There is conflicting research out there that discusses the topic of how food and different nutrients affects our mood. While I cannot claim to fully know and prove reasons why there is conflict (since I have done no official research of my own), I would imagine that this is because there are some food that have immediate effects and some that have effects that do not have a profound effect on us until we have been consuming them for a long time.
This concept is discussed by Gary L. Wenk in his article “How Does Food Effect Our Brain” that is on Psychology Today’s website (linked here). There are foods that give us immediate effects and others that take a while to settle into our systems. For an easy example, alcohol has an immediate effect that transforms our mood. According to Wenk, there are many studies that are showing that foods rich in anti-oxidants have positive effects over time. He also mentions that caffeine has positive effects over time… really hoping that is true! Any coffee addicts with me?!?!
All that being said, there is also an element of our personal perception of our eating habits. Of course, the science is not thrown out the window because of the mental influence we have over ourselves, but surely, our minds are able to play tricks on us! There are some of us who constantly tell ourselves that we should eat “healthy” and choose not to or fail to practice the self-control when the tray of brownies or the creamy cheese dip presents itself. There are then feelings of guilt and shame that we will choose to inflict on ourself, which has to be a game changer in terms of our mood. For people who are not phased by their unhealthy eating habits, I would imagine their short-term angst for poor food choices would have less negative effects on thir present mood.
Many of us simply feel good for making healthy choices. And it tends to be that when we make one healthy choice, it get easier to make another. And this works in the opposite direction as well. We can allow ourselves to spiral downward if we are not careful! And this not only has consequences for our body, but our day-to-day mood as well.
In another article by Wenk (linked here), “Recent Links Between Food and Mood,” he discusses that a recent study found that a diet that is high in saturated fats and calories does lead to depression over time. We get that instant pleasure from eating those things, but over time their wear on our mental well-being. How much of that the actual chemical effects on our brains directly from the nutrients or lack there of, and how much of that is from guilt for eating foods we know are not good for us? Hard to say, but I have to believe it is a bit of both!
What are the foods you love in the moment and feel guilty about later? I want to know! I am not saying never eat them, all things in moderation people, but let’s be aware of those foods that have a unique grip on our hearts and can send us down a tough trajectory!