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Food for your mood: How what you eat affects your mental health

The Science Behind Food and Mood

While it's widely known that nutrition plays a key role in a person's physical health, it directly affects emotional well-being, too. The connection between diet and emotions stems from the close relationship between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract, often called the second brain. 

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Here’s how it works: Your GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters, chemical substances that constantly carry messages from the gut to the brain. (Dopamine and serotonin are two common examples). Eating healthy food promotes the growth of “good” bacteria, which in turn positively affects neurotransmitter production. A steady diet of junk food, on the other hand, can cause inflammation that hampers production.

Try incorporating these foods at your next mealtime:

  • Whole foods;
  • Fiber-rich foods;
  • Antioxidants;
  • Fatty acids;
  • Folate; and
  • Magnesium.

Incorporating “good-for-your-mood” foods into your diet may take some extra effort. You can also try making small healthy food swaps, like trading white rice, pasta, and bread for whole-grain versions. It may take days or week before you start to feel the mood-boosting effects of a better diet, depending on how many changes you implement.

For more information on how food can affect your mental health learn more at https://www.aetna.com/health-guide/food-affects-mental-health.html

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