How Research Says Food Can Affect Your Mood

To think food serves to satisfy hunger alone is simplistic. What you ate for breakfast directly impacts your emotional state, concentration and energy level. The vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins that compose your bagel and cream cheese have the potential to influence your neurotransmitter system, the system by which chemicals in your brain communicate via synapses, and in turn your mood.

how food affects your mood

The internet holds a plethora of sources indicating what foods—or more specifically the elements that compose such foods—can increase your happiness, focus and tranquility. (See Best Health Magazine’s extensive run-down for an example.) However, before whatever you ingest can affect your mood, your body and physical history affects the aforementioned ingested substance. Therefore, remember you can’t adjust your whole outlook on life with a single dose of vitamin C just because some article said so. But why not conduct your own research? Here are three steps to discover (generally) how you are what you eat.

Make a dietary choice to analyze

Take inspiration from the Best Health Magazine article (see link above), building a mealplan that highlights the foods associated with a particular mood. For example, to monitor any shifts in your happiness, find recipes that feature greens, legumes, eggs and fish. Alternatively you could take the opposite approach and cut certain foods from your diet such as sugar, gluten or dairy. Limit yourself to a single cut. Not only will it be easier to prepare meals that accommodate it, but should any notable changes in your mood actually occur, you can more easily pinpoint what cut was responsible for it. More importantly, whatever change you make to your diet, consult a health professional first. If your college or university health services provide the option, seek out a dietitian. They can assist you in the process and ensure you’ve made the choice for the appropriate reasons.

Create a controlled environment

If you’re going to make a change to your diet, stick to it. Granted your research will not have the kind of controls available to professional trials, but you can still put the effort in. If you add an item to your diet, stock up and commit, eating it on a regular basis. If you cut an item from your diet, help yourself out and remove it from your house and, again, commit, avoiding it entirely. It doesn’t mean you need to skip dinner out with friends—simply do your research in advance and find appropriate substitutions. You won’t come to any conclusive findings if you only sometimes ate leafy greens or only sometimes bought lactose-free over regular milk. Furthermore, set a start and end date for your research. You will be able to more easily review your findings.

Keep food and emotion diaries

As important as conducting research is, it means nothing if you don’t monitor the results. Note what you eat each day on your phone, in a notepad or with the help of an app. Simultaneously track how you feel each day. If you’re not much of a journal-er, a single adjective will do. Happy? Sad? Angry? It’s up to you how often you note your emotional state, but whatever you choose make the time at which you note consistent such as once a day or at three hour intervals. No matter the time, remember our emotions move at varied rhythms. You could hit up several within a single hour or be stuck in another for several days.