The relationship between food and mood
So, can the food we eat actually influence how we feel, even two days from when we ate it? According to one study1, as participants ate food that contained a high number of calories, sodium and saturated fat, they reported experiencing a heightened negative mood, even after two days. These results show that we should be mindful when eating in order to have a positive mood state. Consider eating healthy fats rather than saturated ones, and try not going too hard with adding salt. Carbohydrates are essential for our energy, but don’t go overboard as too much may store as fat, and obviously also has the potential to create a negative affect.
It’s also important to acknowledge the complexity of nutrition and bodily processes that surround food, mental health and physical health. Remember that should you have any queries or desires to change your eating habits, consult your GP or nutritionist for advice tailored to your specific needs.
Another study2 described that the participants reported a more positive mood state when they ate more servings of fruit and vegetables, while they reported a higher negative mood state when they ate more servings of chips, cakes, muffins, chocolate, etc.
Overall, eating healthy fruits and vegetables may promote emotional wellbeing, particularly in young adults, as this was the population group of both studies. Not to get too cliché, but ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’!
Here are some tips that provide healthy alternatives to some of the unhealthy food we all like to indulge in:
If you are craving chocolate, try eating raw nuts, and fruits such as strawberries and bananas – these two fruits usually complement chocolate’s flavour, so it’s a nice tip to trick your mind that you are actually having some choc.
If you are craving salty/oily chips, try some kale or avocado chips. These are healthy alternatives as they too trick your mind into thinking it’s having some store-bought chips. The baked kale chips will break in your mouth just like normal chips, and the baked breadcrumbs that cover the avocado too will provide the same sensation, just with more health benefits!
1Hendy, H. M. (2011). Which comes first in food-mood relationships, foods or moods? Appetite, 58(2), 771 – 775.
2White, B. A., Horwath, C. C., & Conner, T. S. (2013). Many apples a day keep the blues away – Daily experiences of negative and positive affect and food consumption in young adults. British Journal of Health Psychology, 18(4), 782 – 798.