Sometimes, eating can seem a little mechanical. You know you need food like a car needs gas or electricity to run, and meal time might seem a little like a stop to refuel. But for humans, and especially seniors, what we eat can have a much greater impact on our day-to-day quality of life than quite simply keeping the tank full.
We’ve written before about the health benefits of eating foods rich in protein and how they can help you maintain your muscle and mobility later in life. Certain foods can be great for helping you build strength, but did you also know that eating can impact your mood, memory and mental wellness?
Our brains are filled with a variety of chemicals, hormones, and receptors that all react to the food we eat. In fact, Serotonin (sometimes called the “Feel Good Chemical”) is actually produced in the gut and is directly impacted by what we eat. This means that making smart choices about what goes into our bodies can strongly affect how we feel and gives us an opportunity to improve our mental well-being.
How Food Affects How You Feel
Are you familiar with the term “Hangry?" This word combination of "hungry" and "angry" perfectly describes the grumpiness many people experience when they are inadequately fed. It’s a direct connection between the discomfort of hunger and our moods. Eating foods high in both protein and fiber can help you stay full and avoid this feeling of “hangriness” throughout the day.
There are also nutritional impacts on how you feel as well. Certain chemicals like Omega-3s have been shown to combat depression and improve mental wellness when eaten in substantial-enough quantities. Omega-3s and other brain-boosting amino acids can have long term positive impacts on your emotional wellbeing and should be a part of every diet.
In the shorter term, vitamins and minerals that provide and regulate energy are shown to help maintain good moods. One of these is B-12, which is most commonly found in meat and dairy products, but can also be found in legumes for plant-based diets. Even if you do consume a decent amount of animal products, taking a complex B vitamin supplement is a great way to take full advantage of these energizing benefits.
4 Foods To Consider for Your Mood
When you’re reaching for your next snack or meal, take a moment to really consider its contents and how it can impact your emotional state. Here are a few mood-boosting foods that will help you not only feel full, but good:
1 - The Trail Mix Usual Suspects: Reach into a bag of trail mix, and you’re more than likely to pull out a handful of some of the best foods for your mood. Nuts, seeds, and berries are all exceptionally great at helping you feel good, and the combination of them maximizes the impact too. Not only are nuts and seeds high in protein and fiber, which will help you stay full and avoid “hanger,” but they are also rich in the chemical tryptophan which is an amino acid responsible for producing serotonin, one of the hormones associated with your positive emotional state. As for berries, there are some studies that suggest diets high in these fruits that may stave off depression. As for the short term, along with the proteins and fiber of nuts and seeds, a delicious bite of a sugary berry is a well-earned treat!
2 - Feeling Fine with Fatty Fish: As we noted above, Omega-3s are an essential nutrient for maintaining long-term mental wellbeing. And nowhere are they found in higher quantities than in fat-rich fish like salmon and albacore tuna. Because your body cannot produce Omega-3s on its own, your diet needs to be adjusted to ensure you’re receiving an adequate amount. Even if you’re not a fish fan, other foods (like eggs) are sometimes fortified with them, so make sure to keep your eyes out for Omega-3s on labels and descriptions.
Try our Maple Flavored Glazed Salmon - A fillet of salmon dressed with a delicious maple-flavored glaze, served with a side of vegetable rice pilaf, brussels sprouts, and carrots.
3 - Consider Fermented Foods: It can sometimes be surprising to think of just how much of our food is in some way fermented. From wine and beer to sauerkraut and kimchi, and even most breads, many of our foods rely on microorganisms to achieve their final flavor and form. However, not all fermented foods pack the same probiotic punch. Cooked and processed foods like bread and booze lack the live active cultures that kosher dill pickles and probiotic yogurts have. It’s these foods with the live microorganisms that have been shown to stimulate serotonin production in the gut, helping to boost your mood.
4 - Treat Yourself with Dark Chocolate: Like all treats, chocolate is best consumed in moderation -- even in its dark form. That said, dark chocolate has many advantages over its milkier kin, including being lower in sugar and containing more flavonoids that have been linked to increased brain health.
For a chocolate treat, try our rich and delicious Double Chocolate Cake
There are plenty of foods available that can help improve your mood. Educating yourself and seeing what the nutritional makeup of certain foods are will help you make informed choices about what to eat to help your emotional wellness. That’s why our meals are labeled and categorized to help you easily make food choices that are right for you, then conveniently delivered right to your door -- just one more reason for food to put you in a good mood.