Do you find you’re frequently in a bad mood? It’s not difficult to understand. Just look at how a lot of people live: overworked, underpaid, stressed out and overcommitted. The world puts a lot of pressure on each of us. When things don’t exactly work out how we’d like, it definitely can alter our moods, regardless of how positive we’ve been trying to be. While everyone has his or her own reasons for being in a bad mood, most of us also have our own little tricks or secrets to getting out of a bad mood quickly. Maybe it’s doing something you love that releases stress, or spending time with family, friends or pets. Maybe it’s that long-awaited vacation or trip you’ve been planning. Maybe it’s just a shopping trip for a bit of retail therapy. But have you ever considered the idea that what you eat may be able to help regulate your mood, too?
Registered dietitian Heather Pierce with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center says it’s something to consider. “One of the most basic keys to avoiding bad moods is the regulation of blood sugar,” she said. “For most of us, this means regulating our eating frequency to every four or five hours. But, it’s not just about when you eat, but also what you eat when you’re eating. For instance, if you’re snacking, look for snacks that include protein. This will prolong blood sugar stability. By the same token, you’ll want to avoid overindulging in foods that contain a lot of refined carbohydrates,” she explained.
Pierce says when choosing a “good mood food,” you also should look for foods that force your brain to release endorphins. “The release of endorphins gives us that sort of ‘runner’s high’ feeling,” Pierce said. “For this, we want to look for foods that aid in the production of endorphins, such as fruits. The vitamin C, potassium and carbohydrates found in fruits do just that, so the fruits that are highest in these, such as strawberries, are the most likely to impact your endorphin release and, consequently, your mood. Chocolate also helps release endorphins, as do foods that are spicy, such as salsa or wasabi. Believe it or not, the ‘spicy’ taste is actually causing you pain, which is offset by your body’s natural tendency to release endorphins,” she explained.
Foods that impact our level of the neurotransmitter serotonin also are considered “good mood foods.” “Low serotonin often is associated with depression. Therefore, foods that boost serotonin may improve your mood. For this, we want to look for complex carbohydrates as they increase the availability of serotonin. It’s a bit of a balance, as many of us reduce carbs when we’re trying to lose weight. Getting too few complex carbs definitely can affect your mood, so don’t forget that if you’re dieting. Fiber, too, can help slow down digestion, which can lead to a more even-tempered mood. Vitamin D also can impact our serotonin levels. We don’t get an abundance of vitamin D from our diets, so consider a multivitamin that contains 100 percent of your daily values of vitamins and minerals,” she explained. “Finally, look to omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in foods such as fish and walnuts. Many mental health professionals tell their patients to consider increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acids due to the research linking them with a decrease in levels of depression.