How Does Food Affect Your Mood?

If you are a caregiver you are undoubtedly stressed. And people who are stressed typically crave and overeat soda, candy, chips, cookies, bread, pasta and icecream for a temporary lift. The problem is that eating refined carohydrates will give you a temporary fix, but your blood sugar will crash a couple hours later, leaving you tired and moody.

Bad Habits=Poor Food Choices

Along with craving refined carbs, caregivers often eat on the run—standing up, in the car, chowing down, or going through the “drive thru” lane at your favorite fast food restaurant. Do you grab a candy bar in the afternoon for a “pick-me-up”? Do you skip breakfast and grab a doughnut or bagel and coffee? Do you drink soda instead of water? Don’t feel guilty if you answered “yes” to any of these questions. It’s typical—but it’s not healthy.

Here’s a better way to reduce your stress

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that allow neurons to communicate. They are supported by nutritious foods and are depleted by lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and certain drugs and environmental toxins. The important thing that caregivers need to know is that we can support our neurotransmitters with healthy eating habits. In turn, our neurotransmitters will help support our mood, energy, ability to sleep well, and perform at our best.

Here are the most important neurotransmitters and the foods that support them

1. Serotonin is necessary for a stable mood.

A deficiency can result in:

  • Depressed or irritable mood, sudden tears
  • Insomnia and anxiety
  • Binge eating
  • Overactive mind
  • Low tolerance to stress
  • Decreased immune function

Foods that enhance serotonin: Soy, turkey, cheese, cottage cheese, avocado, meat, comfort food (mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese)

2. Dopamine keeps us focused and motivated.

A deficiency can result in:

  • Depressed mood
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Weight gain, obesity
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Low libido
  • Nicotine addiction

Foods that enhance dopamine: Meat, wild game, eggs, chocolate, blueberries, yoghurt, milk, soy, cheese, seeds and nuts, beans and legumes

3. Norepinephrine is responsiblie for stimulatory responses in the body.

A deficiency can result in:

  • Depressed mood
  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Poor memory/focus
  • Apathy

Foods that enhance norepinephrine: almonds, apples, avocado, bananas, beef liver, cheese, fish, green veggies, lean meat, nuts, grains, pineapple, poultry, tofu

4. GABA is responsible for helping us to relax and reduce anxiety.

A deficiency can result in:

  • High anxiety, panic, worry
  • “Monkey mind”
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep

Foods that enhance GABA: Green tea, almonds, bananas, beef liver, broccoli, brown rice, halibut, lentils, oats, oranges, spinach, walnuts, whole grains

How to boost your neurotransmitters

  • Eat a serving of high-quality protein with every meal and snack. Focus on complex carbohydrates, and eliminate junk foods (refined carbs).
  • Enjoy unlimited amounts of fresh veggies.
  • Eat a good breakfast!
  • Eat 3 balanced meals and 1-2 healthy snacks per day.

Recommended Reading

  1. The Mood Cure, Julia Ross, MA
  2. The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain, Eric Braverman, MD
  3. The Chemistry of Joy, Henry Emmons, MD