Potatoes or Prozac: Food and Mood

food and mood

In the late 1990s, Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons published a very popular book “Potatoes Not Prozac,” which described in detail the effect that certain foods have on our mood. Through her research and the research of other neuroscientists, we now understand how certain foods effect brain chemicals such as the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine which then effect our mood.

For thousands of years, humans struggled to find enough food, so naturally, our body-mind system evolved to recognize that eating was both pleasurable and rewarding. So in a sense, we were “hardwired” to be emotionally effected by food. Fast forward to present day, where there is a McDonalds or Culvers on every corner, and food is easily accessible. We no longer struggle to find enough food, but the hardwiring in our brains has remained the same.

Every day stress often leads us to food cravings, and with fast food so readily available, it’s very easy to go through a drive through for a quick fix stress buster. Unfortunately, this habit oftentimes sets up a dangerous cycle: the refined carbohydrates in fast food raise the blood sugar, which in turn raises insulin levels which effects the “feel good” neurotransmitters. But, high insulin levels can then trigger more food cravings, and as the blood sugar drops, we often feel drowsiness and fatigue. To combat these negative feelings, we oftentimes then again turn to refined carbohydrates, which sets up a dangerous cycle of “positive reinforcement” that can lead to overeating.

The solution?

Try to avoid refined carbohydrates, and instead, nourish your body with a well-balanced whole food meal or snack, such as a complex carbohydrate paired with protein. A good example would be whole-grain crackers with hummus, or natural peanut butter on a celery stick. Go to www.integralhealthsolutionswi.com to schedule a complementary 20-minute consult to discuss your dietary intake and how it affects your mood.


  1. Nicole on August 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks for your discussion surrounding the emotions associated with food. Nourishment should be pleasurable and enjoyable but we can get caught up in the messenging of big marketing power, and also the power of connection with our peers. Finding friends who support us in our journey and help us stay on track. Great blog. Sharing!

    • Karen Radtke on August 10, 2017 at 1:35 am

      Thanks for your comment, Nicole, and your wise words!

  2. Padma Dyvine on August 6, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    I love the suggestion of combining a complex carb with protein since the effect lasts longer. I have noticed also, sometimes it is not only the food but the process of getting it that is part of the “stress busting”. Karen’s point is well taken too, finding others to support us in making smart and healthy choices is so helpful. And then sometimes we just have to be the example we want to see. Great post. Thanks.

    • Karen Radtke on August 10, 2017 at 1:36 am

      Thanks Padma for your comment and your wise words!

  3. Cassandra Herbert on August 8, 2017 at 5:28 am

    I appreciate you discussing the impact refined carbohydrates has on our mood, energy, blood sugar levels and overall health. Many time we choose these foods because they are “quick”. Yet, the long term results can be devastating to our health and wellness. I appreciate the tips you give on how people can choose healthy “fast” food.

  4. Elizabeth Scala on August 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    This is a great post! Sharing along. Thank you for the information. I could not agree more that food can impact our mood. And that we can improve our mood (and health) with food. Awesome!!

    • Karen Radtke on August 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth for reading and sharing my post!

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