There is growing evidence that the food we eat can impact our mood or mental health. For example, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, appetite, and mood. 95% of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and your GI tract is lined with nerve cells or neurons. Therefore, your GI tract does more than digest food, but it can impact how you feel or your mood. It may be a good idea to pay attention to how a food may make you feel not just at the moment but also the next day. You can write these feelings and moods down in a journal and see if you notice any trends.
- Fruits and Vegetables/Healthy Eating – Although the evidence is limited, there is research from the University of Leeds that shows that eating just one extra serving of fruits or vegetables each day can boost your mood. In addition, another study out of the University of Manchester supports these findings, saying that eating a “healthy diet” can ease symptoms of depression. Researchers analyzed data from approximately 46,000 people and found that eating nutrient-dense meals that are high in fiber and vegetables can be beneficial to your mental health. Other studies have found an association between unhealthy dietary patterns and poorer mental health. So, while the relationship between food and mood exists, more studies are needed to determine if a specific food or eating pattern enhances mood.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – This supplement is popular with parents for its role in depression and ADHD. Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that increased consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated with a decreased risk of major depression. Further studies have found an association between reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids in people who suffer from depression. Deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids has recently been investigated as a potential pathogenetic mechanism in ADHD. There is literature that shows that omega 3 fatty acid supplementation significantly improves parental reports of ADHD symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.
- Probiotics or fermented foods – Studies show that when people take probiotics their anxiety levels and perception of stress and mental outlook improve compared to people who don’t. Probiotics can be found in yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, pickles, kimchi, and tempeh.