Diet and Mood, Cognition, Sleep

by | Jul 5, 2022 | Issue 151, Issues | 0 comments

People are often inundated with advertisements for books and seminars that promise radical lifestyle change simply as a result of a fad diet. Naturally, this can cause us to...

People are often inundated with advertisements for books and seminars that promise radical lifestyle change simply as a result of a fad diet. Naturally, this can cause us to be skeptical, thinking that purveyors of such fad diets are simply trying to get rich quickly. However, getting to the bottom of it and deciding how to alter your diet for genuine change simply takes a little patience and research.

What Role Does Diet Play In Your Mood?

Your diet can impact your mood by affecting your body’s chemistry. For example, whole foods with complex carbohydrates (e.g., beans, quinoa, rolled oats and sweet potatoes) can increase the presence of serotonin in your brain, whose contribution includes regulating your mood and maintaining your memory.

Other chemicals can be boosted by consuming other kinds of foods as well! Eating protein, for example, has been shown to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals boost your brain’s ability to regulate mood, motivation and concentration. It’s no surprise, then, that eating a diet with complex carbohydrates and proteins can help you have a more productive and enjoyable workday!

While these changes are significant and worth pursuing, you should note that mood improvements won’t be instantaneous. If you alter your diet to increase these brain chemicals, you should expect improvements in two to three weeks. It won’t be immediate – only fad diets and fraudulent strategies can promise that sort of rapid change. Instead, be patient and give your body time to adjust to a healthier lifestyle.

Can Diet Boost Your Cognition?

Though we don’t have space to lay out all of the scientific research here, the truth is that dietary changes may be the most effective way to boost your brain’s function. Some of the most helpful foods in this regard are oily fish such as tuna and salmon, dark chocolate, berries, avocados and eggs. It only takes a little bit of culinary creativity to add these items to meals throughout the day, and the benefits are more than worth it!

Can a Better Diet Improve Your Sleep?

It may be a cliche, but it is best to avoid spicy foods before bed. Spicy food is known to cause heartburn, which is worsened by lying down. Since the backed-up acid has the potential to irritate your airway, falling asleep after eating spicy foods can become challenging. It’s also best to avoid consuming alcohol before bed because it can wake you during an important stage of the sleep cycle once it wears off. Although alcohol might make it easier to fall asleep after your head hits the pillow, the damage to the quality of your sleep isn’t worth it in the end.

Rounding off our list of items to avoid are foods high in fat and protein. While protein-rich foods are beneficial to your dopamine and norepinephrine levels, there’s a delicate balance. An excess of protein can negatively impact the quality of your sleep, partially because norepinephrine stimulates the brain. This is a boost for cognitive activity, of course, but it will make it harder to fall asleep when the evening rolls around. 

A Parting Reminder

Whether you’re avoiding foods to improve your sleep or seeking out foods to boost your brain’s activity, it’s now clear that small dietary changes can bring about significant life changes. So, if you’d like to create a lifestyle that supports your whole body’s health, consider researching what foods will be the most helpful on your journey.

Nathan Pipkin

Nathan Pipkin