Food and Mood

We’re aware of how our diet impacts our physical health, including our heart health, weight, and susceptibility to various conditions. However, it’s equally important to understand how the food we eat can influence our mental well-being and also how our mental health can affect our food choices. 

Mood and a multitude of other factors significantly impact our food choices. These factors can include family upbringing, health conditions, personal beliefs, cultural influences, social media pressures, identity, body weight, emotions, and genetics.

Regular eating patterns

When managing blood glucose levels, it’s not just about what you eat; it’s also about when you eat. Consistent eating habits play a crucial role in this. To maintain stable blood glucose, focus on a balanced diet, regular meals, and consuming healthy snacks. Avoid going more than 3-4 hours between meals and never underestimate the importance of a nutritious breakfast. Skipping meals can have several negative effects on your body, impacting mood, weight management, and blood glucose control in significant ways. When blood glucose drops, it can cause irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. It can also make you feel excessively hungry later in the day, making it much harder to choose healthy food choices and control your portion size. 

Different foods and how they might affect mood

There are many similarities in the foods that promote good physical health, as those that act positively on our mental health. In order for our brains to function properly, we need a balanced supply of nutrients. These include carbohydrates, proteins, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are essential for producing neurotransmitters, which are the messengers that regulate our emotions and well-being. 

Ever felt ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when nervous? This sensation highlights the strong gut-brain connection. Your gut hosts trillions of microbes, known as the gut microbiota, and they impact your mood and mental health. A balanced, diverse gut microbiome is achieved with a diet rich in fibre, prebiotics, and fermented foods. A Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fibre and unsaturated fatty acids found in whole grains, beans, nuts, and olive oil, supports a healthy gut microbiome for better mental well-being.

Having low iron levels can make you feel weak, tired and lethargic. Consuming iron-rich foods such as red meat, poultry and fish, beans and pulses is essential for the production of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body.

Carbohydrates, found in foods like vegetables, cereals, breads, rice, and potatoes, are essential for providing energy and are packed with nutrients, including calcium and B vitamins. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance and manage your carbohydrate intake, especially when dealing with blood glucose levels. Maintaining a well-rounded diet with a focus on complex carbohydrates and nutrient-rich sources is key to sustaining your health and energy levels.

Omega-3 fats are primarily abundant in fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, pilchards, and herrings. They are also present in nuts and seeds like walnuts, flaxseeds, and can be sourced from rapeseed oil. They are renowned for their potential to protect against heart disease, maintain good memory, and play a role in the prevention and treatment of depression.

Consider any areas of change

Thinking about your own eating habits, you may feel there are some changes that would be beneficial to you. To get started, consider setting SMART goals to make your aspirations a reality. For instance, if you’re aiming to increase your fruit and vegetable intake, here’s a guide to assist you:

  • What do you want to achieve? Define a specific goal such as eating 5 portions of fruit & vegetables a day.
  • When would you like to achieve this goal? For example, aiming to achieve this goal every day this week.
  • What will help you get there? Identify strategies, like planning your meals and snacks in advance.
  • Focus on one objective
  • Consider Barriers: Anticipate potential obstacles that could hinder your success and plan ahead to overcome them.
  • Assess Confidence: On a scale of 0-10, rate your confidence in following this plan.
  • Reward Your Achievements: Don’t forget to celebrate your successes! Log your progress in the Oviva app, share it with your coach, and let your friends and family in on your journey.

Taking these steps will help you transform your intentions into actionable and achievable changes in your diet, ultimately leading to improved well-being.