How your emotions are affected by foods and nutrients and 5 tools you can start using today to take back control
Yes, you can! The things you eat have a big effect on the chemicals in your brain and how they impact the rest of your body. Different foods create different emotions such as happiness, sadness, sleepiness and alertness.
So today, we’re going to look at 5 nutrition tools that will help you control your mood and boost your happiness.
But before we do that, let’s take a quick look at how emotions work in our bodies...
So, what are emotions and how do they arise in your body?
Going way back to ancient times, humans have always had an attraction to things and an aversion to things.
Think about the last time you walked down a busy street.
When the smell of fresh bread wafted through the streets you might have stopped and inhaled. You probably smiled and imagined how delicious that soft bread with a crisp crust would be. Your mouth probably watered too (and it might be now as you’re reading this). This is attraction.
Now imagine taking a left turn down a small alleyway or back street lined with trash and commercial bins. The nasty smell of rotting food makes you increase your walking speed. And you cover your nose and wrinkle your face until you are away from the bad smell. This is aversion.
These ancient biological mechanisms help prevent us from eating, smelling or touching things that are poisonous or bad for us.
Our emotions start with this biological mechanism - we are either attracted to things (positive emotions) or we have an aversion to things (negative emotions).
And how does this link up to nutrition?
With the vagus nerve. You don’t need to understand the complex science here. You just need to know that the vagus nerve is one way that our brain and body are connected and that it regulates our emotional states.
It can sense things in your gut and communicates what it senses to your brain. The vagus nerve acts as a super-highway from your gut to your brain and back again.
Here’s a basic example - your vagus nerve will sense how full or empty your gut is. This is transmitted to the brain and you understand this as either feeling hungry or feeling full.
Now that you understand this, let’s look at one more biological concept, cravings...
Ever had a craving for certain foods and not known why?
It’s usually sweet foods like desserts, chocolates and candy. But it can also be savoury foods that have sugars in them.
You see, the reason we crave certain foods is that the gut senses the presence of sugars in food and sends a message to the brain to release dopamine (a happy feeling). And you want more of this attractive food.
But what’s interesting is that it has nothing to do with taste. It isn’t the sweet and sugary taste of something that creates the craving. It’s the sugar content. So a pizza with hidden sugars inside can create the same emotional reaction as a piece of candy.
It’s important you understand this concept to be able to use the nutrition tools we are about to reveal...
Tool #1 - L-Tyrosine and how it makes you happier
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that can be found in certain foods. Amino acids send messages to your brain to release dopamine - making you feel happy. A consistent intake of L-Tyrosine will help you elevate your mood and alertness.
So increasing L-Tyrosine (and other amino acids) in your diet can make you feel happier.
The top foods that are high in L-Tyrosine are:
- Sesame seeds
Tool #2 - Serotonin and how it creates calm
More than 90% of the serotonin we make is in the gut. But most of the serotonin that affects our moods and emotions are not in the gut. They are in our brain. And these are what make us feel happy and calm.
You can increase and decrease your serotonin levels with your diet. But why would you want to control your serotonin levels?
If you are overactive and struggle with sleeping, you might want to increase your serotonin levels. Some foods you can eat to increase serotonin levels are:
- Tofu and Soy
But if you are always sleepy and low on energy, decreasing your serotonin levels can help. Reducing the amount of the foods you eat from the list above can help decrease your serotonin levels. But you must do so whilst maintaining a healthy diet.
Tool #3 - Omega 3 fatty acids massively affect depression
An antidepressant effects study in 2008 showed that people suffering from clinical depression that ingested higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids experienced an increase in happiness. You can read more about this study here.
One of the most popular ways to increase Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet is with fish oil. You can get this in capsule form if you want to skip the fishy breath.
But if you lead a plant-based lifestyle there are other alternatives:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Seaweed and Algae
Tool #4 - The amazing benefits of L-Carnitine
What is L-Carnitine? It’s a chemical made inside the human body that helps turn fat into energy. It’s mainly found in meat and fish. But it is also found in dairy products, beans and avocados.
7 incredible benefits of L-Carnitine include:
- Lowering cholesterol
- Lowering blood glucose
- Increased fertility in males and females (can help fertility in females with polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Can help with depression
- Can decrease symptoms of autism
- Can ease cravings with withdrawal (alcoholics)
- Helps ease Migraines
Tool #5 - How probiotics can improve your mood
Probiotics help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome creates a happier and healthier you.
You probably know you can get probiotics in fancy yoghurt drinks at most supermarkets. But you can also get them from fermented foods and supplements.
Increased probiotic intake boosts your immune system. And it also tells your brain to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. Both of these chemicals increase happiness and elevate your mood.