Food and Mood: 6 Ways Your Diet Affects How You Feel
You are what you eat? Maybe not, but you do feel what you eat. Research suggests that certain foods affect mood—for better or worse. Dietary changes can trigger chemical and physiological changes within the brain that alter our behavior and emotions. “Most people understand the link between what they eat and their physical health,” says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of the 2010 book Eat Your Way to Happiness. “But the link between what you eat and your mood, your energy, how you sleep, and how well you think is much more immediate. What you eat or don’t eat for breakfast will have at least a subtle effect by mid-afternoon, and what you’re eating all day will have a huge impact today and down the road.”
[Slide Show: Best Foods to Eat for Your Mood—and a Few Bad Ones]
Here’s a closer look at how your diet could be affecting your mood.
1. You don’t eat regularly. Food is fuel; skip a meal and you’ll feel tired and cranky. “It’s like trying to run a car without gas,” says registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. When you go too long without eating, your blood sugar sinks and mood swings ensue. Aim for a meal or snack every four hours. Breakfast is particularly important—especially for children: Studies show it helps kids perform better and get into less trouble at school. And breakfast makes both kids and adults less prone to cravings and more likely to maintain a healthy weight. But remember: All morning meals aren’t equal. “We’re not talking about a doughnut and coffee here,” Somer says. She recommends high-fiber cereal with a handful of fruit, or a cup of oatmeal with some milk and berries…