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Many people prioritize a balanced, healthy diet in an attempt to shape and mold the body they want. But it's not as common for people to think of food as an influencer on their mood.
Your clients' moods and emotions can affect what they consume in their diet, but can their diet affect their mood?
Follow along as we explore this topic and try to unravel how what an individual consumes and how much they consume plays a role in their mood.
Let's start from the beginning...
Before we discuss how the foods in your client's day-to-day diet can impact their mood, it's important to understand that diet, in the early part of life, can contribute to an individual's mood and emotions.
Getting the right types of food, and more specifically the right macro and micronutrients, during the first phases of life (conception through the first 2-3 years of life), is critical. Although the responsibility is outside the individual's hands and primarily on their caretakers, without adequate nutrition, an individual's mood can be altered during their younger years and also later in life.
Several different portions of the brain are developing during this critical time. Inadequate nutrition can alter brain development and brain function leading to challenges in mood and mental health (plus, many other negative effects).
The following list includes some of the most important nutrients for a child's diet during this early phase of life:
Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA)
The other interesting component to recognize is how an individual's mood and emotions can be indirectly affected because of improper nutrition at an early age. For example, if a child's IQ and attention span are altered because of malnutrition, they may experience more frustration, anger, or negative social feedback from those around them—this can further alter their development and mood later in life (1)(2).
Aside from the important early phase of life, there seems to be a connection between an individual's diet choices and their mood.
There is evidence the gut is strongly linked to a person's emotional state.
Eating, in and of itself, may impact mood. When food is absorbed, the intestines "communicate" with the brain via the vagus nerve. This is a catalyst for the release of certain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, like dopamine and endorphins, can have a significant effect on an individual's mood (3).
There is also evidence indicating if the healthy bacteria in the intestines (intestinal flora) is altered, this can impact an individual's hormone regulation (neuroendocrine system) which plays a critical role in an individual's mood. So, eating the right foods is also incredibly important (4).
The following lists include a few foods and supplements that, when consumed as a part of a balanced dietary pattern, may support a good mood.
Foods in the Mediterranean Diet
Vitamin D (4)
Vitamin B12 (5)
In contrast, diets similar to a western diet are linked to a higher risk of depressive moods (high fat, high sugar, etc.) (4).
The following includes a couple of foods shown to have an association with depressive moods:
Sugary foods (soft drinks, juice, sweets, etc.) (6)
In addition to the types of food a person consumes, an individual's mood can be affected by the amount of food they consume.
Eating too much food—most people have been there at some point in their life. An individual consumes too much food and is left feeling, lethargic, heavy, and sluggish. Although the amount of food consumed and how in tune an individual is to this feedback from their body can vary, not feeling good physically can have a negative impact on a person's mood.
Not eating enough food can also have an impact on mood (aka hangry). Research shows some individuals can experience more negative emotions when they are hungry. Along with other potential alterations to their psychological state, physiologically, the drop in blood sugar levels can play a role in a chain reaction resulting in an unpleasant experience (7)(8).
There are a few other ways a person's food choice can contribute to their mood. However, this particular list doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the food itself but rather the perception of the food they're eating.
Aside from the food itself, your client's perception of the food they eat can alter their mood. So, if they're mentally beating themselves up every time they have a cookie, this can negatively impact their mood. Feeling like they made healthy food choices, however, may do just the opposite.
The look or smell of certain foods from childhood can trigger positive, comforting emotions. It's common for people to experience emotions associated with certain foods linked to experiences from their past (9).
An individual's diet can impact how they feel. Ultimately, to support a positive mood, science suggests a diet with lots of plants (fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds) and fish with limited amounts of processed or sugary foods.
Intrigued by the way food impacts health, mental state, and body shape? Check out ISSA's Nutritionist Course. You'll unravel how foods and behaviors impact a client's goals. And, you'll learn tools to debunk diet myths, understand food labels, and coach your client's to success.
Cusick, S.E., Georgieff, M.K. "The Role of Nutrition in Brain Development: The Golden Opportunity of the First 1000 Days." J Pediatr. 2016; 175:16-21.
Prado, Elizabeth L., Dewey, Kathryn G. "Nutrition and brain development in early life." Nutrition Reviews. 2014; 72, Issue 4,1:267-284.
Breit, S., Kupferberg, A., Rogler, G., Hasler, G. "Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders." Front Psychiatry. 2018; 9:44.
Huang, Q., et al. "Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and Depression." Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland).2019; vol. 8,9 376.
Skarupski, K.A., Tangney, C., Li, H., et al. "Longitudinal association of vitamin B-6, folate, and vitamin B-12 with depressive symptoms among older adults over time." Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(2):330-335.
Ljungberg, T., Bondza, E., Lethin, C. "Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression." Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(5):1616.
MacCormack, J. K., Lindqust, K. A. "Feeling Hangry? Hunger Is Conceptualize as Emotion." American Psychological Association. 2019; 19 (2): 301-319
University of Guelph. "Link between hunger and mood explained: The sudden drop in glucose we experience when we are hungry can impact our mood." ScienceDaily. 2018.
Hopf, Sarah-Marie. "You Are What You Eat: How Food Affects Your Mood." Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. 2011.
By becoming an ISSA Nutritionist, you'll learn the foundations of how food fuels the body, plus step by step methods for implementing a healthy eating plan into clients' lifestyles.
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