Can Food Affect Your Mood?

By Pure Plates Contributor Abby Herrick

Foods and Moods 

Ever wondered why some days your energy is spot on and you feel consistently amazing throughout the entire day and other days you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus?

Maybe you tried and tried to dissect the problem to determine how to I feel top notch every day, but couldn’t quite put your finger on if it was skipping breakfast or the fact that you’ve been sleeping in everyday and missing your morning run.

The food and mood relationship has been known for many centuries.  Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said: “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food” The culinary world definitely understands this concept as many quote relationships to food and mood.

For example, dates and elderberries were used as mood enhancers, lettuce and chicory as tranquilizers, and apples, pomegranates, beef and eggs as erotic stimulants. 

How Food Decisions Can Affect Your Day

What we decide to eat day by day, hour by hour effects every aspect of our lives making what we eat so vital to a successful day and in turn a way in which we can fill everyday with some thoughtful actions that can mean the difference between an argument with your husband, feeling defeated and worthless, or nailing that promotion we’ve been after for months.

If you brain is deprived of good quality nutrition, or if free radicals/damaging inflammatory cells are circulating within the brain’s enclosed space, your brain’s tissues can be injured and consequences are to be expected.

Food affects brain chemistry

Many studies confirm that food changes our bodies chemistry, influencing the brain and neurotransmitters. Just the same, our mood can affect our food choices and our perception of how powerful a food can enhance any given expectation.

The relationship between food and mood doesn’t seem to be a simple concept as many variables come into play such as the time of day, the macronutrient content of the food, the amount consumed, and the age as well as the history of one’s diet.

What The Studies Tell Us

In one study by Spring et al. (1983), 184 adults either consumed a protein-rich or carbohydrate-rich meal. Their mood and performance were tested after two hours and the effects of the meal differed for female and male subjects and for younger and older subjects.

An interesting example extracted from the study, was that males reported greater calmness after a rich carbohydrate meal, whereas females stated they felt greater sleepiness. Those who were 40 and older, had impaired focus on a sustained selective attention test after eating a carbohydrate lunch. Even more intriguing, is that circadian rhythms have a large impact on our energy levels and performance throughout each day. 

Early bird

“Early birds” feel most productive the first part of the day and their food choices become particularly important during lunch and throughout the afternoon. “Night Owls” feel most energetic later in the day and should pay attention to their breakfast choices as they can increase or decrease energy levels and influence cognitive functioning. 

For example, according to Michaud et al. (1991), if you are an evening person and you skip breakfast, your cognitive performance might be impaired. A large breakfast rich in protein, however, could improve your recall performance but might impair your concentration. As we can see, a great connection lies between food and mood and the take home here is to find a healthy balance of food choices. 

Simple steps that will have a dramatic shift in the way you think, interact, and perceive the world

One of the simplest ways in which we can do this may seem obvious, but often is overlooked in what qualifies as a refined non-nutrient dense food. The foods that contain these are characteristics of calorie dense foods containing sugars, arterial ingredients, and stabilizers, whereas calorie rich foods contain a high amount of vitamins, minerals, lower in calories and overall fat. High sugar foods tend to garble up all of our energy producing B vitamins because it uses these vitamins to break down and eliminate this harmful food.

Secondly, we want to be providing our bodies with a consistent supply of the aright amount of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) so that our body has these three sources to use as energy and to maintain bodily functions that help us process, eliminate, and convert food to energy. 

One thing that we can further do to support our entire being is by consciously making efforts to make time for food.  We now have to think of this on terms of craving out time, but it is really just our own doing of becoming a high-pace multi-tasking world that leaves little time for renewing and restoring and puts great emphasis on multitasking.

When we take time to eat, we are not only more mindful of how we chew which in turn allows food to be broken down more easily, we can also taste the quality of food more, and we cue in to when we are satisfied.