Food And Mood: How Our Diet Affects Our Emotions

Have you ever felt grumpy after a sugary snack, or energised after a nutritious meal filled with healthy carbohydrates? It so turns out that the connection between food and mood is a well-established fact, and what we eat has a big impact on our emotional well-being, including everything from energy levels to feelings of happiness and anxiety. This link is particularly important to pay attention to for seniors, as dietary choices can play a big role in maintaining emotional balance during this stage of life.

The Gut-Brain Connection

One of the first things to note about food and mood is the connection between our gut (stomach) and our brains. The gut and brain are constantly talking to each other through a complex network of nerves and hormones – this means that the gut-brain relationship plays a significant role in regulating everyday emotions. Our gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria living in our digestive system – produces neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), all of which significantly control the relationship between food and mood.

How Our Food Choices Impact Our Mood

Sugar Rushes, And Sugar Crashes

It’s well recognised that sugary foods create a temporary feeling of pleasure due to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels – however, this is followed by a blood sugar crash, often resulting in fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Seniors, especially those with diabetes, will more strongly feel these changes in blood sugar, highlighting the importance of limiting sugary drinks and processed foods in your diet.

The Power Of Protein

Protein is essential for the production of your body’s chemical messengers like dopamine, which influences feelings of happiness and motivation. Seniors often have lower protein intake due to changes in appetite or difficulty chewing, so when it comes to balancing food and mood, it can be a good idea to include protein-rich foods like fish, legumes, and lean meats in their diet. This can go a long way towards impacting mood and energy levels.

Omega-3s For Brain Health

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, are important for cognitive function and have been linked to improved mood. Diets rich in omega-3s may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, particularly in older adults. Senior-friendly options like salmon with roasted vegetables or omega-3 enriched eggs can be great additions to diet.

The Power of Fruits And Vegetables

As we all know, fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and well-being. Taking in plenty of these nutrients can contribute to improved cognitive function and a balanced mood. However, seniors can face challenges in consuming enough fruits and vegetables due to physical limitations, so get creative by offering chopped vegetables with dips, incorporating frozen fruit into smoothies, or experimenting with creative side dishes can help them consume more.

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body throughout the day! Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating, all of which can negatively impact your mood. Unlike younger people, seniors may be less aware of thirst cues and are more susceptible to dehydration. To combat this, encourage regular water intake throughout the day, offering flavorful infused water options (think mint and lime in a jug of iced water!), or incorporating hydrating fruits like watermelon can help.

Going Beyond The Plate

While food plays a vital role in mood regulation, the act of eating itself holds social significance, and has done so for cultures all over the world for thousands of years! Just think about Christmas and the meals that are shared during that period. However, seniors living alone may experience loneliness and social isolation, which can negatively impact their emotional well-being. Sharing meals with family, friends, or joining community dining programs can foster social connection and improve overall well-being.

Creating A Menu For Seniors

Our dietary needs often change as we age, and some new challenges may include problems with chewing, swallowing, or digestion. So, when considering the food and mood connection for seniors, look for nutrient-dense options that are easy to consume. A good way to ensure this is to use a senior meals delivery service like Top Nosh Meals – these menus are usually designed with seniors in mind, and include a great range of healthy meats, vegetables and more, taking into account the dietary requirements of older individuals. You can browse our meals online, and enjoy locally made food from the heart of the Sunshine Coast!