Updated: May 2, 2022
Have you ever wondered why you get elated most times when you eat something sweet or calorie-rich? It is so serious that some people may even seem to be “intoxicated” with sugars without having alcohol!
Having a rapidly low blood sugar level consistently gets a person tired, weak, fatigued, and sometimes depressed. We have seen it in how many of us act when we miss a meal or delay in eating one.
You can tell that the reaction before we eat and after we eat a meal is usually different. Our moods are usually better after a meal than they were before the meal. I'm sure you are looking at yourself right now, it works the same way for everyone. You're not alone.
Hang on and read on to learn more about how the food you eat could have a direct or indirect effect on our daily mood.
What do we understand about the human brain?
The brain is the major central coordinating organ of the body. It consists of numerous neurons and transmitters for proper signalling functions.
The central nervous system, with its headquarters in the brain, coordinates the triggering and release of hormones and chemical activities in the body. These signals are transmitted using neurotransmitters called monoamines. Monoamines would include serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.
In a growing child, adequate dietary nutrients and exercise are required for the optimum growth and development of the brain till it is fully developed at about age 5-6 years.
So, you should know that the excessive availability or absence of certain nutrients can alter the reactions and sensitization of the brain and the release of hormones.
Clearly, dietary changes can bring about alterations in the chemical and physiological signalling and structures of our brain, which can obviously lead to altered behaviour.
The Mechanism of Good Mood Caused By Good Food.
The connecting link between food and mood is the triggering of the release of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in the brain which is formed by tryptophan; an essential amino acid, the slow release of energy in foods and the activities of vitamins (mainly folate and vitamin D).
Serotonin, popularly referred to as the mood regulator, is made naturally in the brain from tryptophan with some help from the B vitamins.
So, here is the catch; the more protein-containing-carbohydrate-rich foods are eaten, the more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesized in the brain, and mood tends to improve. You can read that again.
Foods thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain include vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, grains and vitamin D (produced from our skin exposure to the morning sunlight).
But it's important to make smart carbohydrate choices like whole plant grains and cereals; rice, wheat, soybeans, fava beans, corn, sorghum, millet, fruits, green vegetables, potatoes, cassava, yam, etc. These foods also contribute other essential nutrients and fibre to the body.
Tips To Having A Better Mood Everyday
1. Eat regularly
Eating regularly and selecting foods that slowly release energy will help to steady sugar levels in the blood. Aside from helping you steady your mood, it will also reduce the risk of developing diabetes and manage it appropriately if there is a case of diabetes already.
Slow-release energy foods include pulses and legumes, brown rice, oats, wholegrain cereals and their products, nuts and seeds.
· Don’t skip breakfasts or other meals during the day except you are not hungry. Skipping meals over time would lead to fatigue and anxiety while having enough energy through meals would increase concentration, sharpness and coordination. Fill your breakfast table with lots of fibre and nutrients, some plant protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.
· Eat small portions of foods frequently rather than eating so much at once.
· Eat complex carbohydrates and whole foods; avoid simple sugars that will rapidly spike up and drop blood sugar levels repeatedly with many health dangers like insulin insensitivity.
· Avoid alcohol, carbonated drinks and sweets.
2. Eat enough proteins
Protein contains amino acids, which are key elements that synthesize the chemicals the brain needs to regulate our thoughts and feelings. Protein-rich foods contain amino acids essential for building and making muscles, hormones and other enzymes function.
Proteins also help keep you feeling fuller for longer because they take longer to be completely digested, hence they stay in the digestive system than simple carbohydrates.
Foods rich in protein include lean meat, legumes like peas, beans, lentils, soybeans and their products, nuts and seeds, fish, etc.
3. Eat fruits and vegetables
Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins, fibre and water which sustains an integral part of our physical and mental wellness.
The neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, endorphins) are at risk of being destroyed by monoamine oxidase (MAO) which comes into the body when we eat animal foods. This MAO reduces the number of neurotransmitters available in the brain. That, in turn, causes a fall in your mood and a person may get irritable.
Antioxidants present in fruits, spices and herbs like cinnamon, cloves, green tea, etc, and vegetables are responsible for the increased production of neurotransmitters. Likewise cutting out animal foods will greatly reduce the presence of the monoamine oxidase.
Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients which spices up the moods daily.
4. Have enough sleep
The benefits of having a good amount of sleeping time daily can’t be overemphasized. The ability to sleep refreshes and energizes the body to start a new day strong and elated.
At least 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended daily. You should have a healthy sleep life for a consistently good mood every day. A person who is deprived of sleep may have health challenges and may turn out to degenerate the body faster.
5. Eating the right fats
Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and omega-6) to keep it working effectually. So rather than avoiding all fats, as against what the general misguided notion states, it’s important to eat the right fats.
Healthy fats sources include nuts (walnuts, groundnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, certain seeds (sunflower, sesame, chia seed pumpkin), avocados, plant milk, yoghurt, etc.
Avoid anything which lists "trans fats" or "partially hydrogenated oils"' in the list of ingredients or nutrition facts (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. They are the types that raise your mood rapidly and drop it like a wrecking ball.
6. Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain but researchers are unsure of the individual differences that determine how much vitamin D is ideal (based on geographical location, race and other human factors).
7. Be Physically Active
Your state of physical activity and fitness levels also is key to how you feel. Research has it that exercising leaves one happier and feeling more confident.
The benefit of exercising doesn’t only stop at your physical state but cuts across your mental health and the social state as well.
8. Stay hydrated
If you don’t drink enough liquid beverages, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel tired, irritable or constipated (which puts no one in a good mood).
Know well that a large chunk of our brain’s composition is water, with about 75%. This reveals how essential water is to the whole body. A dehydrated brain aches too, and one is never happy with feelings of unease.
9. Cut caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, which gives a quick burst of energy, but then may result in anxious and depressed feelings, and disturb sleep (especially if taken before bed).
It also causes withdrawal symptoms if one stopped suddenly. That shows it can be addictive.