People used to consider food that it only affects the body. However, the link between food and mood is drawing public attention lately. In fact, many articles about how food affects our moods have been published. According to one article, . . . the right foods, or the natural neurochemicals they contain, can enhance mental capabilities help you concentrate, tune sensorimotor skills, keep you motivated, magnify memory, speed reaction times, defuse stress, perhaps even prevent brain aging (Blaun 35). Actually, people have been using certain foods to control moods without scientific proof; for example, we often take a cup of hot-milk when we have a trouble getting to sleep. However, recent researches have scientifically proved to the deep relationship between our diets and moods as follows.
Food affects not only our physical frame, but also our moods. In the words of a consulting nutritionist, Somer, What we eat affects our memory, mood and vitality long before it affects our heart and bones. . . . what you ate this morning can affect how you perform and how you feel this afternoon” (58). The reason why the food we eat affects our moods is that [certain foods] affects the brain s synthesis of neurotransmitters, substances necessary for conducting nerve impulses (Trankina, par. 3). In the brain, neurotransmitters are manufactured from the amino acids and other substances supplied by diet (Blaun 41). By passing messages from one brain cell to another, neurotransmitters regulate emotions, hunger, moods and behaviors (Lippert 126; Somer 58). Neurotransmitters are the key to for affections to our moods through our diet. Therefore, we can improve our thoughts, emotions, attitudes and performances if we take right foods and wisely control neurotransmitters.
There are some neurotransmitters that are supplied by diet and have affections to mood. According to Trankina, the neurotransmitter serotonin is intimately involved with food intake (par. 3). Functions of serotonin include sleep regulation and anxiety reduction, and tryptophan, the amino acid found in food protein, makes serotonin in the brain (Blaun 41; Trankina, par. 9). However, a professor of biological sciences and adjunct associate professor of physiology, Trankina explains:
. . . serotonin synthesis is not enhanced by protein-rich foods. . . . Tryptophan shares a transport system into the brain with five other amino acids . . .. When protein intake is high, tryptophan is overpowered by the other amino acids for places on the shuttle, and its concentration in the brain decreases. Consequently, the rate of serotonin synthesis in the brain tapers off. (par. 10)
Bonni Spring, a professor of psychology, states, “The carbohydrates raise the level of tryptophan that is converted to serotonin” (qtd. in Lippert 126). Therefore, carbohydrate-rich foods help our edgy feeling unwind especially when it is taken with protein-rich food. There are other neurotransmitters that can be supplied by food intake and have positive effects. For instance, acetylcholine is essential in memory formation and maintenance. It is manufactured from the fatlike B vitamin choline found in egg-yolks and organ meats (Blaun 41). On the other hand, there are neurotransmitters that lead to negative affects on our moods; for instance, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, collectively called catecholamines, control arousal and anxiety states (Blaun 41). As mentioned above, foods can affect our moods both positively and negatively depending on their effects on neurotransmitters. It is difficult to make the right decision about how and when we eat food in order to take advantages of its effects on our moods; because there are food having positive effects, negative affects.
Moreover, there are foods that can work both positively and negatively on our moods according to the dose. To illustrate, Paul Gold, a professor of psychology, found that sugar improves our long-term memory in certain situation (qtd. in Blaun 42). However, Blaun mentions that [many variable factors should be considered to] figure out the right dose at the right time (Blaun 37, 42). Similarly, Somer points out that sugar regulates our mood, but too much sugar intake causes the insulin rush in to the blood and may aggravate or even generate negative moods or worsening the mental performance (58). Like sugar, fat also has both good and bad effects on our mood. Blaun states that too many fatty foods cause not only heart disease or cancers, but also it is a major cause of depression and aggression (38). On the other hand, the specific type of fats called EFAs [short for essential fatty acids] are necessary for intellectual performance. Blaun explains, All brain cell membranes continuously need to refresh themselves with a new supply of fatty acids. Preliminary research suggests that EFAs particularly n-3s [rich in vegetable oils and fish] – are best suited for optimal brain function” (Blaun 38).
In addition, n-3s cannot be manufactured in the human body, so they must be supplied by daily diet (Blaun 38). Some foods include both positive and negative affections for our health and mood. So, again, it is important to improve our knowledge of food to take its advantages and not to get its negative affects.
In easier way, Somer offers instructions that may help us to figure out how to control our mood better. According to Somer, there are six ways to make our mental abilities better with foods (58). First of all, she emphasizes that breakfast is very important for us because it boosts our energy for the rest of the day, prevents fatigue and helps moods improve (58). Secondly, by dividing our daily food intake into five to six times a day, we may become less prone to fatigue, insomnia and depression (Somer 58). Thirdly, we can maintain a desirable weight; limit sweet or creamy foods to one serving a day, and limit fat to approximately 25% of the calories (Somer 58). Somer also suggests us to increase our intake of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals (58). We should limit caffeine containing beverages such as coffee to no more than two servings of a day because caffeine may contribute fatigue and sleep or mood problems; at the same time, we should drink at least six glasses of water a day because if we do not drink enough fluids, chronic low-grade dehydration cause fatigue (Somer 58). Then, Somer recommends people who consume fewer than 2500 calories per day to consider taking well-balanced multiple vitamins and mineral supplement (58). To follow all of these instructions may not easy, but it is worth trying for our better mood.
In conclusion, foods can affect our psychology and mental state in ways mentioned above. We know that our dietary choices affect our physical health, but not many people expect food to have deep relationships with moods. Only recently, researchers became able to link some of the nutrients found in foods to brain function that lead to mood. According to the researchers findings, our food intake influences our moods, motivations and the mental performances besides it gives us energy for living. Nowadays, people live in busy societies, and we tend to become careless about our eating behaviors. However, if we learn and care about foods, we can take much advantage to manage our moods and gain better health, thus better life.
Lippert, Joan. FOOD AND MOOD. McCalls. October 1988: 126.