How food can affect more than your weightHow Food Can Affect More Than Your Weight

It’s easy to think of food as it relates to your weight and energy, but did you know that what you eat can affect many areas of your health? Food affects things like mood, sleep, concentration, and more! Keep reading and, as always, there will be SIMPLE things you can do to help yourself! 

Every single cell in your body requires specific nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Every. Single. Cell.

My kids LOVE Legos. Love. They have hundreds of sets. The four of them spend hours each week building masterpieces. They are very protective of each building block.

Your cells are the building blocks (the Legos) to how your body functions (the masterpiece.) The correct building blocks keep you in great physical and mental condition. This is why it is so important to nourish your body with the right foods and drinks.

Food Affects Your Mood

If your blood sugar fluctuates too much, it can leave you feeling tired and irritable. (“Hangry” anyone? That term comes directly from how your blood sugar affects your irritability levels.) Ideally, you want to be eating foods that keep your blood sugar stable. These foods include protein, fat, and complex carbs such as brown rice, oats, and whole grains. Nuts and seeds are also great for keeping your blood sugar balanced.

Some foods can have a direct effect on your mood too. Fatty fish is full of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s affect the production of neurotransmitters in your brain, especially serotonin and dopamine. Both of these have a really strong link with your mood; low levels of these neurotransmitters are linked to mood disorders. Fatty fish isn’t the only food that gives you an omega 3 boost—flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts also count. For dopamine, make sure you’re getting plenty of poultry, fish, eggs and leafy greens in your diet.

Protein is another nutrient that can affect your mood. A lot of foods with protein also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help your body produce more serotonin and dopamine. Chicken and turkey are good sources but if you’re a vegetarian, you can eat beans, lentils, and quinoa to reap the benefits.

The Food You Don’t Eat Affects Your Mood

What you’re not eating can also be important. According to studies, not getting enough folate or B vitamins, in general, can cause you to be more prone to depression. A lack of these micronutrients can also have a negative impact on your sleep and energy levels. Greens are a great source of folate and B-vitamins so be sure to include plenty of leafy greens, broccoli, and peas if you’re struggling with low mood. Low selenium levels are also linked to fatigue, anxiety and even depression. Snack on walnuts or a handful of Brazil nuts to get your selenium levels up.

Chemical imbalances in the brain may be linked to depression, but some nutrients make depression more likely—especially if you’re deficient in them. For example, low levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk of depression. Experts believe that getting enough vitamin D can be crucial for a healthy mind. Natural sunlight is the best option in the summer. In areas in the top third and bottom third of the globe, supplements are the way to go in the low-sun months. (Vitamin D has it’s own section in my post The nutrients you need every day and where to find them.)

How Food Affects Sleep

You might not realize it but what you eat can have a big impact on how well you sleep. Some foods are known to encourage sleep because of the nutrients they contain. Anything containing magnesium is a good bet, according to studies. Need a magnesium boost? Go for leafy greens (especially organic spinach), almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and high-quality dark chocolate. (Just don’t eat the chocolate before bed as the caffeine can hinder quality, restful sleep.)

Another important nutrient is vitamin B6, which your body uses to make both melatonin and serotonin. (Yes, it is one of the B-vitamins I just referenced above for energy—but it also is crucial for sleep!) If you’re not aware of melatonin and its role in the body, it’s known as the “sleep hormone.” This gives you an indication of how important it is for sleep! Our melatonin levels can be disrupted by “blue light” from screens and devices and, as low levels of melatonin can make it hard to sleep well, it’s definitely something you want to be producing a decent amount of.

When it comes to melatonin, tryptophan helps here too (not just with mood!) as it helps your body to make more melatonin. Chicken, turkey, milk, nuts, and seeds all contain tryptophan and can help more melatonin be produced. You can go a step further than this though as walnuts actually contain melatonin, according to a study from the University of Texas. For more help with your sleep, subscribe to this free email series: Jumpstart into Refreshing Sleep and Rest.

Jumpstart into Refreshing Sleep and Rest

How Food Affects Concentration

If you struggle with concentration and focus, it’s time to look at your diet. Food affects concentration—some more than others.

A 2013 study found that people who were drinking 2 cups of cacao every day for a month were able to improve blood flow to their brains, which led to better results in memory tests. FYI: cacao is not chocolate. It’s an ingredient in chocolate. So when you read that drinking 2 cups of cacao every day is good for you, please do not interpret this as drinking 2 cups of hot cocoa. They are totally different nutritionally. Here is a recipe for an amazing looking Cacao and Coconut Latte recipe.

Aztec ruler Moctezuma II famously enjoyed drinking a frothy, bitter beverage made from ground cacao seeds called xocōlātl, but if you’d rather not drink a cup of cacao, a square of high-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao) can have a similar effect as long as there aren’t high sugars or other additives.

In a 2012 report, drinking blueberry juice daily for two months also led to better performance on memory and learning tests. This means that snacking on blueberries can be perfect if you need a focus boost!

Special Food for Big Days?

And of course, there’s always water! Dehydration can cause tiredness and concentration problems. (This is true even if you’re only slightly dehydrated.) Nearly every part of your body is dependent on water. Water helps break down nutrients you consume and carries them to your cells and flushes toxins out of your body, among other things. Drinking a glass of water could be all you need to get more focused if dehydration is the problem.

Foodwise, the omega 3 fatty acids in salmon can reduce cognitive decline and keep your brain sharp and focused. Back when you were in school, did you ever hear that you needed to eat fish the night before a big test? That’s why! Your brain needs those healthy fats for its primary building blocks. And if you don’t have the correct building blocks, it won’t work as well. Another good reason to eat fatty fish a couple of times per week!

Your Turn

Now that you know how food impacts your mood, what did you notice you might need to add to your diet? How will you add it this week to counteract your nutritional imbalance? Reply in the comments or start a new conversation thread over in The Whole Health Community on Facebook.

How food can affect more than your weight

References: PubMed, HealthLine, ScientificAmerican, BonAppetit, Chemistry For Life