Your diet can have a huge effect on your mood and mental health. Consider the following common issues: difficulty concentrating and “brain fog”, poor memory, slow thinking, difficulty problem-solving, depression, anxiety, and mood swings. If you find yourself dealing with any of these issues, the food you’re eating might be playing a role in exacerbating the symptoms you’re experiencing.
The food you eat provides the nutrients necessary to support a wide range of biochemical functions in your brain. These brain functions are directly linked not just to your physical body, but to your thoughts and feelings, too. If you’re not providing your brain with optimal nourishment, you’ll experience the effects not just in your body, but in your mind as well.
Do you consume a lot of pre-prepared foods like frozen dinners and other pre-packaged meals? Are you eating a lot of processed junk foods and snacks? Does your diet include a lot of sugar and sweets? It’s easy for these foods to slip into your diet, especially when you’re pressed for time or eating on-the-go. But over time, you’ll start to notice the effects, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
The ingredients in these foods—all the sugar, salt, fat, plus a host of chemical additives and preservatives—provide limited nutritional value, while negatively impacting many internal processes that influence your mood. Depending on your unique make-up and biochemistry, this can make it difficult to maintain a stable, healthy mood, especially when you’re tired, stressed, upset, or under any kind of pressure.
Even if you’re not consuming the aforementioned foods in excessive amounts, it’s still possible for your diet to be nutritionally deficient to the extent that you’re under-nourished. Does your diet lack fresh fruit and vegetables? Are you falling short on your protein intake? These diet habits can all contribute to nutrient deficiencies, which in turn can exacerbate mental disorders and emotional issues. Note that if you’re attempting to eat more healthfully by sticking with salads, this can actually backfire as you’ll likely be missing out on many of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs.
If you struggle to maintain a healthy, balanced, stable mood, try taking some time to assess where there might be room for improvement in your diet. There’s no need to attempt a complete dietary overhaul overnight—not only is this overwhelming; the dramatic change can be a shock to your body and actually leave you feeling worse rather than better. Instead, consider small steps you can start taking to eat more healthfully and make gradual changes.
Listed below are some basic dietary changes that will go a long way in helping you manage your mood more effectively. As you work on making these changes, you can expect to feel calmer, less agitated mentally, less overwhelmed emotionally, and more in control.
1. Eat fewer pre-prepared/packaged meals and frozen dinners. Prepare more of your meals from scratch.
2. Eat less junk food and sugary treats. Snack on fresh fruit or raw nuts.
3. Eat more vegetables with your meals. Aim for different colours, for a greater diversity of nutrients.
4. Skip the sugary cereal for breakfast, and have eggs or oatmeal with fresh berries instead.
5. Drink water throughout the day in place of coffee, fruit juice, and soda.