The fuel of the physical cells is food. Different foods will create different biochemical effects on cellular health. Nutrients from foods, additives, preservatives, colors, artificial flavoring, etc., affect brain health from memory to sleep patterns and mood fluctuations, anxiety, depression, motivation, focus and passion.
Brain health responds to food and chemicals as much as it causes specific relationships to food as well. It’s a vicious or graceful cycle depending on the health of your nutrition.
Based on mental health surveys by the Food and Mood Project in 2002, which is comparable to most studies on the effects of food on brain health, foods were found to be in one of two categories: either a stressor of mental health or a supporter of mental health. The stressors were sugar, caffeine and alcohol. The supporters were water, vegetables, fruit, and omega-3 rich fish oil.
Stimulants like coffee, black tea and green tea are stimulants of epinephrine, which makes the brain more alert, happy and focused. Of the stimulants, green tea has more nutritional value due to its catechin and L-theanine content. Catechins are antioxidants that protect your cells from damage from toxic accumulation and L-theanine helps the brain to relax, preventing damage from stress hormones.
People with higher serotonin levels than others make better food choices, as they are in closer to self-honor than to self-destruction. The best way to make sure your serotonin and other neurotransmitters are high is by getting enough protein in your diet. The highest forms of L-tryptophan are turkey, other poultry, salmon, oats, nuts, bananas and cheese. It may not surprise you that chocolate also contains good amounts of L-tryptophan, as it often accompanies joy. In addition to L-tryptophan, chocolate is high in magnesium, which is another body relaxant.
Your body releases opiates when you eat addictive foods, which, plain and simple, feel good. This is a physiological incentive to strengthen your desire for these foods. When under stress, you will emotionally choose addictive foods as they so effectively distract you from negative thinking and emotions. We observe that vicious cycle once again: Eating addictive foods → ↑mood → ↑desire for more addictive foods, and so on.
I encourage you to keep a food/emotion journal to help you become more aware of your food/emotion cycles. There is no doubt that they are tied. As you become aware of the link between food and your emotions, start becoming aware of your emotional triggers to food choices and the cycles that they create. Remember that awareness is the first step to healing; no exceptions.