Go With Your Gut: Eating Gut-Healthy Foods to Improve Your Mood

Jul 29, 2020 | Blogs, Nutrition

Home | Blogs | Go With Your Gut: Eating Gut-Healthy Foods to Improve Your Mood

What we eat not only impacts our physical health — it plays a big role in our emotional health, too. Eating healthy foods can help with overall wellbeing, and improve our moods. Research shows that there is a direct link between our gut health, our brains and how we process emotions. In fact, ninety percent of the serotonin found in our bodies is produced in our gut. Since this is the neurochemical that the brain uses to regulate mood, a healthy gut can mean a happy mind. [1]

The Link Between Gut Health and Mood

Sometimes referred to as the “second brain,” the gut microbiome contains millions of nerve cells connected to the brain. Bacteria in the gut are not only responsible for producing serotonin. They also help us make other neurochemicals, such as dopamine, GABA receptors, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, which all relate to brain chemical activity. [2] This means that eating foods that are healthy for your gut can:    

  • Reduce stress
  • Curb anxiety
  • Increase concentration
  • Help sleep habits
  • Prevent depression
  • Improve mood
  • Enhance emotional health

Although research has found that there’s a direct link between gut health and emotional health, there are many other benefits to eating foods that are good for your gut microbiome. Eating gut-healthy foods can help improve the immune system and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease [3], certain cancers, and other illnesses. [4]

Choosing Gut-Healthy Foods to Boost Your Mood

Making good dietary choices to improve your gut and mood doesn’t have to be hard! In fact, summer is a great time to incorporate fresh foods into your diet. Farmers’ markets and grocery stores are brimming now with seasonal, local produce that is rich with nutrients. Try swapping out processed foods with added sugar or corn syrup for locally grown whole plant foods, fiber-rich veggies, fruits, unprocessed grains, and plain yogurt.

Research has suggested that a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, and unprocessed grains — such as the Mediterranean diet — can help reduce the risk of depression by 25-35%. These types of diets don’t contain processed foods or those high in fat, added sugars, or preservatives. [5] Regardless of which diet you choose, it’s important to reduce foods that can harm the good bacteria in your gut and incorporate healthy and delicious alternatives.     

Summer Grilling for Good Gut Health

You can also add fresh summer produce into your diet when you grill in the warmer months. While fatty meats may first come to mind when we think of barbecuing, fruits and vegetables grilled over a low flame can make a flavorful and healthy summer dish.

The best part about grilling? You can relax and let the grill do the work for you. Try grilling peaches with heart-healthy avocado oil to make a mood-boosting mixed green salad. Grilled melons, corn, potatoes, asparagus (and just about any other fruits and vegetables you can think of!) can make a great summer meal or side dish good for your mood and gut. [6]

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[1] Uma Naidoo, M.D., June 25, 2020. How & Why Does Food Affect our Mood? Synergy Private Health. Retrieved from: https://synergyprivatehealth.com/blog-archive/how-why-does-food-affect-our-mood/

[2] Marwa Azab Ph.D., August 7, 2019. Gut Bacteria Can Influence Your Mood, Thoughts, and Brain. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201908/gut-bacteria-can-influence-your-mood-thoughts-and-brain

[3] American Heart Association News. May 28, 2020. How bacteria in your gut interact with the mind and body. Heart.org. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/05/28/how-bacteria-in-your-gut-interact-with-the-mind-and-body

[4] Catherine Paddock, Ph.D. April 2, 2019. Gut microbes can spur immune system to attack cancer. Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324865#Need-to-improve-checkpoint-inhibitor-therapy

[5] Eva Selhub, M.D., November 16, 2015. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

[6] Susan Greeley, M.S., R.D.N., [no date]. Savoring Summer Foods on the Grill. Susangreeley.com. Retrieved from: https://www.susangreeley.com/savoring-summer-foods-on-the-grill/

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