Food and Behaviour Research

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Health Check: how food affects mood and mood affects food

K. Flinders (2014)    theconversation.com

Web URL: View the full article here

Abstract:

Eating good food promotes overall health and well-being, but what you eat may also impact how you feel. Research suggests that not only can the food you eat affect your mood, but that your mood may influence the foods you choose to consume.

Enjoying a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wholegrain cereals, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meat and oily fish, for instance, is associated with reductions in mood swings, depression and anxiety.

And the opposite holds for a diet based on foods high in refined sugar (think lollies), one that combines high levels of sugar and fat (cakes, for instance, or pastries), or involves high intakes of caffeine or alcohol.

Results of research on the connection between food selection and poor mood are reasonably consistent − people in a negative frame of mind are more likely to choose sugary, fatty or salty – indulgence or comfort – foods rather than nutritious ones.

Indulgence foods may boost energy and improve mood in the short term but these positive effects are usually fleeting. For some people, such effects can often be followed by guilt (because we know those foods aren’t good for us) and a consequent drop in mood. This can trigger more bad eating and set up a vicious circle.

Research suggests people in a good mood are more likely to prefer nutritious foods that are low in sugar, salt, and fat, and to focus on the long-term benefits of these healthy foods. But other studies point to the potential for people in a good mood consuming comfort foods, or overeating.

There’s also evidence suggesting some people in a positive mood are more likely to choose healthy foods if they feel their good mood is going to last. If not, they may be more likely to choose indulgence foods to sustain positive feelings.