Can food boost your mood?

Let me start with, uh hell to the YES on the answer to this one. Food is one of the ultimate mood boosters.

Mindset absolutely plays a role here too – like your self-talk. But when you think about happiness, it’s largely a game of brain chemicals doin’ their thang. 

Brain chemicals (referred to as neurotransmitters or sometimes simply ‘hormones’) need nutrients like vitamins and minerals to be made – which we find in food!

Let’s take our happy hormone Serotonin as one example, since it regulates a wide variety of brain functions. Serotonin balances your:

  • mood
  • social behaviour
  • appetite
  • digestion
  • sleep
  • memory
  • sexual desire
  • sexual function

(click here to read more about serotonin in The Mind Handbook)

Serotonin requires tryptophan and omega 3s to be made and to work properly. Both of these are “essential”, meaning they must be present in our diet because our body can’t make these on our own. 

Depression, for example, has been linked to serotonin levels and tryptophan depletion.

Having these foods on rotation every day can help your body make this major happy hormone.

Rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids

  • Salmon
  • Flaxseed Oil
  • Hemp Seems

Rich sources of tryptophan

  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Tahini & Sesame Seeds
Salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids.

Nerd note: Did you know it’s now well-known in natural medicine that almost all of our serotonin is actually made in our intestinal cells (i.e. our gut)? Even though we first found it in the brain?

Some papers have even quoted roughly 95% of serotonin being produced in our gut! That means fibre is important too, as it feeds our guts and helps make more serotonin.

And that’s just one of our happy hormones.

We have others like Dopamine, Oxytocin and Endorphins. All these hormones need enough macro and micronutrients to work effectively and be created in the first place.

How does food affect stress?

What we put in our mouth has the power to change how we feel.

Stress consumes our energy and eats up our nutrients.

Put really simply:
We eat food for energy and nutrients. Our body decides what to use the energy and nutrients for. That might be stress-related hormones if you’re going through a period of stress. Once we use them up, there’s not enough left over for other processes. This is why we constantly need to eat nutrient dense food – to top up the nutrients and have enough leftover for the other processes too.

When we have a stressful thought (e.g. “Oh man, I hope I don’t blow this important presentation”) or stressful experience (like running up the platform stairs to make the train) our body gets the message it needs to make some hormones to help you – QUICK SMART!

These hormones are needed to make us faster to think, move or react, because our body is getting the signal there’s some level of urgency.

This makes our heart race, might give us the jitters and presses PAUSE on all ‘non-essential’ biochemical reactions, like making sex hormones.

This is because your body knows it needs to release fast energy into your bloodstream for chasing the train vs spending its resources on making you fertile.

The creation of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (“stress hormones”) require a lot of different co-factors just like all other hormones especially Magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc and calcium.

Rich Sources of Magnesium
To highlight one of these co-factors that are often underconsumed vs our NEED for them, Magnesium is found in:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Use food to boost your mood

So again, our fuel becomes really influential in its ability to impact our mood.

Consuming food in a strategic way can help repair the burden of a worried or busy mind and is essential to help us feel calm and relaxed (which is what Magnesium helps us to feel)!

If we can achieve a balance of nutrients from a range of food sources, we can prove to ourselves just how much power we have through our food choices to improve our happiness!

Remember: The 3 pillars of health that I discuss in Operation: Best Self ALL have profound effects on our quality of life and our ability to enjoy it.

Stay well

Dee Zibara

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