There’s nothing wrong with being a foodie. After all, you’re here with us, reading a food blog! Our favorite foods tend to not only be delicious, but comforting as well. They bring people together, taste incredible, and unfortunately, they can sometimes make us feel not-so-great.
We know that some of the tastiest treats and foods can affect our physical health. For many, food can be linked to heart disease, weight management issues, and autoimmune inflammation. People, especially younger women, can also form disordered relationships with eating, which affects both physical and mental health.
But did you know that even if you do have a good relationship with food and are physically healthy, there are certain foods that can lead to bad moods?
According to a 2018 Harvard study, food can also change our mood. Yep, it literally can have an effect on our cognitive functioning and the way feel day to day. And sometimes, those beautiful donuts — yes, the warm and gooey ones with the icing and sprinkles — are only masquerading as comfort foods. In reality, these comfort foods may have an affect on more than just our bodies. They can also mess with our minds, putting us in bad moods.
As Hippocrates once said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”
The wise man wasn’t wrong! You may think there’s no possible way that what you eat can heavily affect your brain and put you in bad moods, but you’d be wrong. In fact, 20 percent of our daily calories power our brains. Food is actually behind how we evolved as a species, and more and more research is being done around the blood-brain barrier.
In fact, the food we eat is directly linked to mood stability, mental illness, and even cognitive functioning.
Our brain needs specific amino acids and minerals to produce neurotransmitters that prevent bad moods.
A 2015 study by medical journal Missouri Medicine explained the link between food and mood: “Production of monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, important in the pathophysiology of mental illness, depends on adequate building blocks of amino acids, and mineral dependent co-factors.”
And then there’s proof that certain fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids, are critical to our mental health.
The same study also showed that omega-3 fatty acids (which we get from foods like salmon, chia seeds, sardines, walnuts, and flax seeds) have been shown to be as effective alone or in conjunction with treatment for disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
This means to support a healthy mood, you’ll want to eat Omega-3s.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that those who have mental health disorders or issues should stop taking prescribed medications or seeing their therapist. What it does mean, however, is you should start checking the labels of your food for more products with Omega-3s. According to Healthline, three separate clinical studies found that the use of fish oil (also known as EPA) in three types of depression showed “significant improvement as compared to those with a placebo.”
Of course, each person reacts differently to each food, so it’s important to do your research and work with your doctor.
Just because a certain food is good for you doesn’t mean you should go eating it in abundance.
If you too many Omega-3s, for example, you could have an adverse reaction. A well-balanced, clean, smart diet is the goal. And food should never replace medical attention, especially when it comes to urgent needs. This may all be information you have heard your entire life, but it’s true: there’s no shortcut to a healthy mind and body.
That said, let’s get into some foods that aren’t super great for your moods.
Too Much Sugar Is Not Your Friend
Avoid sugar-loaded snacks, beverages, and candies.
Look, we all love anything fried, candy-coated, or loaded with sugar. It’s human nature. But of course, these are our vices for a reason. Not only can they lead to health issues, but these specific foods are also bad for the mood, says Cleveland Clinic.
Despite being sweet, these foods are low in serotonin, the happy chemical.
“The chips are high in saturated fat (which tends to increase inflammation inside blood vessels) and low in serotonin. And tons of added sugars in the soda and cookie will trigger a protein cascade that will leave you feeling low, low down,” according to Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a medical professional who spoke with the Cleveland Clinic.
Your Lunch Sandwich Is Doing More Harm Than Good
Who thought a plain turkey sandwich could be affecting your mood?
According to The Cleveland Clinic, lunch meats — especially if eaten on white bread — can seriously drain your mood, making you feel tired, bloated and generally not great. Lunch meats also contribute to an increased risk for cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. If you’re gonna eat them, avoid ones with BHA and Nitrates.
Coffee Can Make You Easily Irritated
Remember the guy who drank a bunch of caffeine and then went nuts in public?
Yeah, the guy who drank five cups of coffee and lost it. The man threw up in the entrance way of a movie theater and proceeded to create chaos, eventually headbutting the theater’s manager and attempting to resist arrest. Yikes. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen every time someone overloads on caffeine, but there still are consequences.
Coffee can wake us up, but it can also cause problems.
That’s because too much coffee can cause irritability, agitation, and anxiety. If you’re gonna drink the stuff, limit it to one to two cups per day. You wouldn’t want to down a bunch of coffee, attack people and then get arrested, right? No, we didn’t think so.
Trans-Fats Are Also Detrimental To Your Mental Health
Trans fat foods include everything from doughnuts and cakes to frozen pizza and sticks of margarine. It’s a bummer, but these delicious foods can make you feel depressed.
Yep, these foods actually impair your neurotransmitters, which starve your brain from what it actually needs to function. Studies have actually found that people who consume tons of trans fat were 48 percent more depressed than those who didn’t. Not to mention, these foods tend to make people feel physically sluggish, too.
Salted Peanuts Can Lead To Moodiness
They can cause depressive feelings, thanks to MSG flavoring.
According to Eat This, Not That, lots of salted peanuts contain loads of sodium and MSG, “which is an artificial flavoring that leaves one feeling depressed, weak, fatigued, and often moody or with headaches.” So, avoid snacking on this too often, and definitely avoid products with MSG.
Canned Foods Wreak Havoc On Your Brain
And that’s because the BPA in many canned foods can cause mood issues.
According to University Health News, many canned foods contain BPA, which is a chemical additive linked to chronic mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. Look for brands of canned food that don’t contain BPA in the lining of the can. Or, if you can, try to avoid canned foods on the whole. Remember: shop the perimeter of your grocery store!
Alcohol Is A Natural Depressant
And we aren’t just talking about while you are drinking.
Okay, so this isn’t a food, but it’s something most adults ingest fairly often. Alcohol can cause all sorts of bad moods and mental issues — during and after drinking it. It can make us angry, lower our inhibitions, impair judgment, and cause emotionality. It’s so important to drink in moderation.
Alcohol can affect your mental health down the line, too.
Alcohol can also cause liver damage that can affect your mood. According to the American Addiction Center, it can cause “sleep changes, alterations in mood, personality changes, depression, anxiety, impaired concentration, and incoordination. Too much alcohol may also hinder new brain cell growth.” So say it again with us: if you are going to drink, do so in moderation.
It’s not always about what you eat. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t.
Are you getting all of your vitamins?
According to one study, “Several nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, B9 (folate), and zinc, can cause symptoms of depression and dementia such as low mood, fatigue, cognitive decline, and irritability.” So beyond avoiding specific foods, there are some other eating-related behaviors you can adopt to make you feel much happier.
Like not eating too much all at once.
Overeating can lead to feelings of guilt, general discomfort, and bad moods. While it’s never a good idea to punish yourself for enjoy some delicious food (we all do it!), it’s important to eat in moderation, since moderation allows us to enjoy the perks of great food while not having to succumb to that too-full feeling.
But it’s also important that you don’t skip meals, either!
If you skip meals, Mayo Clinic says that can lead to low blood sugar levels, which can mess with your insulin, energy levels, and your mood. You might feel irritable, exhausted, cranky, angry, or even despondent. So get your snack on — just make sure it’s a healthy one to avoid bad moods.
You can still have some comfort foods when the mood strikes — but in moderation.
Like that delectable chocolatey pastry you’ve been eyeing.
According to Joy Short, MS, RD, assistant professor and head of undergraduate nutrition and dietetics at St. Louis University, you can totally reach for that ooey-gooey-crispy-crunchy candy bar. Just make the rest of your meals for the day are cleaner, and try not to do it too often. Cool?
The goal is to get your body used to clean foods so that your mental health is stable — and your bad moods aren’t frequent.
According to WebMD, you’ll want to go for low-glycemic foods, like fruits, beans, or oatmeal. You might want to snack (healthily!) every few hours so that your body has a constant source of healthy foods. Be sure to drink water, get enough fat (yes, fat is good for the body and your mood), and eat as naturally and colorfully as possible. Try not to straight-up cut out a food group, which can lead to mood swings, too.
In the end, treat yourself…. to healthy food and self-love.
It’s important that you give your body everything it needs to properly function: Regular exercise, proper hydration, self-love, de-stressing tools, and clean nutrition. Making sure you’re filling your day with intentional and healthy choices will go a long, long way towards creating a healthy and happy body and mind.