How does food affect my mood?
Evidence suggests what we eat may actually affect the way we feel. Improving your diet may help to: improve your mood, elicit positive feelings, give you more energy, and to help you think more clearly.
How regularly do you eat?
If your blood sugar drops you may feel tired, irritable and depressed. If you eat regularly it should keep your sugar levels steady, you should also choose foods that release energy slowly (for example: protein foods, nuts and seeds, oats and wholegrains).
- Eating Breakfast gets the day off to a good start.
- Instead of eating a large lunch and dinner, try eating smaller portions spaced regularly through-out the day.
- Avoid foods which make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly (for example: sugary snacks, drinks, and alcohol.
Do you get your 5 a day?
Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of minerals, vitamins and fibre that we need to keep us both physically and mentally healthy. Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients. Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced (one glass) fruits and vegetables all count towards your 5 a day.
- Tomatoes, mushrooms and bananas all contain high levels of potassium which is essential for your whole nervous system – including your brain.
- You should try to eat some vegetables raw as cooking them can sometimes destroy some of the vitamins.
- For ideas on how to get your 5 a day, visit NHS Choices.
Do you keep yourself hydrated?
If you do not drink enough water, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel constipated. Good drinks include: water, herbal or green tea, or diluted fruit juice.
- It’s recommended that you drink between 6-8 glasses of fluid a day.
- Water is a cheap and healthy option.
- Tea, coffee, juices and smoothies all count towards your intake (but be aware that these may also contain caffeine or sugar).
Are you getting enough protein?
Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps control your blood sugar levels. Protein is in: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.
- Whatever your diet, why not do some research into other foods that contain protein, and find something new to try?
- If you eat meat, choose the best quality meat you can afford. Higher welfare meat is much better for you than meat from factory-farmed animals because it has more nutrients and less fat.
Are you eating the right fats?
Your brain needs fatty oils (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. Rather than avoiding fats it’s important to eat the right ones. Good fats are in: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (i.e. sunflower, pumpkin), avocados, milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs.
- Try to avoid anything which lists ‘trans fats’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ in the list of ingredients (such as some shop-bought cakes and biscuits). They can be tempting when you’re feeling low, but this kind of fat isn’t good for your mood or your physical health in the long run.
How’s your gut feeling?
Your state of mind is closely connected to your gut, not just because of your physical comfort, but also because your gut uses many of the same chemicals as your brain, and communicates with it. Healthy gut foods include: fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.
- It might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust.
- If you’re feeling stressed and you think it is affecting your gut, try some relaxation techniquesor breathing exercises.
Are you having too much caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant. Having too much can: make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you drink coffee last thing at night), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. Caffeine is in: tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and other manufactured energy drinks.
- If you drink tea, coffee or cola, try switching to decaffeinated versions.
- You might feel noticeably better quite quickly if you drink less caffeine or avoid it altogether.