Written by Sarah Kaminski, Guest Writer
We often take food for granted. If you think about it, it’s never been easier to get something to eat than it is now in urban areas. For just a few dollars, you can grab a sandwich from a street stand or have a burger in a fast-food restaurant.
These are quick and efficient solutions to satiate your hunger, i.e., to satisfy the physiological need for food. However, these kinds of solutions don’t do much for your mind. While your body will feel full, your gut might feel heavy and swollen.
The good news is that some foods contribute to a full stomach as well as a happy mind.
In this article, we’ll discuss how food affects your mood and what to do about it.
Fast Food, Slow Brain
As reported by the Mayo Clinic, fast food and mood shifts may be correlated. Let’s now explain what it means and why to avoid fast food if you want a healthy gut and mind.
It’s good to know that fast food is ultra-processed food that contains various chemical additives, as well as taste and color enhancements. Ultra-processed foods include:
- packaged bread
- different white-flour pastries
- sweet and salty snacks (chocolate bars, chips, peanuts, etc.)
- soda drinks
- various meat nuggets
When you consume this type of food, you only satisfy hunger momentarily. The additives act aggressively on your taste buds and gut. So, when you’ve had a burger and a glass of soda, you might feel high or even exalted for a short period.
However, as your blood sugar starts dropping and the enhancements stop working, your mood rapidly changes. You might become sleepy, lethargic, or even cranky. If you base your diet on fast food, you expose your stomach and brain to this rollercoaster of emotions daily. In the long run, it may leave certain consequences on your overall wellbeing.
Empty Stomach, Hollow Mind
It’s not enough to remove fast food from your menu. If you’ve been eating it for years, you’ll need to change your habits and routines as well.
Let’s say that you typically didn’t have breakfast at home but grabbed a pastry or street food on your way to work. If you’ve decided to stay clean of burgers, French fries & Co, make sure to buy proper groceries in advance to have meals at home.
For starters, prepare breakfast at home every single morning, at least during the cold turkey stage of abandoning fast food. Buy or bake wholegrain bread, get hummus instead of milk-based, high-fat spreads, and give advantage to grilled veggies over salami.
Some of the benefits of having a healthy breakfast every morning that you’ll start noticing soon are:
- Having more energy throughout the day and not starving yourself by lunch
- Starting to reduce excess body fat and weight
- Improving your focus, as your gut and your mind will have inputs to work with
Whole Foods Vs. Processed Foods
Whole and fresh foods, like wholegrain bread and rice or fresh fruit and vegetables, have a soothing effect on the digestive system. And that, in turn, means they also have a soothing effect on your brain.
Moreover, a plant-based diet increases the levels of protein, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and useful carbs. There are so many dietary options on the table (pun intended) when it comes to fruits and veggies that there’s surely something delicious for everyone’s tastes.
That being said, embracing meals rich in veggies doesn’t mean that you have to become vegan or even just vegetarian. If you can’t abandon meat, so be it. Just try not to eat it every day, and you’ll start feeling lighter and more energetic at the same time.
Another nutrition takeaway to remember: consuming any vegetables doesn’t automatically mean you’re having whole foods. French fries and homemade mashed potatoes, for example, are both meals made entirely of potatoes, but they differ significantly in terms of their nutritional value. Do your homework and learn how different healthy ingredients need to be prepared to stay healthy after the process.
Diverse Nutrition Is Key
As we’ve already pointed out, nurturing your gut with quality ingredients is the key to a balanced mind. Here are the main takeaways on diverse nutrition that will ensure a healthy gut in a healthy body:
Go for good carbs
Carbohydrates aren’t forbidden. On the contrary: you need them to get enough energy for your daily tasks.
Instead of removing carbs from your diet, replace white bread and pastries with their wholegrain, sourdough, dark-flour equivalents. If you really want to eat healthy bread, learn how to make it at home. It might be time-consuming at the beginning, but you’ll see how different it is when you bake homemade bread with a low glycemic index, rich in seeds and omega-3 fatty acids.
Legumes hide some good carbs, as well. So, add all kinds of beans and lentils to your menu. Combined with homemade bread, they’ll make a powerful division of the good-food coalition that keeps the mood high.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids
Here’s another proof that two different kinds of the same nutritive element may affect the gut and the mind differently: omega-3 fatty acids. The unsaturated ones are useful in curbing depression because they nurture the nervous system. Saturated fatty acids have the opposite effect: they’re highly inflammatory and might worsen the condition of your stomach and your mind.
So, eat more fish (especially salmon, herring, and mackerel), seeds, and walnuts to take in more omega-3 fatty acids.
Embrace Mediterranean foods
A Mediterranean diet has proven successful in keeping the gut and the mind healthy. It’s based on olive oil, sea fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, low-carb legumes like lentils, and red wine. Last but not least, it also includes goat milk, which is less inflammatory and easier to digest than cow milk.
Also, don’t forget about one essential ingredient of a Mediterranean lifestyle: the sun. Combine the above ingredients with enough time spent in the sun, and you’ll enjoy a balanced mood.
Consume healthy liquids in adequate amounts
Water, fresh juices made from squeezed fruit (as opposed to industrially processed ones you buy in supermarkets), red wine, and coffee will all contribute to a happy gut and a happy mood.
However, don’t overdo with any of these potentially good liquids (except for water).
To really get just the benefits of wine, limit yourself to one glass after lunch or dinner.
Likewise, while there are some obvious benefits of drinking coffee, like enhanced liver cleaning or improved concentration, keep the coffee intake under control to enjoy its benefits.
There’s a reason why the stomach is often referred to as the second brain. All the food we consume affects its condition and, consequently, our mind and mood. This article has explained why you should prefer some food types to others if you want to keep your stomach healthy and feel good. We hope that you’ll follow the nutrition tips we’ve shared and lead a balanced life filled with positive emotions. Your gut is telling you to do it, so follow your gut!