Food Mood Facts
What we eat is important, biologically, to our mind and our energy field.
It is a well known fact that food has an impact on various chemicals in the gut and brain. By taking good care of what you eat and your body, your brain will become healthier.
There are five brain signaling chemicals which are most closely linked to what you eat and drink. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are (1) serotonin, (2) dopamine, (3) norepinephrine, (4) histamine, and (5) acetylcholine. Of those, most is known about how serotonin directly affects emotional health.
Here’s the primary sources for electro-chemical balance: Amino acids, which we obtain from foods or supplements, are the building blocks of neurotransmitters aid in the production and enhancement of the activity of the brain’s signaling chemicals, and can protect them from injury. However, the typical U.S. diet does not supply us with what is required for optimum health. Therefore, our diets have negatively affected our mental health.
A current study and resources suggest that depression has doubled in the United States in the last decade. And, the same goes for obesity. The link between diet and mood are so important, that one of the studies shows people following the Mediterranean or Japanese diet compared to the American diet have a 25-35% lower risk of depression. The difference is astounding!
According to WHO, 350 million people globally suffer from depression, it is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Since diet can reduce risk by 25-35%, we could potentially have a positive impact on approximately 100 million people if we all ate in a manner that supported brain health.
The gut and the brain health are also directly linked to our emotions. Many types of antidepressant medications help your body hold on longer to the serotonin it makes, because the right amount of serotonin can increase a sense of well-being and lower anxiety. Approximately 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal tract. Our gut is lined with 100 million neurons. So you see, it’s not just the brain that does the thinking. Our gut is connected to our brain and major organs by an extensive neural superhighway called the Vagus nerve. The serotonin made in our gut can travel throughout our entire body and positively or negatively affect our whole wellbeing.
In addition to the food and drink we consume, our gut neurons are highly influenced by billions of bacteria that live in our intestines. There are good and bad bacteria. Both, however, need a place to live, which we call the “stomach forest.” This “forest” is developed and maintained by eating good vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, garlic, lettuce, kale, spinach, etc. The good bacteria can help us digest our food and draw more nutrition from what we eat. Unfortunately, these good bacteria don’t thrive in the highly processed, high-sugar typical U.S. diet. Instead, the bad disease-causing bacteria are promoted. Sugar is your enemy, and the sooner you treat it as such the healthier you will become!
How to restore the right bacteria? Probiotics like Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Lactococcus are often found in yogurts with live cultures, drinks like kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, some pickles and kimchi. They can also be bought as supplements. Studies have shown that taking certain probiotics on a regular basis improves anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook. There’s also a growing body of research on prebiotics, or encouraging the good bacteria to grow by feeding them precisely what they need to thrive. Soluble fiber like that found in bananas, berries, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, jicama, beans and leafy greens are known prebiotics.
Good nutrition has a huge impact on overall health, not just mental health. Consider these statistics on Americans’ health: 37% of us will experience cardiovascular disease; 35% of us will experience hypertension and another 36% prehypertension; 11% will have diabetes; 47% will have cancer; and 50% of women and 25% of men will have osteoporosis. All of these diseases have a direct connection to diet. In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund International published that over 30% of all cancer is preventable with diet, exercise and a healthy BMI (body mass index).
So what does a healthy diet look like? It’s colorful! It’s fresh! It’s minimally processed or cooked. Where possible it is organic and not genetically modified. An optimal diet includes lots of whole fruits and vegetables, with an abundance of greens and sea greens; whole grains; beans; nuts; and fermented foods. It also contains a small amount of seafood and grass-fed meats that are raised humanely and are free from toxins. The ideal diet is limited in animal proteins, gluten, refined sugars, diary, caffeine and processed foods. Good mood foods and supplements are rich in iron, antioxidants, calcium, the B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, folate/folic acids, omegas, fiber, prebiotics and probiotics.