What do you do when you are dealing with mood swings? What do you do when you feel low and sad? You probably gorge on an ice cream tub and watch a movie to make yourself feel better. But does it really help? Does junk food really help when you are dealing with stress, anxiety or just plain sorrow? 

Well, as per science, it doesn’t. In fact, it makes matters worse if you look at the bigger picture. Diet and food have a proportional relationship with each other. Your diet affects your mood. If you are constantly eating unhealthy food, it is very likely that you will have a bad mood. 

Let us explore why.

How are diet and mood connected with each other? 

Just so you know, the poor food choices you make have a detrimental effect on your mood. Here is how. 

Sugar crashes: 

Many junk foods are loaded with added sugars, which can lead to rapid spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar levels. These crashes can result in irritability, mood swings, and feelings of fatigue.


Junk foods, particularly those high in trans fats and refined carbohydrates, can contribute to chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Poor nutrition: 

Junk foods are typically low in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A diet lacking in these nutrients can negatively impact brain health and neurotransmitter function, which can influence mood regulation.

Gut-brain connection:

Emerging research suggests a strong connection between the gut and the brain, often referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” Consuming a diet high in junk food can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, potentially leading to mood disturbances, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Weight gain and body image issues: 

Overconsumption of junk food can lead to weight gain and body image concerns. Poor body image and self-esteem can contribute to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and even depression.

Reduced energy levels: 

High-calorie, low-nutrient junk foods can leave you feeling sluggish and tired, which can have a negative impact on your overall mood and motivation.

Addiction-like behaviours: 

Some junk foods are engineered to be highly palatable, leading to overconsumption and potentially addictive eating patterns. Trying to resist these cravings can lead to feelings of frustration and stress.

Then why does eating junk food make you feel better? 

You might as well consider it a false alarm. Sometimes, consuming junk food can make you feel better, but that feeling only lasts for a while.  Eating junk food can make you feel better in the short term due to the pleasure-inducing effects of sugar, palatability, emotional comfort, cultural associations, and habitual behaviours. These foods can trigger the release of dopamine and provide momentary satisfaction, which can temporarily boost mood. 

However, these immediate benefits are often followed by negative consequences for long-term physical and mental health, including energy crashes, mood swings, and potential addiction-like behaviours. While junk food may offer temporary emotional relief, it is not a healthy or sustainable way to manage mood or overall well-being, and healthier alternatives should be sought for lasting emotional and physical health.

So, which foods are to be blamed? 

There is one culprit, which is carbohydrates. But before we dig deeper into it, you must remember the term Glycaemic Index. 

The glycaemic index is a ranking of carbohydrates in foods, varying according to how fast they are digested, absorbed, metabolised, and how it affects blood glucose and insulin levels. Foods with a high glycaemic index have an adverse effect on psychological well-being. To be precise, they tend to increase the depressive symptoms. 

Highly refined carbohydrates increase blood sugar and trigger a hormonal response in the body to reduce blood sugar levels. This response may lead to mood changes, fatigue and other symptoms of depression.

And which are to be embraced? 

Protein consumption has been associated with higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. These are brain chemicals that play a crucial role in your mood, motivation and focus. So, what you must include in your diet is protein. Ensure that you are eating a sufficient amount of protein. 

Closing thoughts 

The connection between diet and mood is a significant aspect of mental well-being. While the temporary pleasure derived from junk foods is undeniable, it is essential to prioritise a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, as these provide the necessary nutrients and support for healthy brain and mood regulation.

 Incorporating foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can positively influence both mental and emotional health. A mindful approach to nutrition, coupled with other healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, sleep, and stress management, can contribute to a more stable and positive mood, promoting overall well-being and long-term happiness.

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