Have you ever noticed that you mood changes based on the foods you eat? If you’re shoveling down greasy burgers and fries at lunch, you may find yourself feeling more depressed. On the other hand, after a healthy Mediterranean style meal, full of fruits, vegetables, and fish, you may feel a boost of energy. Researchers have found many surprising connections between what we eat and how we feel. Here are 10 facts about how your next meal may affect your mood:
Did you know that:
1. Eating fast foods can lead to an increased risk for depression?
Eating fast foods like hamburgers, sausages, and pizza, as well as commercial baked goods such as muffins, doughnuts, and croissants has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of depression. Do your best to balance out your food choices with some healthy, fresh options whenever available.
2. You can eat yourself into a bad mood in just two days!
A study with 44 college students at Penn State University revealed that the more calories, saturated fat, and sodium they ate, the more negative mood they reported two days later. The food we eat can directly cause mood shifts, and the bad mood can last for much longer than just one day of overeating! Another reminder how food plays an important role in our physical and mental health. If you find yourself in a bad mood, look at what you are eating. Try adding some healthy foods such as more fruits and vegetables or wild-caught fish to your diet. Stay away from processed foods. See if your healthier way of eating helps to translate into quick lifts in your mood.
3. Being bored can drive you to eat
Researchers at the North Dakota State University would agree! In a sample of 552 college students, they discovered that those prone to being bored and lacking emotional coping skills are more likely to engage in inappropriate eating behavior, like eating when bored or in response to negative emotions. Only eat when you are hungry, not because you have nothing else to do. Fill your time with activities that interest you – read, see friends, and stay active!
4. Your personality can have an impact on the foods you eat
An interesting publication in the journal Appetite brought to light many findings about one’s personality and eating: (1) Individuals who are open minded to new experiences consumed more fruit, vegetables and salad, and less meat and soft drinks; (2) Those who consider themselves easygoing and agreeable tended to eat less meat; (3) Conscientious people were more likely to consume greater amounts of fruit, and less meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened soft drinks. (4) People with neurotic tendencies were more prone to consuming sweet and savory foods. Well, perhaps we can’t change who we are, but we can become more aware of our actions! If you find that you are always on edge and feeling worried, try to incorporate some relaxation and mindfulness exercises in your daily routine. Your new calmer state of mind may help you approach eating with a more healthful mindset.
5. Being in a happy mood can actually lead you to overeat
It’s not just a bad mood that can cause us to overeat. Researchers at the King’s College in London Institute of Psychiatry recently showed that negative mood and positive mood both lead to more food intake. This research doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be in a good mood! Enjoy your happy moments but don’t use them as occasions to overeat. Try to find balance in your moods, keeping steady and stable without the extreme peaks and valleys that could cause you to overeat.
6. Your emotions can change how you taste food
A study came out recently that assessed taste and emotions of 550 people who attended hockey games. The researchers found that during winning games, people’s positive emotions correlated with enhanced sweet and diminished sour intensities, while during losing games, negative emotions led to heightened sour and decreased sweet tastes. This shows that events in our lives can affect how we taste and enjoy food. Be aware that the emotions you are feeling are not only influencing what you are eating, but how things taste. If you take your time to eat mindfully, you’ll be more in the moment, and, as the studies suggest, you’ll be more likely not to overeat and feel more satisfied.
7. Eating a Mediterranean diet can help to protect against depression
We already know that a Mediterranean diet full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil reduces inflammation and may be beneficial for heart health. A large study with 10,094 healthy Spanish people showed that eating a Mediterranean diet was also prevented depressive disorders. If you aren’t going to Spain or Greece anytime soon, pretend you are there by copying their diet. Add more veggies to your meals, or shake on the herbs and spices to reduce inflammation! You will be helping your heart and your mood.
8. By incorporating nutritious snacks into your diet, you can improve your emotional well-being
100 students at Cardiff University were asked to complete an online questionnaire about how they were feeling emotionally and physically. They were then randomly assigned to one of two snacks– chocolate/crisps or fruit – which they ate daily in the mid-afternoon for 10 days. After the 10 days, the results showed that those who consumed fruit had lower anxiety, depression, and emotional distress than the group that ate crisps/chocolate. Similarly, scores for physical pain, cognitive difficulties, and fatigue were greater in the group that ate crisps/chocolate. Take note of your snacking behavior! If you find yourself eating too many cookies or indulging in lots of chocolate, shake up your snacking routine by substituting fruit, veggies and hummus, or some homemade protein/energy balls. Your mood will thank you for it (and those around you will, too!).
9. Getting enough sleep can help prevent binging and depression
Being overtired sets you up for both overeating and depression. While you might not be able to change yourself from a night owl to an early bird, it’s important to make sure you are getting sufficient sleep. Learn to listen to your body’s internal cues and prioritize sleep.
10. Bringing spirituality and gratefulness into your eating can help you achieve a healthier you
Feeling grateful is positively associated with better health and well-being. Those who have an appreciation of their meals can have a greater dimension of happiness, health, and longevity in their lives. Keep a gratitude journal or just keep yourself aware and thankful of your food as you eat. By slowing down your eating and focusing on each bite, you may find deeper meaning and gratitude for food.
Learn more about how to conquer emotional eating and balance your mood at deannaminich.com.
Learn how to take control of your eating habit to balance your moods and boost your energy by reading The Food-Mood Solution.
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