Most people know that gut feeling — when you eat right and take care of your body, you naturally feel better in your skin. But there’s actually a science behind why eating right and getting the nutrients you need can make your body and mind feel like you’re on top of the world.
That’s right — how you fuel your body can impact your mood in a variety of ways. While eating junk can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic, eating fresh fruits and vegetables can uplift your spirits so you feel ready to tackle anything, both mentally and physically.
While there are a few foods you may not expect to lift your spirits, there are plenty that make total logical sense. Eating to feel happier is proven to keep you fit and optimistic, but it’s also about listening to your body and learning to give it what it needs.
When you take these priorities in combination, you’ll be able to design a diet to grow your mood to the fullest. Here’s a bit more about how good food can put you in a good mood.
Foods That Lift You Up
A variety of foods can put you in a better mood, based on their chemical makeup and how your body reacts to them, physically and psychologically. Usually, foods with healthy forms of carbohydrates give your body energy and improve your mood — specifically things like fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains. This can even give you a bit of insight as to why you may crave sugar or junk food when you’re down. Your brain reacts positively to sugars, so concentrated sugars play off your brain’s cravings.
While this may work on a mental level, the physical chemistry is all about looking for full, hydrating nutrients. Foods that pack vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy carbohydrates, tend to do best. Bananas, oats, berries, nuts, seeds, beans, dates, and smoothies are all great sources of carbohydrates, fiber, and good moods!
Foods That Drag You Down
While your brain may tell you that you need complex sugars, fats, and other processed foods to be happy, that boost usually only lasts as long as the meal or snack itself. Once your body actually processes the foods that tend to drag you down, you’ll likely feel more sluggish and disconnected from your body. Specifically, processed foods that are high in salt and added sugars tend to be more trouble than they’re worth.
Additionally, foods with lots of dairy, animal products, and refined carbohydrates, like white breads, are also the culprits of rushes that don’t last long. In fact, many of these foods have addictive properties that can get you hooked even when the mood boost doesn’t last.
The Junk Food Paradox
When people think about the association between food and mood, one of the first things that comes to mind is comfort food. You know: that cozy, comfortable, but definitely-not-healthy recipe you keep in your pocket for rainy days.
While junk food is okay in moderation, it may do much more harm than good for your mood, even if you feel good while eating it. Junk foods and processed foods tend to be high in salt, processed carbs, and added sugars, which play off your brain’s natural craving for these nutrients in whole foods and trick you into thinking you need them all the time.
While eating junk food may taste great in the moment, more often than not, the sluggish state will catch up with you. Your body will likely react to the fats and other additives in the foods you’re eating shortly after the meal or snack, and you won’t actually feel all that happy anymore.
While this doesn’t mean you need to live on salads and smoothies every day of your life, you may simply want to keep mindful of the way junk food feels in your body.
Listening to Your Body
Speaking of the way junk food “feels,” one of the most important parts of eating to feel good is listening to the way different foods feel in your body and adjusting your diet accordingly.
While eating healthy foods is all well and good, every person is different. Adjusting to your specific needs can make your experience even better. For example, for some people, spicy food feels energizing and clearing for the respiratory system. For others, it can upset the stomach and doesn’t sit right. It’s all about finding the right foods for your specific makeup and rolling with them.
Another set of foods offering that extra boost to your mood is actually connected to another system you might not expect — your gut microbiome.
The body and mind are more connected than you might realize, which means feeding your gut healthy and balancing bacteria can have a direct positive impact on your mind. Based on this information, eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut can keep you in balance by introducing healthy bacteria into your gut microbiome.
This can also help prevent infections. If you can’t get around to fermented foods every day, taking a supplemental probiotic can also work wonders.
Energizing Through Food’s Impact on Your Mood
When you eat hydrating and nutritious foods that truly fuel your body with nutrients, your mind-body connection will benefit from your care. While you don’t have to banish junk food completely, finding balance and moderation is key to maintaining healthy habits, including the habit of eating for the body and the mind.
What’s your favorite food that makes you feel genuinely good?