Is What You’re Eating Affecting Your Happiness?

Do you ever feel life is speeding by, making you anxious…even sad?

Do you ever feel as if life is speeding along, filling you up with anxious thoughts, draining you of energy to the point you just don’t want to get out of bed? Do you wonder how other people seem to bounce through life without a care in the world and have it all together, while others suffer (openly or privately) with feelings of dread and uneasiness? How is it that in a world where we are arguably safer and have fewer dangers than in previous generations (less disease, more conveniences, and fewer deaths caused by wild animals aka saber toothed tigers), we feel less safe…even sad?

It seems odd in our Age of Modern Conveniences, where fast and easy are the norm rather than the exception that anxiety and depression are growing at an alarming rate. After all, shouldn’t life be easy?

Most of us, intuitively, understand our lifestyle and our environment affects how we feel. For example, at a very basic level, how do you feel when you walk into a room that is cluttered and messy? Then, how do you feel when you walk into a room that is neat and organized? Each of us may have different feelings for those examples; however, we could probably agree the different environments give us a different feeling. You feel one way in a cluttered area; you feel another way in a neat area.

Now let’s look at what you eat. How food choices affect you may be a little harder to recognize because the results are not always immediate or obvious, unless you keep a food journal. However, do you feel differently if you drink a can of soda before bed than if you drink a cup of herbal tea? Do you feel differently when you have a steak and potato dinner than if you eat a salad and a cup of soup? How do you feel at 3:00 in the afternoon when you skip lunch? How do you feel at 10:00am when breakfast was something slow-burning like oatmeal versus and a pop tart or other pastry?

Now, I’m not suggesting one is necessarily bad and the other is good…they are just different food choices that affect your body in different ways. And the way they affect your body could affect your mood.

How Food Affects Our Mood

Cravings can be a reaction to stress, anxiety, or depression and have little to do with hunger.

Research tells us our mind and body are connected. So what we put in our bodies, including food, chemicals, toxins, and thoughts, has a huge impact on our physical health as well as our mood and mental health.

When you want to improve your mood, lower feelings of stress, reduce cravings and addictions then improving your diet is essential.

Did you know it’s estimated that 97% of women and 68% of men battle with food cravings high in sugar, fat, or carbohydrates? This means you are not salivating over that sugar-packed, hydrogenated fat something from the vending machine because it tastes delicious. More often, it’s a chemical thing which you are not even aware of.

Cravings can be a reaction to stress, anxiety, or depression and have little to do with hunger. The good news is you can control your moods, cravings, and be happier by eating certain foods! Feeding your body what it needs to function at optimal levels means supplying quality nutrients.


BERRIES: Blueberries and blackberries are both very rich sources of a group of compounds called flavonoids. These have been shown to have significant effect upon the cardiovascular system and a positive impact on the brain. They cause blood vessels to relax by stimulating the production of a chemical called nitric oxide by the vital inner skin that lines all of our blood vessels. Nitric oxide causes the muscular walls of the blood vessels to relax, and widening the vessels.

EGGS: Eggs are rich in protein and have a very low GI so can keep blood sugar levels stable. They are also a rich source of choline, imperative for memory and learning.

KALE: Kale, like all greens, is very dense in the mineral magnesium that can have a relaxing effect on the nervous system and the muscles. It also helps anxiety and has good amounts of iron and vitamin C.

LENTILS: Lentils, like most legumes, are incredibly rich sources of most of the B vitamins. This provides many benefits for the brain and nervous systems.

QUINOA: Quinoa is a grain alternative to rice, white bread, white rice, white pasta, and potatoes that release their sugars quickly. This causes an initial blood sugar rush that quickly comes crashing down again once the body’s insulin has dealt with it. These sugar highs and lows can play havoc with our moods and our ability to think clearly. On the other hand quinoa gives you a tasty, easy alternative that has a low impact upon blood sugar and contains quite a lot of protein. This protein slows down the release of sugars from its own carbohydrates.

SALMON: Salmon is one of the most palatable of the oily fish for most people. It’s versatile and packed with the important omega 3 fatty acids that support the health and functioning of the myelin sheath.

Nutritional Tips to Aid Anxiety

Increase magnesium –rich foods. Many clinical trials have shown that magnesium is an important factor in anxiety. It is involved in physical relaxation of skeletal muscles and in regulating many enzyme systems in the body. Fill up on leafy vegetables, as these are some of the best sources of magnesium. Other foods rich in magnesium are sunflower seeds, kale, spring greens, dark chocolate and cacao powder.

Increase Omegas! Snack on nuts and seeds to provide some omega 3, magnesium and some protein to balance blood sugar.

Protein and slow-carbs. Always eat high quality protein with good-quality carbohydrates to create a meal that will digest and release its energy slowly and drip-feed your blood sugar. Good-quality carbs are slow burning. Think brown rice over white rice; sweet potato over russet potato; and whole grains over processed and bleached varieties.

Supplement. Consider a magnesium supplement of around 1,000mg daily.

Nutritional Tips to Aid Depression

  • Increased intake of folate is associated with a lower risk of depression. Eat turkey, tuna, fish, bananas, eggs, nuts, seeds, spinach, chickpeas and game meats to get plenty of the amino acid tryptophan. Make sure you eat them with a complex carbohydrate, such as a mashed banana on toast, or open tuna sandwich.
  • Eat whole grains such as brown rice, eggs, lean meats and fish to get an intake of B vitamins, especially B12, B6 and folic acid. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains have high amounts of folate, or folic acid.
  • Eat prawns, shellfish and pumpkin seeds for a good-quality source of zinc.
  • Consider supplementing with omega 3. Look for a supplement that contains at least 750mg of EPA and 250mg of DHA and take this twice daily.
  • Rates of depression are higher in people with Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium for strong teeth and bones, health of muscles and the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with heart disease and increased risk of heart attacks.
  • Most foods do not naturally have Vitamin D, but many are “Vitamin D fortified.” Fatty fish like salmon and tuna have the most naturally occurring Vitamin D. Other foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals have Vitamin D added.

Foods to Avoid

Simple sugars will cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet

Sugary foods

Refined sugars are broken down quickly once you eat them, causing unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar that can leave you feeling down after. Whole fruits and naturally sweet products are fine in moderation, but candy, cake,

cookies, refined flour products, and soft drinks will cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet. The resulting low levels of blood sugar produce feelings of irritability, tension, and depression.


While having a couple of drinks may make you feel happy at the time, the after effects aren’t always good. Having an alcoholic drink has been found to disrupt sleep, cause changes in blood sugar levels and bring about depressive thoughts when you sober up. That’s not to say you’re not allowed a drink, instead to be aware of your limits and keep your mood levels high.


Coffee is a central nervous system stimulant that can aggravate feelings of anxiety. Caffeine has been found to inhibit the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is also referred to as the calming neurotransmitter. Caffeine can disturb sleep and cause insomnia; a common side effect of anxiety. Sleep is essential for brain health and mental well-being, so skip that cup of coffee and try some alternative drinks such as green tea or hot cacao.

Foods to Eat

Oily fish are the most recommended sources of omega-3 fatty acids

One of the key factors when it comes to boosting your mood with food is consuming foods that support Neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are your brain’s “messengers” and control mood, energy levels, appetite, and several other functions in the body.


Avocados are effective at keeping your brain cells healthy. High in monounsaturated fat, potassium and B vitamins, avocados release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine which help to relieve stress.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Some studies suggest omega-3 essential fatty acids may be helpful in treating depression, have a mood-stabilizing effect, boost the effectiveness of conventional antidepressants, and help young people with ADHD.

They also reduce inflammation, help conditions like arthritis and asthma, play a role in heart health and lessen the risk of certain cancers.

Oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines) are the most recommended sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can also be found in walnuts, flax (or flaxseed oil), olive oil, fresh basil and dark green leafy vegetables.


Carbohydrates are linked to the mood boosting brain chemical serotonin. Cravings for carbohydrates could be a sign of low serotonin activity. High carbohydrate foods trigger a release of serotonin, a natural opioid, which acts in the brain similarly to the drug opium. The long-term consumption of foods high in sugar leads to weight gain and low energy, which can lead to symptoms of depression.

So it’s important to choose your carbohydrates wisely. Limit sugary foods and eat complex carbohydrates such as whole grains rather than cakes and cookies. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes also have healthy carbohydrates and fiber.


The Medicinal Chef, Dale Pinnock, Quadrille Publishing Limited, 2013

Prescription for Natural Cures, James F. Balch, M.D., Mark Stengler, N.M.D., Robin Young Balch, N.D., John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2004

How to fight Depression and Anxiety with Nutrition, Dr. Axe

Depression and Diet, WebMD, Joseph Goldberg, MD


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