We all know what we eat affects our bodies, but have you ever wondered how food can also affect your mood? Research suggests that vegan food can play an important role in helping how we feel mentally and emotionally. As it turns out, being vegan isn’t just for animal rights activists. Vegan food and a plant-based diet can provide anyone with tons of nutrients to balance our moods and boost our overall quality of life.
Get Those Antioxidants
Antioxidants are an important part of your diet as they help decrease oxidative stress by detoxifying and healing our bodies. Vegans generally have higher levels of antioxidants than omnivores because they tend to consume plant food rich in antioxidants more frequently. Eating these foods has been shown to lower the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as reduce stress and lower depression levels. Spinach, apples and ginkgo biloba are all fantastic sources of antioxidants.
Go for the Good Carbohydrates
Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet, has extensively researched the effects that carbohydrates have on mood. According to Wurtman, carbohydrates are crucial for the production of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone, thus craving carbohydrates could be a sign of decreased serotonin levels. Her advice is to eat complex carbohydrates in whole foods regularly to keep your serotonin level balanced and keep your mood up. We may be more likely to feel consistently happy eating a meat-free diet because many plant foods are full of these complex carbohydrates, whereas meat has very few. Some great sources of complex carbohydrates are sweet potatoes, brown rice and leafy-green vegetables.
Don’t Underestimate the Ultimate Good Mood Food
Tryptophan is a powerful amino acid that can be found in just about all protein-rich foods—but it is not just in turkey! When researching the correlation between tryptophan and mood, the public health director for the Humane Society of the United States, Michael Greger, M.D., found the foods that seem to give our moods the biggest boost are those rich in carbohydrates with a high tryptophan to total protein ratio. Seeds appear to meet this criteria more than any other food, quite possibly making them the ultimate good mood food. Consider adding more seeds into your diet, such as pumpkin seeds, butternut squash seeds and chia seeds.
Strive for Healthy Digestion
When your digestion is off, is your mood off as well? Research shows that gastrointestinal problems can in fact have a negative effect on how we feel mentally. It is important to strive for healthy digestion so we can easily achieve and maintain emotional balance. Vegan food is an excellent place to start since a plant-based diet promotes healthy digestion, and thus, a happier, healthier you. If you are not yet familiar with tempeh, give it a try! It is rich in probiotics and was ranked by Health.com as one of the 13 best foods for gut heath.
Eat Smart to Prevent Disease
According to Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., M.D., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure, the primary cause of most diseases, especially heart disease, is a harmful diet, which includes dairy, eggs, and meat. A great way to prevent disease is what he calls “whole-foods, plant-based” eating, which in many ways parallels a vegan diet. Consider that when we eat vegan food, not only can we improve our mood, but we also have a much better chance of preventing a life threatening illness and the distress that can come with it. Do not live to eat, eat to live – happily.
Whether you are a vegan, a vegetarian, or an omnivore, learn to prioritize your emotional health. If you struggle with feeling down or disinterested, keep a daily log of what you eat in relation to your mood, and review whether you are using the best fuel for your body. A permanent fix may be as simple as a change in diet!
Do you think your mood is affected by your diet? If you are a vegan, do you think you are generally happier or feel more balanced than you did before you transitioned? Please share your experiences in the comments, I would love to hear your thoughts!