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Good Mood Food

We’ve all seen it. It comes on almost every time there’s a commercial break when we’re watching American Idol. On the screen, the actor pops his head out of the large ‘O’ in GOOD, and sings, “It’s good mood food!!” But does that fast food really result in a good mood? Experts have been researching the relationship between the foods one eats and their mood for over a decade now, and there is still much to discover. But, they have concluded that, yes, in fact, food does influence your mood. In fact, Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association says, "Food really does have a lot of power. Use it properly and have a well-balanced diet and you really can improve your mood."

Why So Blue?
So why is it that the foods we eat affect our mood? Well, foods that we eat cause different chemicals to be secreted. These secretions activate our brain. Some of the secreted chemicals in the brain are known as neurotransmitters. Some of these neurotransmitters cause excitement or happiness, while others create a sluggish or agitated feeling. The neurotransmitters that are produced in the brain are determined by the types of foods we consume. “Bodies are like chemistry sets. Everything you put in your body has a chemical effect, which is why food can affect your mood,” says Samantha Heller, a dietician and clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center. There are three important neurotransmitters that are produced by our brain. They are: Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin.

Good Mood Food
So which foods should you eat if you want to be a happier you? Well, studies have shown that just by eating regularly and not skipping breakfast, you have already boosted your mental health. But going beyond that, you can also try eating specific foods, such as salmon. This fish, as well as other slimy swimmers, contain bucket loads of omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies use omega-3 fatty acids for building serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. Some studies have shown that eating plenty of these fats can prevent the development of depression.

You may also want to try that glass of milk that keeps your bones nice and strong, to keep your mood going strong, too. Milk is rich in calcium and the amino acid tryptophan. Besides being able to help you become big and strong, calcium is known to calm nerves when feeling stressed or anxious. According to an article on abcnews.com, Tryptophan is important for producing serotonin, which elevates mood.

Spinach is also a great food to eat to make that grin reach from ear to ear. Spinach is a rich source of several minerals that are good for relaxing one’s anxiety and depression. “People with anxiety might benefit from a cup of cooked spinach,” according to Trudy Scott, a nutritionist and spokesperson for the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. “Spinach contains magnesium, a mineral with relaxing and calming effects.”

Bad Mood Food

Healthy, healthy, healthy. We hear it everywhere, on T. V., in the magazines, in the paper. It’s the type of food that can change our lives. So most can already conclude that the great tasting, yet unhealthy foods are the ones that make us feel badly. One thing to stay away from completely is fast food. Fast food is basically just another word for processed foods, according to Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach. He says that in processed foods, the nutrients are refined to the point where they are absorbed immediately or not at all, leaving no long-term energy for the body to feed off of. As well as fast food, other unhealthy items such as excess sugar, caffeine, and alcohol should also be avoided. Although these things all may give you a quick sugar rush or a boost of energy, eating too much can just result in a very sluggish, grumpy feeling later on. But, doctors do admit that small portions of these otherwise bad mood foods can give you what you need on a bad day. So stay away from those burgers, fries, and excess Starbucks coffee, because junk will surely keep that frown on your face.

Mood Leads to Food
Researchers and dieticians have found that not only does your food affect your mood, but that your mood will affect the foods you’ll choose to consume. Think about it. What would you want after a stressful day at the office; a cookie or some cold carrot sticks? One would most likely want the cookie, because it’s comfort food, and that, as I’m sure you all know from personal experience, makes you feel better. When people feel depressed, stressed, or just plain exhausted, all the that’s-not-healthy-and-I-shouldn’t-eat-it- thoughts go away, they also tend to overeat, and that, as we all know, is never a good thing. In fact, experts estimate that 75% of overeating is due to feeding emotions rather than hunger.

These bad habits are all contributing factors to the rising obesity rates in the U.S., and they both can be connected right back to the relationship between mood and food. "It is hard to establish cause and effect," said Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach. "But it's not by chance that stress has been going up and depression has been going up and obesity is going up."

Stick to the Healthy Stuff

Now, you drift into the kitchen for lunch. You open up the fridge, and survey the contents. Your eye immediately goes to that left over pizza slice. But then you glance to the right, and see that healthy turkey sandwich you made earlier in the week. You stand there fighting with yourself, contemplating which one you’re going to choose. Don’t be the victim of that pizza slice, the one who’s going to make you feel sluggish and tired when you have to do your grocery shopping. Choose that sandwich. You’ll feel tons better!



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

PaigeT said...
Aug. 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm:
This is very good. I hope that it gets published in the next issue of the print magazine.
 
AnnonymousGirl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 9, 2012 at 11:38 am :
Wow thank you!
 
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