Though our emotions and stress levels are often influenced by things that happen outside of our control, there are many ways we can have a lot of influence over our moods and how we respond to stress. Did you know that your diet can actually have an impact on your mood? It’s true! We’ll discuss some ways you can change up your eating habits to help support mood and stress response.
If you have ever gone too long with eating, you know how it can make you feel: low energy and irritable, also known as “hangry.” That feeling usually comes from blood sugar dipping a little too low, which can occur even in the absence of diabetes. Regular meals and snacks keep blood sugar balanced, which means better energy and mood throughout the day.
Mood can also be influenced by certain types of chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Chronic stress can affect the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones in your body, which can have a negative impact on your mood and how you are able to respond to stressful situations in the future.
If you find yourself frequently with that “hangry” feeling or have a tendency to eat more during times of stress, we have some tips that may help keep your mood on a more even keel.
When we are stressed or feeling low we tend to reach for highly refined carbs (i.e. white flour products, such as bread and noodles, as well as sugary foods), . Doughnuts in the morning or chips in the afternoon may give us temporary energy and mood lift, but that will quickly come crashing down with our blood sugar. When planning meals or snacks, make sure to include protein, healthy fats, and carbs with fiber. Eating these balanced meals will keep you off the rollercoaster of blood sugar spikes and crashes. Check out the Brook Healthy Plate for more info or you can reach out to our Health Coaches in your Brook app.
In addition to eating balanced meals and snacks, having variety will help ensure you have the protein and nutrients needed for making neurotransmitters – essential chemicals for brain health. Some key nutrients to include in your diet –
Everyday we continue to see new research that shows a potential link between the health of our gut bacteria (microbiome) and our mood. Chronic stress can negatively affect your microbiome, so while you are working on stress management, think about supporting your gut bacteria as well. To keep those beneficial bugs happy and healthy, include probiotic and prebiotics foods in your diet. Probiotic foods are foods that are cultured or fermented like yogurt and sauerkraut, while prebiotic foods, such as banana, asparagus, and oats, are higher in a type of fiber that bacteria like to eat. We have more tips for improving the health of your microbiome here.
When we are stressed, we tend to consume foods that might temporarily make us feel good, but these foods may actually cause more damage in the long-term. Try to minimize intake of caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in refined sugar. Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep, which can worsen stress and mood problems. Refined sugars cause an increase in certain neurotransmitters that can trigger overeating.
Staying hydrated is essential for overall good health. Instead of reaching for sodas or other sugary drinks, have your beverages pull double-duty to provide hydration and help reduce stress. While green tea does have some caffeine, it also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can be helpful for reducing anxiety. Herbal teas such as chamomile, passionflower, and mint are well known for having calming effects. You can brew these teas and drink immediately for a relaxing ritual, or stick them in the fridge to have iced tea you can sip on all day.
While food may not provide a quick fix to how you feel, over the long-term, these dietary changes can help with mood support and how your mind and body react to stress. Focus on eating regular, well balanced meals, including a variety of foods in your diet, and limiting your intake of refined sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. All of these actions are ones that you CAN control to influence how you feel from day to day.
Note: While diet can help with mood support and brain health, this advice is not meant to take the place of medication and/or counseling for mood disorders such as depression.
Not sure where to start? Reach out to the Health Coaches to set goals around food, stress management, and more.
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on May 4, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years and is Brook's Health Director.