Food can have a major impact on the body’s overall wellness, not just physically but mentally as well. Eat too much sugar, for example, and the brain will react, making you sluggish and irritable.
One reason why certain foods can affect moods is because of the mind gut connection.
This connection is through the vagus nerve and is a pathway that enables the mind and gut to communicate back and forth. This explains why sometimes the stomach can get upset when you’re nervous or why people aren’t hungry when they’re feeling sad.
Researchers have told us that both good and bad bacteria live in the digestive system in a delicate balance. According to Harvard Health, when the gut microbiome is thrown off balance, it can cause not only digestive problems but mood disorders as well. This makes sense since the gut is where 90% of serotonin receptors are located, a.k.a. the body’s “happy signals.”
So, what are some foods that you should be eating to help the gut and the mind? Here are a few options that benefit the mood and the gut:
This popular food contains a lot of Lactobacillus bacteria. In a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, the bacteria Lactobacillus may be able to reverse depressive-like behavior. The study showed that mice that with low levels of Lactobacillus were found to have more depressive-like behavior and that adding the bacteria reversed the behavior. Researchers believe that could be the same for humans
While recent fad diets advise people to remove carbs including whole grains from their diets, it should be noted that whole grains are not the bad guy. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that whole grains can help balance serotonin levels in the gut. Serotonin is a key hormone that helps stabilizes mood and happiness. Whole grains are also known to be a source of another mood regulating neurotransmitter called tyrosine.
Move over kale, spinach is the new favorite green. It’s full of folate and tryptoprophan, which help increase serotonin levels in the brain. Spinach also contains high amounts of magnesium, which could help reduce mild-to-moderate anxieties. According to a study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, researchers discovered a link between low levels of magnesium intake and depression.
A study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, found that people who consumed walnuts were less likely to experience symptoms of depression. Participants of the study who ate nuts were more socially and physically active. Walnuts are also chock full of Omega 3s, which are great for brain health.
Fish is packed with Omega-3 fats, which can improve overall brain health and mental health. Those who consumed fish experienced less symptoms of depression than those who did not eat fish. This study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Some mood-altering fish to choose from include salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel.
Finally, while people tend to associate sweets as rewards for achieving or doing something well, they can also lead to anxiety, irritability, and depression when consumed in large quantities. This doesn’t mean that they are never to be eaten. These foods won’t harm you when consumed in moderation, just make sure that a majority of the food you’re eating is full of healthy choices.
While scientists haven’t fully been able to understand the mind-gut connection, our diet’s influence on mental health is very important. Eating right doesn’t just help the body feel its best but also keeps the mind happy and healthy. Remember, though, that food isn’t a cure all. If depressive moods that lasts for several weeks should be taken seriously and should seek help.