How Your Diet Affects Mood and Brain Function

Your Brain on Food: Understanding How Your Diet Affects Mood and Brain Function


If we’re all being honest here, eating healthy is hard when you’re in college. First off, its more expensive than processed and boxed foods. Its more work, you actually have to cook fresh foods, like planning and cutting and prepping everything and then turning on the oven and using it, not to mention how much extra time that takes compared to throwing a TV dinner in the microwave. Or if you’re like me you’re constantly on the go so it’s rare you have time to sit down and eat a full meal, your snacking in between classes and other activities. The worst part is we don’t think about how much our lazy or rushed eating habits affect our mood and brain function, and when you’re a student your brain needs to be functioning at full capacity.



It’s simple as Harvard Health puts it, your brain is like your car, it runs the best when you’re pumping in premium fuel. As soon as you start filling your tank with lower grade fuel chalked full of fillers and preservatives your car just simply doesn’t run as well. Similarly, when you are eating whole unprocessed grains, fruits and vegetables or foods that are high in vitamins and minerals your mood is better and your body can run easier but if you’re constantly ingesting processed foods with refined sugars it can take a toll on your brains ability to run cleanly.


The nutritional value in whatever you are eating is absorbed by healthy bacteria normally present in your intestinal tract, also in your intestinal tract are millions of nerve endings that release a neurotransmitter called serotonin that helps to regulate sleep, appetite, mood and can help inhibit pain. The bacteria, like any living organism, flourish on fresh healthy and unprocessed foods, if the bacteria are receiving healthy amounts of vitamins the nerve endings will be more active and release more serotonin more frequently which often improves mood and lowers the risk of depression. When the bacteria in your gut are happy! Studies have shown that people who follow traditional Mediterranean diets or Japanese type diets (diets that contain modest amounts of lean meat, are high in fresh vegetables, nuts, fish and healthy oils, and low in dairy) compared to a typical western diet that is high in processed grains and refined sugars have a 25-35% lower risk of suffering from mood disorders like depression.


That being said, it would be great if we could all just drop our bad eating habits and start fresh on a happy brain diet but that is unrealistic for majority of people, not just college students.


One way to gradually work up to a happy brain diet is by slowly cutting out foods or groups of food that can poorly effect our bodies. Harvard suggests cutting out dairy, or going grain free, it’s also always good to cut down on your sugar intake.


Another way to look at it is immediate feeling versus the long term feeling. Yeah, it will feel great to eat that chocolate bar or bag of chips right now and you’ll likely experience a short term emotional lift but thinking more long term, even that night or the next day for example it won’t feel great anymore. Whereas eating an apple or some carrots is more sustainable and will give you more energy and improve your mood over a longer period of time.


Maybe cutting things from your diet just isn’t in the cards for you, and that’s okay! Try adding nutritious foods to your already existing diet. For example, add salmon to your shopping list, or foods that are high in probiotics like yogurt. Yogurt is the best way to get probiotics next to taking a probiotic supplement, similar to a daily vitamin. Berries like blueberries are great for mood improvement and can help prevent cancer.  Nuts are another option, especially cashews and work when you find yourself eating on the go. Chances are if you begin to incorporate these foods in you”ll begin to favor them and eat less of the unhealthy foods.


Next time you’re at the store before you pick something off the shelf think to yourself “would my brain like that?”


Sources and Helpful Links:


Heart Health

5 Tips for Being Heart Healthy pexels-photo-416443.jpeg

Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, attributing to 1 in every 4 deaths. Since February is heart disease awareness month, here are five strategies for keeping your heart healthy. ☺

1. Exercise

Exercise has so many benefits, including preventing conditions that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. It is recommended that you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. Remember that it doesn’t always have to be strenuous exercise, even going for a walk, housekeeping, gardening, or taking the stairs counts towards your total. Do what works for you!

2. Eat Heart Healthy

Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help limit your risk for heart disease. Limit eating foods high in fat as well, such as red meat, deep fried foods, and foods high in sugar which can lead to conditions that increase risk of heart disease.

3. Know how to manage stress

Being able to manage your stress in a positive way will help you in so many aspects of your health, not just mentally but physically as well! High stress levels can contribute to high blood pressure. If you often find yourself tense and on edge, try different strategies to relax yourself and relieve some stress.

4. Get Quality sleep

People who are lacking in sleep or have poor quality sleep can have negative effects on your mood, mental alertness, energy level, and overall health. Make sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene such as having a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and looking at a screen before bed.

5. Get regular health screenings

Making sure you get regular check ups with your primary physician is important in knowing where your health is at and what you can do to improve it. Catching warning signs is important, and preventing heart disease is always better than managing heart disease.
Living a heart-healthy lifestyle improves your overall health, gives you more energy and focus throughout the day, and helps prevent other health conditions. For more health information, see:

the Rest Nest

We are fast approaching the middle of the semester and I am already SO. STRESSED. Anyone else?!laptop

Luckily for UWEC students, a magical place specifically designed to help us de-stress has just recently opened on the 5th floor of our very own McIntyre Library, and it’s totally FREE!


The Rest Nest is located in 5011 and has the absolute best view of the river- don’t believe us? Come check it out for yourself! We also have fun stuff to help you relax like two massage chairs, a foot massager, a giant bean bag chair, floam, kinetic sand, putty, a zen garden, a meditation board, coloring pages and supplies, fun lights, and puzzles, with relaxing music on top of all of that! mm

 We will also be hosting 30-minute activities called Meaningful Minutes, in which members of our staff will put together a short, guided program for an even deeper relaxation. Watch for Meaningful Minutes scheduling and program announcements on our Facebook page, which you can “like” by searching “UW-Eau Claire Student Health Service, Health Promotion, SWAT”!   

Our staff consists of trained peer support specialists from both the Student Wellness Advocacy Team and SPARC (Suicide Prevention and Research Collaborative) who are there to support and to connect you with on-campus resources.



            Sundays 4PM-6PM

            Mondays 11AM-1PM and 7PM-9PM

            Tuesdays 11AM-3PM

            Wednesdays 12PM-4PM and 7PM-9PM

            Thursdays 1PM-3PM

            Fridays 11AM-1PM


Check out the Rest Nest, Blugolds, and remember- relax, recharge, and repeat!