It’s long been associated with good health, reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers, and now a certain kind of diet is linked to staving off depression.
A new study involving more than 15,000 people has found a diet loaded with fruit, vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and olive oil, but with low levels of processed meats, could help keep depression at bay. But can your diet really help put you in a good mood? And can avoiding certain food and drinks discourage low spells or even depression?
Foods that naturally boosts its levels, such as bananas, can lift our mood. Conversely, foods that interfere with its production -such as junk food and alcohol -can increase levels of anxiety and depression. As well as looking at key mood-lifting foods, there has also been interesting research to suggest that trying to lose weight on a diet that restricts calories too severely can have a detrimental effect on mood too. Many of the pathways in the brain that deal with mood and hunger are linked. So it’s no surprise that feeling hungry goes hand-in-hand with feeling grumpy.
And the more extreme your diet, the worse these effects. When you don’t eat enough your blood sugar levels get really low, triggering the release of hormones such as adrenaline. Adrenaline frees glucose from stores in your muscles and liver to provide an emergency energy supply, but also has the unwanted side effect of making you feel anxious and stressed.
THE MOOD FOOD BOOST RULES
The key to eating towards happiness is to have enough of the right mood lifting foods, at regular intervals – and avoiding ones that science suggests can make you feel low. Here are some simple rules to stick to
CUT DOWN ON BOOZE AND COFFEE
Alcohol and caffeine both interfere with the body’s production of the happy hormone serotonin, and reduce levels of tryptophan, the amino acid required for serotonin to be produced. This can make you feel anxious and miserable and also disturb your sleep -lack of which is linked to depression -so cutting back or avoiding both completely may help ease your symptoms.
Not drinking enough water can seriously affect your mood. As mental health charity MIND explains, “You may also find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly, and start to feel constipated, which puts no one in a good mood!” You need to consume at least two pints of water daily to stay hydrated – some water is in your food, but you need to drink the rest. Ordinary tea and coffee don’t really count, because the caffeine in them makes you visit the toilet and lose more water again.
EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
Smaller, regular meals help keep your blood sugar steady which can ward off dips in energy and mood.
AVOID TOO MUCH SUGAR
It can cause rapid blood sugar rise, followed by a steep dip that can lower mood. This means avoiding biscuits, cakes, chocolate and fizzy drinks, but also being careful not to overdo fruit juice which is packed with concentrated amounts of fruit sugar.
EAT THE RIGHT CARBS
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is all about tryptophan, the amino acid they contain. As more tryptophan enters the brain, serotonin levels increase and mood tends to improve, which is why healthy carbs can prove to be a very important part of a good mood diet.Indeed, research has suggested that people following low-carb, high-protein diets can become prone to developing depression.White carbs can spike blood sugar levels so swapping to wholegrain carbs such as granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice, will provide enough tryptophan, but also avoid blood sugar crashes and mood dips.
CUT BACK ON JUNK FOOD
People who regularly eat high-fat foods, processed meals and sugary snacks are almost two-thirds more likely to suffer from depression than those who choose fruit, vegetables and fish. So aiming for more home-cooked meals over takeaways, and making sure you’re getting your five-a-day can also have a big impact on your mood.
EAT GOOD FATS
Your brain needs fatty oils especially omega-3s and 6s -to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones. Oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado are all great sources of healthy, mood-boosting fats.
FACTOR IN FEEL-GOOD FITNESS
Research shows that exercising for just 45 minutes, three to four times per week, releases mood-boosting endorphins in the brain which can be as effective in treating mild to moderate depression. Cycling, swimming or even a brisk walk all work well.
Let’s try to implement these tips in our daily lifestyle and keep depression away!