December 1, 2019




    Your emotions are directly linked to what and how you eat.  Here, the best tips to help dine your way to feeling better!

    Feeling upbeat about the day ahead?  Thank your breakfast and your dinner last night.  It’s clear that there is a strong connection between mood and food.  What you eat can help determine how positive and happy you are.  This is especially true for women, who need a more nutrient-rich diet for their mental well-being.  The reason: Women have greater connectivity among their brain regions than men do, and that requires more of a substance called myelin.  Because women need more myelin than men, they must replenish it faster and need a broader spectrum of nutrients.  Other elements factor in the emotion-food equation.   For one thing, your age makes a difference.  Adults over 30 require more of the antioxidants found in fresh produce, while younger people need more protein-based foods.  The brain is still maturing in your 20’s and protein helps provide the precursors that support the production of neurotransmitters.  As you get older, the brain starts to lose some protective mechanisms, and inflammation can occur.  Your gut bacteria may also play a role.  There is a correlation between an abundance of specific microbes (Bifidobacterium, for example) and fewer reported symptoms of depression and anxiety.   Cause and effect have yet to be proven, but exploration is ongoing about whether the microbes might communicate with brain cells via the vagus nerve, which runs between the brain and abdomen.  One thing we do know for sure is that the foods most likely to boost your mood will also improve your health, meaning the benefits are twofold.  Here’s how to score all the perks.

    Get fresh.  Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, plus whole grains, legumes, nuts and yogurt to get a full spectrum of nutrients.  Add fatty fish like salmon and tuna twice per week to your diet: they have omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to improve mood.  The key is to choose things your really enjoy and then find easy and creative ways to incorporate them into your meals. 

    Fill up on fiber.  Consuming more produce, which contains fiber, is linked to positive emotions.  Fiber feeds your gut bacteria, and certain types of it, like inulin, found in food like asparagus and leeks, and pectin in apples and plums, stimulate the microbes Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, and some strains of these can enhance well-being.  Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day.

    Go Mediterranean.  You know about the diet but following the Mediterranean lifestyle is beneficial.  This includes exercise, which has been found to help improve your outlook.  So, add exercise most days of the week, get together with friends, and spend time in nature in addition to eating healthy food.  Get your fill of whole grains.  They’re a good source of B vitamins, which are important for brain function, including mood.

    Eat breakfast.  If you’re over 30, a morning meal helps promote positive emotions.  We have an increased level of cortisol in the early hours of the day, which can make us irritable.  And when we’re older, stress takes a greater toll on us.  If we eat breakfast, our cortisol levels decrease.  A combination of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat (like avocado or peanut butter toast) is best.  Enjoy!

    Pam O’Brien