Did you know your diet can have a major impact on your mood? It’s true! Don’t believe me? Eat nothing but ice cream, cookies, and frozen pizza for 3 days and tell me how you feel.
If you tell me you feel like a million bucks, you’re a liar liar (pants on fire).
Fueling your body with the best nutrients should be part of the healing process and symptom management prescription for anyone struggling with mood disorders, depression, anxiety, and even ADHD. Whether or not you choose to use pharmaceuticals as part of your medical plan, consider making some changes in your diet to improve how you feel.
We recorded a podcast episode with some general facts about food and mood- you can subscribe and listen here.
Here are 6 diet tips to help improve your mood:
Tip #1: Mange your blood sugar.
Dips in blood sugar (called hypoglycemia) can make sudden feelings of moodiness, irritability, and anger worse. Choose high-protein and fiber-dense meals and snacks keep blood sugar levels steady and reduce mood swings.
Eating foods free of chemicals, processed sugars, and artificial ingredients will also make it easier for you to control blood sugars, energy levels & mood. Doing so also limits your risk for nutrient deficiency. Aim to eat unprocessed, natural foods at least 80-90% of the time.
Prioritize eating at regular and predictable times throughout the day helps regulate blood sugar levels. A good starting point is eating three meals high in protein, healthy fat, and fiber, and add 1-3 healthy snacks daily. Set phone alarms if you find it hard to remember to eat.
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Tip #2: Eat enough fats, specifically omega-3s.
Eating enough omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA is crucial for neurotransmitter function and communication. A deficiency in EPA and DHA is common for individuals with mental health conditions such as bipolar, ADHD, and depression. Lessen severity of moodiness symptoms by consuming foods high in omega-3s including salmon, halibut, sardines, walnuts, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds. Consume a variety of sources daily or use a quality fish oil supplement that provides 500-1000 mg of EPA and 300 to 700 mg of DHA per day.
Tip #3: Are you getting enough protein?
Proteins contain amino acids that are the building blocks of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is closely associated with depression. It’s important to start your day with at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast & ensure all of your meals have a good source of protein to maintain blood sugar control and help build neurotransmitters. Depending on your weight, eating too little animal and/or plant-based protein can have negative side effects. Work with one of our registered dietitians to help you meet protein needs, especially if you have dietary restrictions.
If you are taking an SSRI, do not supplement with tryptophan, an amino acid that builds serotonin.
Tip #4: Cut back on caffeine.
Too much caffeine can disrupt sleep and leave you feeling tired, short-tempered, and irritable. Consider eliminating all forms of caffeine such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks and switch to decaf coffee as needed. Drink herbal teas for calming effects (here is one of my favorites!). Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Tip #5: Adopt a whole foods diet.
Commonly, people with anxiety also experience unpleasant digestive side effects such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Take a look at your diet as a whole and begin to reduce inflammatory foods or ingredients such as refined sugars, artificial sugars/flavors/colorings, additives, low-quality supplements, and vegetable oils.
Consume more fibrous veggies, lean proteins, berries, and whole grains if tolerated. Spices such as turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects.
If dairy, FODMAPS, and/or gluten cause you discomfort, stop eating them for 30 days and assess your symptoms as you reintroduce one at a time. Work with your RD for guidance.
Tip #6: Check your thyroid.
Hypothyroid and depression share many similar mood symptoms such as lethargy and lack of motivation. Consider getting your thyroid testing and committing to an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet.
Want in depth and individualized help with your diet? Work with one of our dietitians so you can achieve your goals and improve your health with food!
Disclosure: Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. I am not a medical doctor and recommendations provided should not take the place of medical advice or treatment.
This post may contain one or more affiliate links. All opinions are our own. We were not paid by any of the companies mentioned above to write this post.
Kait Richardson is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Orlando, FL. She is a partner at a private practice, Nutrition Awareness, where she helps frustrated yo-yo dieters reach their health goals using 1:1 nutrition coaching. She is the co-host of the Nutrition Awareness Podcast.