talk about how some of the most common foods that we see on a day to day basis can alter our moods! Not only that, I will also talk about how we can adjust certain aspects of our eating lifestyle (physically and mentally) that can positively impact the way in which we live our entire lives.
How can wine affect your mood?
At the end of the day, wine consists of alcoholic properties that essentially lowers our inhibitions (given a sufficient amount). Alcohol is considered a depressant- which allows for a slowed disruption of thoughts, feelings, and movement. Funny enough, alcohol has properties of a stimulant when consumed initially, allowing us to be more personable, socially active, and generally happier. It is a social lubricant. In that sense, it can temporarily elevate mood. However when overconsumption occurs, motor function decreases, our sense of awareness decreases, memories are impaired, and anxiety can set in. Therefore, be wary when consuming alcohol in a social setting! Always have a friend/family member looking after you when consuming alcoholic beverages.
How can chocolate affect your mood?
Admit it, we’ve all had chocolate at some point in our lives! The initial taste of that sweet chocolate is enough to send us on a smooth sail away from our present problems. However, this effect is only temporary. Nevertheless, upon first eating that delicious bite, we generally experience an increase in pleasant feelings (assuming we like the percentage of cacao in the chocolate bar). While it may be applied to other foods, many consumers look to chocolate as one of the main ways to not only increase pleasant feelings, but to reduce tension.
How can caffeine affect your mood?
Most of us know this drug way too well! The most commonly ingested psychoactive drug is caffeine, usually consumed via coffee and tea. Either as students, professors, or working people, we generally rely on this stimulant to get through our day. Caffeine essentially enhances our alertness. In large doses, it can create negative mood effects including anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness. It has also been found that caffeine can serve as a lesser antidepressant, elevating our moods in the initial parts of our days. However, don’t be mistaken- as much as we are all too familiar with the initial effects of caffeine, we are also very aware of the way in which caffeine can have certain levels of withdrawal symptoms when deprived of this drug. This can include headaches, depression, fatigue, etc. Essentially, it also boils down to the amount of caffeine consumed that can alter your mood.
Now that I know that food can affect my mood in diverse ways, how can I live a better lifestyle through eating food?
More often than not, a lot of people try to do a complete flip and turn their lifestyle around too drastically. As much as we would love to suddenly exercise 5 days a week, drink only water for the next year, and eat clean for the next month, we need to understand that the best approach is to make small, bite-sized changes that will gradually convert our bad habits to good practices. Here are some habits to pick up that should be effective in helping to slowly improve your mood with food:
1. Eating Regularly Improves Your Mood
It is important that you eat throughout the day without skipping meals. Although that may be difficult for those who are students, working professionals, etc.- having a consistent source of energy through the form of bite sized snacks can sustain your energy levels throughout the day. It is much better than skipping meals and going through an entire day without eating. In order to stabilize your mood, you need to stabilize your energy source to something that is consistent! Whether it be a small sandwich, a homemade protein shake, almonds/nuts, etc.- you need to pack something that is easily accessible throughout the day!
2. Slowly Incorporating Positive Food Groups in your Diet Improves Your Mood
As mentioned briefly, incorporating snacks can be very helpful towards ensuring a balanced consumption of minerals and vitamins to preserve the amount of serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is believed to play a vital part in mood regulation. Having the right amount in your diet can help with the regulation of your mood.
3. Developing Accountability for Each Other
Having a friend who is trustworthy and reliable can really help with the process of converging your habits into a more productive lifestyle. Subsequently, a better lifestyle can translate to a better mood and outlook on life! By surrounding yourself with the right social groups, the positive support you receive can go a long way in being able to phase out any temptations to revert back to your old habits. The prospect of “letting your peers down” can make it even more difficult to choose an unhealthy snack over a healthy one!
While the tips mentioned above are more physical, practical methods in dealing with food choices, here are some psychological perspectives to consider when looking at food that can help you be more conscientious about your health:
1. You Might Not Realize When You Are Actually Full.
Studies show that as much as the food has an influence in regulating our mood, external factors can also influence the amount of food we eat. In a study by Wansink et. al (2005), we can attribute our hunger to more visual cues than actually biological cues at certain instances in time. Consequently, we can end up eating more than our own share. For example, if you are given a portion of food on an enormous plate, the consumer might perceive the portion size as small, and can readily eat it all with no possible realization that the portion size is actually adequate for a normal meal. Conversely, if given the same amount of food on a smaller plate (with the food almost brimming on the edges)- our visual cues can lead us to internalize that we have a bigger portion size than what is considered normal.
2. All Fat is Bad!
False! There is a misconception that we interpret all fats are bad for our health. However, not all fats are bad. Some are even necessary to facilitate elements of our diet- and to promote a balanced nutrition. There is a difference between fats in almonds, versus the fats in your bag of chips. At the end of the day, understand that the benefits of fat can lead to the promotion of brain health, immune system, and even your heart!
3. Being Wary of Mindless Eating
When you are feeling bored, be mindful of what your habits are when you feel like there is nothing to do! Do you ever open your fridge out of boredom? If so, stop it! Our minds are constantly working- but there are times when there are absolute gray areas in which we go into “auto-pilot” and seek to fill our apathy and boredom with even more snacks!
With these tips and perspectives, I hope that you go forward (and into the new year) with a better perspective on how you can slowly build better habits in lieu of bad ones- with the hopes of ultimately regulating your mood, leading to a better lifestyle!
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