Food and Mood
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Stress, anxiety, memory loss, depression… These conditions are all linked to an unhealthy lifestyle and a bad diet. It’s well-known that junk food is bad for the body and the heart, and it has been proven to have a disastrous effect on the brain.
By junk food, I don’t necessarily mean McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. In the same category you’ll find chocolate bars, ready meals, industrial bread, white pasta, salad dressing, everything that is labelled ‘low-fat’ or ‘sugar free’, industrial fruit juices, margarine, sports drinks, processed so-called healthy food, breakfast cereal, cake, …. the list is endless!
Junk food affects the central nervous system, leading to feelings of irritability, restlessness, low blood sugar and emptiness. Research has shown that junk food eaters were almost 60% more likely to suffer from depression than people who have a healthier diet. (Read more on sugar and its impact on our mental health here. )
Why, you ask?
Because these types of food contain zero vitamins, nutrients and dietary fibres; and because they contain too much fat, too much sugar and/or too much salt. To add insult to injury, they are filled with chemicals – the kinds that make you want to eat even more of them! Thank you, food industry.
Ironically, a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps is what we’ll tend to eat to pick us up when we feel low. Wrong, wrong and wrong; it’s only a short-term illusion! Most people don’t realise the damage this type of ‘comfort food’ can cause to their mental health – and of course, the food industry isn’t going to advertise it.
Do you want to know what else can lead to stress and depression?
Not enough of the good stuff
Too much caffeine
Too much sugar
Too much red meat
Fizzy, sugary drinks
Sweeteners such as aspartame (there is strong evidence that aspartame reduces serotonin levels – the happy hormone – in the brain)
A lack of the right kind of carbs (so the same way, low-carb diets are very bad for you)
So if you are inclined towards feeling stressed, irritable or depressed …. why don’t start by changing what’s on your plate?
Here is what you need more of :
Wholesome food: Just fill your plate with vegetables, grains and beans! There is no secret, really.
Omega-3: Oily fish such (salmon, sardines, mackerel), avocados, cashew, walnuts, spinach, chia seeds
B vitamin: Eggs, green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains
Amino acid to boost your serotonin levels: watercress, pumpkin, leafy greens, chia seeds, soybeans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, eggs, quinoa, etc.
Green tea: It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients;
Water, water, water !
Proteins and Serotonin, a crucial mix to boost your mood.
Have you ever heard about serotonin? Long story short, it’s a natural mood stabiliser, it also helps bodily functions, such as digesting and sleeping. When your serotonin levels are normal you feel happier, calmer, more focused, and more emotionally stable. On the other hand, research have shown that serotonin deficiency is linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia (serotonin helps producing melatonin, the sleeping hormone).
Foods high in tryptophan are: whole grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. And for the meat eaters : red meat, chicken, and turkey.
And for the record, exercising is also key in fighting stress and depression. Mens sana in corpore sano, ring a bell?
So if you're feeling a bit low or slightly depressed, I strongly recommend the following meal:
- salmon steak (if you eat fish)
- brown rice
- spinach (or any other leafy green)
- pumpkin seeds
See? IT's not that complicated to take care of your mood ... and your body at the same time.
And if you need help, contact me!