Food and mood are interrelated in many ways. The saying you are what you eat is true on many levels. Not only do our food choices affect us physically, they affect us mentally as well. Our mood affects our food choices and our food choices affect our mood.

How much you eat also affects your mood. We’ve all felt tired and uncomfortable after eating a large meal. It’s not a pleasant feeling and it’s pretty hard to go for a walk, let alone a run when you feel this way.

Once you’ve experienced the lethargy that follows one large meal, it isn’t hard to understand why chronic overeating and exercise are mutually exclusive activities.

Your mood affects your food choices and your food choices affect your mood


Food And Mood – The Importance Of Balanced Meals

The food you eat and the chemicals in your brain interact throughout the day. It’s important to eat a variety of healthy foods because different foods have different effects on your brain.

  • Carbohydrates increase serotonin and this has a calming effect.
  • Protein-rich foods increase tyrosine, dopamine, and norepinephrine and these make you more alert.
  • Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids become part of your brain cell membranes and help the function of many brain processes.

Good nutrition and eating a variety of healthy foods also affects your energy levels and your quality of sleep. Eating a healthy diet and keeping your weight in check help you perform at optimum levels physically and mentally.


food and mood


Food And Mood – Foods That Improve Mood

Serotonin is the brains’ mood regulator and it is made from tryptophan and B vitamins. Tryptophan is an amino acid that must be obtained from food.  Because it uses the same means of transport into the brain as other amino acids, tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids to get to the brain.

After eating a big meal like a turkey dinner, there are several amino acids circulating in the bloodstream. They must be shuttled across the blood–brain barrier by specialized transport proteins to make it into the brain.

Because tryptophan is the least abundant amino acid, little of it gets to the brain after you eat a large, high protein meal. (1)

Fortunately, a lot of the tryptophan we eat is taken up by mast cells in the wall of the intestinal tract where it is metabolized into serotonin and stored. A small amount is taken up by the brain through a transporter pump. (2)


Food And Mood – How Carbs Affect Mood

Even though there are is no tryptophan in carbohydrates, consuming carbs does increase the amount of serotonin in the  brain. That’s one of the reasons why we enjoy eating carbohydrates. (3)

Our blood glucose levels rise after we eat carbohydrates and this causes insulin to be released. The insulin allows muscle tissues to take up amino acids.

Because it is bound to albumin in the blood, tryptophan is not picked up in this way. However, once the ratio of tryptophan in the blood increases enough, tryptophan finally becomes able to bind to transporters and enter the brain in large enough amounts to stimulate the production of serotonin.

Food And Mood – The Effect Of Nutrient Deficiencies

While nutrient deficiencies are not all that common in modern societies, it is important to understand how various nutrients affect mental health.

Thiamine (vitamin B1), which is found in legumes, some seeds, and fortified grains, is necessary to maintain your energy supplies and to coordinate the activity of nerves and muscles. A deficiency in thiamine can often lead to irritability, weakness and depression.

Folate (vitamin B9) is found in leafy greens, legumes, and fortified grains. It is essential for supporting red blood cell production, helping to prevent homocysteine build-up in your blood, and allowing nerves to function properly. A deficiency in folate deficiency affects your concentration and can lead to apathy, poor sleep, fatigue and even depression.

Natural vs Artificial Food Sources

Not all vitamins and minerals are absorbed equally by the body. The vitamins and minerals provided by natural food sources are more readily absorbed than those you get from supplements.

You provide your body with more opportunities to absorb the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy mind and body by eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats and some whole grains.

Food And Mood – Timing Matters

When we eat can be just as important as what we eat. Poor meal timing is often responsible for the low energy levels  people feel through the day.

By skipping meals you can contribute to mood swings because of fluctuating blood sugar levels. Cutting food portions when trying to lose weight often leads to binge eating, more frequent emotional eating, poor concentration and higher stress levels.

There is no perfect eating plan for everyone, but generally speaking, it’s best if you eat balanced meals and snacks every 3 to 4 hours. Try to have protein, fats and carbs every time you eat.

Pay Attention To How You Feel

Pay attention to how different foods affect you every time you eat. You will begin to notice how some foods put you in a better mood than others and how some energize you while other meals seem to sedate you. Knowing how various foods affect you allows you to tailor your diet so it promotes your health and wellness. Eating a healthy diet and keeping your weight in check help you perform at optimum levels physically and mentally.


food and mood