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The Mind-Body Connection: How What You Eat Affects Your Mood

In the last lesson, you learned about journaling with intent and that getting the negative thoughts out of your head and onto paper can help to ease your stress.

Next, you'll learn about why you are what you eat...or rather, how the food you eat affects your mood.

As a holistic nutritionist, I learned a great deal of how different types of food either support or hinder your daily functioning. In a way, it's kind of ironic to think about. We all eat. Yet, many of us don't give much thought to how what we are eating is really affecting our body.

Sure, you may have had some nutritional education in elementary school or high school. But how much do you really know about how what you're eating is affecting your quality of life?

Do you know what foods can boost your emotions? Which ones ease depression? Which ones trigger anxiety? Which gives you energy and which makes you sluggish?

If I were a betting person, I would guess that, when it comes to food, you likely run on autopilot. It's normal, really. You grow up eating a certain way, and you end up taking those habits with you once you venture out on your own.

Then you pass those habits along to your kids because, well, that's how you've always done it.

But food is quite literally what fuels your body to keep going. It is the very foundation of how you function. And just like in a building with a faulty or cracked foundation, if you aren't eating properly, then your building is bound to crumble and fall.

There is a newly emerging field of Nutritional Psychology which addresses that age-old adage that you are what you eat.

This is the result of years of work and research in nutrition, psychology, and integrative medicine all coming together into one, integrated effort to understand how nutrient intake affects our mood, ability to tolerate stress, inflammation, energy levels, sleeping patterns and cognitive ability. It even affects our medication needs and behaviors.

As I mentioned in lesson 2, your body functions at its best when it is in balance. And a balanced diet is especially important for this functioning. Your diet is the building blocks to both your physical and your mental state.

And a balanced diet is one that includes all the things your body needs to function: water, carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

The source of those things, and their ratios, matter greatly. Too much of one and not enough of another throws your body off balance. And this off-balanced diet creates off-balanced moods.

Because of this, it is of the utmost importance that you choose your sources of food wisely. For example, when it comes to carbs – whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains are what best supports your body.

When you substitute these whole foods for processed foods, the important nutrients which support your mood and health are stripped away.

For example, whole grains are just one category that supports levels of tryptophan in your brain, which in turn has been seen to improve depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness, and calmness. Bonus, whole grains can also help you to LOSE weight.

But switch to white bread, which has been refined, bleached, and stripped of its vital nutrients, and not only could you experience weight gain, but you also won't receive the mood and brain-boosting nutrients that your body needs, thus leading you down a spiraling mood path.

Here's another one for you, eat foods such as eggs and chicken, which are high in arachidonic acid – an inflammation-promoting compound, and suffer the consequences of an impaired mood due to an inflamed brain.

A review in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience stated that higher consumption of vegetables might cut the odds of developing depression by as much as 62%.

I could go on and on about which foods do what to your mood and body, but that is an entire course in and of itself.

The bottom line here is to recognize that what you eat influences how you feel. So take notice of how your diet makes you feel, and make whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains the basis of your diet. These nutrient-dense foods will help you feel better.

It's also important to know that Nutritional Psychology is all about the big picture, not just the small details. No single food will be the sole solution to your mood and stress management, but choosing a variety of healthy foods containing nutrients that affect your mood and behavior will help you to feel better.

YOUR TASK: Start taking note of what you eat and how you feel that day. Then, if you want to take it one step further, seek out a holistic nutritionist who can help you identify what positive shifts to take to improve your mood.

If you do not want to do the research required to find a holistic nutritionist, then please feel free to reach out to me via my blog –

In the next lesson, I will discuss some small shifts that you can make to support healthier eating and a better mood.

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Written by

Kristin Nicole