The weirdest things can throw you into a funk: hormones, sleep, even the weather! However, a lot of us don’t take into account how much diet or food affects our mood, too. The usual suspects —  junk food, sugar, processed foods, or trans fats — can cause chronic inflammation, and may eventually have a domino effect on how you feel.

Besides losing weight, reducing disease risk, improving health, and looking good, don’t forget to factor in food for your mood when following a healthy diet. Some foods, thankfully, are very nutritious and can have a holistic stress-relieving benefit…and other perks for you, too!

Food and diet affect digestive stress

Like all things food and nutrition, it begins in the gut. Foods that are difficult to digest or inflammatory — like gluten, meat, or dairy, along with the usual suspects — can cause your digestion some distress and pain, and affect mood, too.

The right foods, however, have soothing and healing effects on the digestive tract: especially fiber-rich ones like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Probiotic and fermented foods can be incredibly helpful, too — while consuming antioxidant-rich foods curbs inflammation as well.

But if your diet’s out of balance, it’s almost certain that inflammation will take hold. This can in turn interfere with energy levels, your focus, and….you guessed it: your mood and how you deal with stress.

Food and diet affect mental and emotional stress

It can seem so strange that the gut impacts emotional and mental wellbeing! But it’s true.

In fact, the brain and the gut are connected by one of the biggest and most important central nerves in the body: the vagus nerve. This nerve can have an impact on nervousness, anxiety, digestion, stress, and yes, your mood.

Inflammation in the gut can also overload and stress out the body, and this in turn bogs down the brain. You probably know what it’s like to feel vaguely tired, foggy, and low energy too— it increases stress and anxiety, and it puts you in a bad mood! And it’s all thanks to chronic inflammation from those less-than-great food choices.

What foods help relieve your stress and improve mood?

Fortunately, staying on top of your diet a little better can literally help your stress and mood levels. Not only can it soothe stress from gut inflammation, but it also promotes better brain health simply because of the nutrients these healthier foods contain.

Some brain-boosting, stress-relieving foods include:

  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Coconut oil
  • Fatty fish (omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Chamomile
  • Green tea and Matcha
  • Fermented foods and pickles (like kimchi)
  • Turmeric
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms

Each of these foods help relieve stress (and can even improve sleep!) in their own way: either by offering up nervous-supporting nutrients or phytochemicals, inflammation-fighting antioxidants, or soothing and boosting the digestive system.

If stress or mood have you laid low recently, consider cleaning up your diet. Be sure to add more of these mood-lifting foods: your stress levels and mental wellbeing will feel the difference.