The link between physical health and what you eat is well understood, but did you know that what you eat has a huge impact on your mood and how you feel?
I wonder how we forgot about this connection, because it was common knowledge in times gone by. Way back when (think medieval times), people would eat quince, dates and elderflowers if they were feeling a little blue, and use lettuce and chicory as nature’s tranquilisers.
Modern science has extensively studied the impact of food on mood, and we now understand why food has such a positive (or negative) effect, and also which foods we should be eating more (or less) of to support mental health.
Managing anxiety, stress, depression, and other mood disorders is complex, and there’s no one-size-fits all solution. But we know that the right diet and lifestyle plan combined with motivational coaching to help you every step of the way can be an enormous help.
Good nutrition makes all the difference
The very edited highlight of the research into what you should eat to balance your energy and improve your mood is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet featuring plenty of whole, natural foods. That also means learning to balance your blood sugar levels. Loss of blood sugar balance has a clear link to stress, anxiety, and depression. 50% of low mood is down to blood sugar imbalances.
Learning how to become a master of your blood sugar balance is the secret to having more energy, a better mood and controlling your weight – and losing it if you need to. Feeling more confident about the way you look is in itself an excellent way to boost feelings of self-worth.
In the same way that eating well can positively influence mood, making poor food choices can have the opposite effect. Research by a team at Binghamton, New York, showed that young adults under 30 who ate fast food more than three times a week scored higher when it came to levels of mental distress. The same researchers found that those who ate meat fewer than three times a week had more mental health problems (potentially as the amino acid tryptophan found in meat is the pre-cursor to the feel-good chemical serotonin).
Key to your mood and brain function
Few of us get enough omega-3 fats in our diet, and these are key to our mood and brain function. The dry weight of our brain is literally 60% fat - so not surprising that we depend on a daily intake of essential fats.
EPA, DPA and DHA – certain long-chain omega-3 fats – build and rebuild your brain and are part of the equation for happiness. The higher your blood levels of omega-3 fats, the higher your levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin are likely to be.
Omega-3 fats help build receptor sites as well as improving their function. There have been ten good quality double-blind controlled trials to date, giving fish oils rich in omega-3s to people with depression. Five showed significant improvement, greater than that reported for anti-depressant drugs.
Most studies on anti-depressant drugs report something like a 15% reduction in depression ratings. Three studies on omega-3s reported an average reduction of 50% - and without side-effects.
Sources of omega-3 fats: oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, cod, tuna, halibut), walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed. If you are vegetarian or vegan, consider taking an omega-3 supplement (e.g. DHA from seaweed). Most plant sources of omega-3 do not contain the long-chain fatty acids mentioned above. Although the body can make those from short-chain omega-3s – like the ones found in nuts and seeds – conversion is poor and it is difficult to get enough omega-3 that way, especially if you are not in good health or pregnant, when you need some extra.
Low mood affects up to 20% of us at any one time
Low mood affects up to 20% of us at any one time, so everyone is likely to experience some form of it at one time or another, particularly if you are also tackling a gut or hormone issue.
Many periods of low mood can be almost eradicated by following the simple steps above and by following my signature Mood & Energy programme. Not only because this addresses many of the physical causes of low mood, but also because you are spending your time focusing on a positive action plan and learning new things rather than ruminating about problems.
To find out more about how a nutrition & lifestyle programme can help, click here to book a free call with me.
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