Have you ever noticed that what you eat affects your mood? When you feel emotionally well, it’s easier to make nutritious food choices, but when your mood is low, you might choose different foods.
Food is more than energy; it provides nutrients and information that affect brain health, neurotransmitters, and more. Lack of essential nutrients or blood sugar imbalances can lead to hormonal changes and mood swings. An inflammatory diet can contribute to mental health challenges and increase the risk of depression.
Many of the connections between what we eat and our mood can be explained by the physiological relationship between the gut and the brain, called the gut-brain axis. Keep reading to learn more about the gut-brain connection and discover mood-boosting foods.
The Gut-Brain Axis
We used to think that the brain dictated what happens in the gut in a top-down model. Science now shows that there is two-way communication between the gut and the brain, called the gut-brain axis. The health of the gut-brain access has to do with the gut microbiota, which is the collection of bacteria and other microorganisms living in the gut.
Unsurprisingly, changes in the gut microbiome produce changes in the brain and mood. But it works the other way too. A gut feeling can be the gut talking to the brain.
Ultra-processed foods, such as refined sugar, strain gut health and negatively influence mood. These foods contribute to blood sugar imbalances, chronic inflammation, and increased disease risk.
Food and eating patterns that promote a healthy mood, balance blood sugar, support hormone health, and feed a healthy microbiome. Look for fiber, protein, and good fats.
Fiber is found exclusively in whole plant foods and is part of a healthy eating pattern like the Mediterranean diet or plant-based diet.
Fiber supports the gut-brain axis by nourishing the microbiome, making a diet rich in plants a good choice for mood boosting.
Consider adding these high-fiber foods:
- Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
- Cashews, almonds, and other nuts
- Berries, apples, and other fruit
- Avocados, coconut
- Asparagus, artichokes, and other veggies
- Winter squash, sweet potatoes, cassava
- Oats, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains
- Peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and beans
When your blood sugar is all over the place, so is your mood. Protein with meals and snacks helps stabilize blood sugar and balance hormones, making you feel more even and grounded.
In addition to blood sugar regulation, dietary protein provides the building blocks for neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that help you feel good.
Be sure to choose high-quality protein sources, including plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds, beans, and plant-based protein powders.
Fats are the building blocks of the brain, so eating good fats is a no-brainer for good brain function!
Health benefits of fat also include helping you feel full and satisfied from meals, reducing sugar cravings, and helping you absorb essential nutrients (like vitamin D).
Food sources of healthy fats include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Coconut and coconut oil
- High oleic oils like olive, avocado, and sunflower oil
- Cold water fish and eggs
If you struggle with your mood or mental health, consider focusing on dietary changes that include adding mood-boosting foods to your day.
Scott’s Protein Balls combine whole food sources of fiber, protein, and good fats for the perfect blood sugar-balancing and mood-boosting snack. Grab a pack as a convenient way to add many specific foods discussed here and supercharge your plant-rich diet.