When we think about “adequate nutrition” it’s obvious that many of us, despite our customs, perceptions of the world around us, and lifestyle habits—will not embark on an endeavor toward healthy eating for many reasons. For many, eating healthy means an expensive way of living, and time management is not always something that allows us to watch what we put into our bodies. However, nutrition plays a vital role in how we see things, our behaviors—and our emotions. Yes, you read that right—our emotions. It’s been said that what you eat or don’t eat for breakfast will have at least a subtle effect by mid-afternoon and what you’re eating all day will have a huge impact today and down the road.”
For years scientists, researchers, and nutritionists have known that diet plays a vital role in the way we view ourselves and our world. Why? It’s quite simple. Fluctuations with blood sugar levels are often associated with mental energy, and this can also be a primary contributor of lethargy if not approached the right way. Neurotransmitters, chemical messengers used by the brain for communication, can become affected by the foods we eat if we do not nourish ourselves well. For example, high levels of serotonin are associated with being calm, happy and relaxed—while low levels are linked with depression. Our bodies require a certain extent, if not complete and effective nutrition so that our lives are in seemingly perfect balance and harmony. We must take into consideration that food really does equal fuel, and that fuel—apart from giving us the energy and stamina to do simple things, is also linked to our emotions. Think of it this way: the last time you were feeling lethargic, you may have had trouble getting out of bed or thinking clearly. Society is constantly trying to create a positive association between eating right and feeling good, because obviously, has an effect on us.
On a simpler note, do you ever notice that when you are feeling depressed, you crave sweet foods or carbohydrates? The logic behind this is simple. Because high levels of serotonin contribute to an overall sense of well-being, carbohydrates and sugars provide a spike in our blood sugar levels. This affects our balance of serotonin, thus emotionally and psychologically providing us with that sense of well being–even if it is temporary.
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is all about tryptophan, a nonessential amino acid. As more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesized in the brain, and mood tends to improve. Serotonin, known as a mood regulator, is made naturally in the brain from tryptophan with some help from the B vitamins. Foods thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain include fish and vitamin D.
Vitamins and Minerals are also essential to our well being. Omega-3, a product found in fish like Salmon and Sardines, improve our memory and mood. Low levels of Omega-3 are often linked to depression and impulsivity. Getting too little iron in your diet can also contribute to depression, fatigue and inattention. Protein-rich foods are especially important because these foods are broken down into amino acid building blocks during digestion. Tyrosine, a type of amino acid—increases the production of dopamine—a neurotransmitter known to increase levels of alertness and energy. Lack of selenium, a specific type of mineral, can cause bad moods. Individuals suffering from this source are shown to be more anxious, irritable, hostile and depressed.
In short, what you eat—affects how you feel. Sure, you can reach for that cupcake and take a bite, but all of this should be in moderation if you want to see a considerable improvement in your mood. The little things that add up at the end of the day should make you feel better about yourself either way.
It’s critical to note that we can do little things that will end up affecting our mood over time. Things like lack of sleep, vitamin deficiencies, or the lack of proper nutrition can weigh down on your self-perception and emotional well-being. Be sure to get an adequate amount of healthy things in your diet, things like plenty of fish-oils, proteins and anti-oxidants. All of these components are critical and beneficial to our role as human beings. Yes, what you eat determines how you feel—and a majority of the time we are unaware of this role. This is apparent because many of us don’t believe that food can play such a vital role on who we are—but this is very true. Be sure to treat your body with respect and assist it in its vital processes by consuming what you know will be beneficial in the long run.
By: Natalie Bejarano-Dugarte