The Link Between Food and Mood: It’s Not All in Your Head

December 04, 2019

You already know what you eat affects how your body works and feels. Food can also have a big impact on your mood and your mental health. You’ve probably noticed that, if you eat junk food and empty calories, you may feel sluggish, unfocused, and even a bit blue – and when you eat healthy foods that are full of vitamins and nutrients, you feel mentally lifted and energized.

It’s not all in your head: there’s a strong connection between your diet and your mood. What you eat may not cause depression or anxiety, but it can make behavioral disorders worse. And just like food can help sharpen your brain, a healthy diet may help you feel more cheerful and positive. 

So, if you’ve been feeling down and don’t understand why, it could be related to what you eat. 

 

Why Sugar Isn’t So Sweet

man choosing between junk and healthy food

Sugar isn’t just bad for your body and your teeth: eating too much sugar can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Sugars, including the simple carbohydrates found in white bread, candy, and soft drinks, can increase inflammation in the body, which has been linked to increased pain and depression.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons a day for women or 9 teaspoons a day for men. To give you an idea of how much that is, a can of full-sugar soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar while a small banana has 3 teaspoons. Check out these recommendations for healthy drinks that won’t spike your sugar. 

 

Your Gut-Feeling Is Real

Over the past few years, scientists and nutritionists have studied the gastrointestinal system – also known as your gut. Your gut has more than a thousand types of bacteria and trillions of organisms that play an incredibly important role in many of the body’s processes. Ninety-five percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, a substance that helps regulate sleep, appetite, mood, and pain sensitivity, is made in your gut. It’s not that much of a stretch to say a lot of your mental outlook starts in your stomach. 

A diet full of added sugars and highly processed foods (canned foods, fast food, most chips, and snack foods) can kill some of the good bacteria in your gut – which can make you want even more sugar. Sugar can temporarily spike your serotonin, but in the long run, it affects your gut’s ability to produce it.

So far, there has been hopeful news about probiotics, a beneficial bacterium that exists naturally in foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, and kombucha. In addition to improving the body’s immune system and helping to reduce bloating and gas, researchers believe that probiotics may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. These foods are not a miracle cure, but they are healthy and delicious options to try.

 

Comfort Foods Aren’t Always the Answer

mexican pasta soup

Sometimes, when a person feels down, they may reach for comfort foods that make them feel safe, happy, or protected. Comfort foods can be different from family to family and culture to culture, but typical American comfort foods include rich, calorie-heavy dishes like mac’n’cheese, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and other dishes that can give you a few minutes of bliss but leave you feeling worse off in the long run, due to added sugar. Eating large portions of fatty foods will also make you feel sluggish because your body has to work harder to digest the extra fat. 

Comfort foods, and meals eaten in social situations where there’s friendship and festivities, can make you feel good, but you should still focus on making nutritional choices that will keep you feeling healthy and energetic. This list of food swaps can give you ideas about how to make some of your favorite holiday dishes a little healthier. And it’s always a good idea to add more fresh and healthy in-season produce to your diet.

 

Try Keeping a Food/Mood Journal

lady writing her food journal

If you’re thinking about changing your diet to see if your mood improves, start by keeping a journal. Make a few notes daily about the foods that you stopped or started eating, the portion size, when you ate it, and then how you felt a few hours later. It doesn’t have to be long commitment, but you should commit to doing it every day for at least a few weeks so you can track your progress.

 

Sometimes a Healthy Diet Isn’t Enough

depressed woman

Eating right has so many benefits to your health, but sometimes it isn’t enough to pick you up if you’ve been feeling down for a long time. If you’ve been sad and you don’t know why, you could be going through an episode of depression. Depression is a real health problem that you shouldn’t ignore. Call AltaMed at (855) 425-1777 to learn more about our behavioral health services.

 

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Why You Need Vitamins and the Best Places to Get Them

August 01, 2019

When it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins, grabbing a quick pill might seem like the easiest option. But what most people don’t know is that there’s almost no proof that multivitamin pills offer any long-term health benefits.

A well-balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs but can’t make on its own. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains offer key vitamins and minerals that keep you functioning at your peak. Plus, adding more healthy foods to your daily rotation can help ward off things like the common cold and aid the health of your immune system. Here’s a brief guide to some of the most important vitamins and the easiest, most delicious ways to get them.

 

Calcium

kids breakfastWhy we need it: Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth, and it aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction. The human body does not produce calcium on its own, yet this mineral is essential for keeping us alive. 

Where to get it: Your best bets are lean dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Because these foods can be high in both fat and sodium, make sure you’re not eating too much! Also, caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda can pull the calcium out of your body, so watch how many of these beverages you consume. 

 

Iron

healthy foodWhy we need it: Iron is another powerhouse mineral that makes life possible. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough red blood cells. This can lead to a condition called anemia. Lack of iron can leave you feeling fatigued and dizzy. Pregnant women who don’t get enough iron are more likely to give birth to underweight or premature babies.

Where to get it: The good news is there are plenty of tasty foods that can help you get enough iron. The best sources are animal proteins: chicken, fish, beef, and especially liver are rich in iron. You can also find iron in lentils, beans, cereal, tofu, and even dried apricots.

 

Vitamin B6 and B12

beef liverWhy we need it: Vitamin B6 is important for your metabolism, or how your body breaks down your foods for energy. It’s also been shown to promote brain health and cut the risk for Alzheimer’s. B12 helps keep the nerves and blood cells healthy. When its lacking in the body, you may feel fatigued and dizzy – in severe deficiencies, you could experience muscle and coordination problems.

Where to get it: Foods like turkey, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, potatoes, and bananas as well as fruit (other than citrus) are B6 rich. B12 is naturally found in animal products (meat and dairy products) and is added to fortify plant-based foods like veggie burgers. Beef liver and clams contain the highest amount of B12, with 3,460% of the recommended daily allowance in one serving.

 

Vitamin C

citrus fruitsWhy we need it: Vitamin C protects our cells from damage caused by free radicals which are harmful compounds found in air pollution, the sun’s UVA rays, and cigarette smoke. It’s also vital in the production of collagen and helps the immune system fight off diseases. 

Where to get it: Vitamin C’s impressive health benefits can come from many fruits and vegetables like strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, kale, and spinach. The most popular source of Vitamin C is, of course, oranges. A single orange delivers almost your entire daily dose. 

 

Vitamin D

salmon

Why we need it: Vitamin D has numerous benefits related to cancer prevention, bone health, mental health, and your immune system. Vitamin D helps your body better absorb calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and decreases the risk of bone fractures in older adults. There’s even been a study that suggests vitamin D may help fight depression.

Where to get it: Dairy products, nut milks, and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, giving them an extra helping of this important vitamin. Fatty fishes like tuna, salmon, and cod rank high on the list of nutrient-filled foods. Rare mushrooms and egg yolks also contain small amounts. 

 

Reaping the Benefits

fruits

Supplements can be an added bonus to our daily diet but should be considered as a secondary option when it comes to sourcing the proper nutrients for our bodies. Incorporating foods that nourish our bodies and are loaded with minerals is essential to a long and healthy life. Even if you’re eating at a restaurant, you can still make smart choices and meet your nutritional goals. Check back regularly for more healthy living tips and ideas!

 

Eating Until You’re Color-Full

July 30, 2018

Colorful foods aren’t just nice to look at, they offer a lot of benefits to your health! 

berries

Red, Blue, and Purple Food:

  • They can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, urinary tract infections, and memory loss.
  •  These foods contain potassium, vitamins A and C, and folate. 
  • They are known for anti-inflammatory properties, helping to protect against cell damage, and keeping the heart, blood, joint, and immune systems healthy. 
  • Foods include tomatoes, pomegranates, berries, watermelon, cabbage, beets, eggplant, grapes, raisins, cherries, kidney beans, and red pepper.

 

lemons

 Orange and Yellow Food:

  • They can improve immune function and lower the risk of heart disease, vision problems and cancer. 
  • These foods contain folate, potassium, bromium, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. 
  • They are known for flushing out toxins and keeping the eyes, skin, teeth, and bones healthy. 
  • Try carrots, lemons, oranges, corn, peaches, nectarines, mango, squash, pineapple, bell pepper, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes. 
     

avacados

Green Food:

  •  They can lower the risk of cancer and vision problems. 
  •  These foods contain folate and vitamins A, C, and K. 
  •   They are known for fighting free radicals, helping prevent blood clots, and regulating blood sugar. 
  • Foods include leafy greens like kale, spinach and arugula, green apples, limes, kiwi, avocado, cucumber, asparagus, green beans, grapes, and broccoli. 


garlic

White Food:

  • They can lower the risk for stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and cancers like colorectal cancer.  
  • These foods contain potassium, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin C. 
  •  They are known for providing essential dietary fiber and supporting the immune and circulatory systems.
  •  Try pears, bananas, cauliflower, mushrooms, ginger, dates, potatoes, garlic, onions, black eyed peas, and white nectarines. 


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we should all try to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day in a variety of colors. So go ahead and fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and veggies!