Every time we eat, we’re making a decision about what to give our bodies. But how often do we actually think about the consequences of the ingredients we take in? And how might our diet affect not only our physical health but our mood?
Balance Your Food, Balance Your Mood
The latest research indicates a strong correlation between the food we eat and our emotional well-being. In some studies, a healthy diet has been found to lower the risk for depression and even help improve mood for someone who feels low for a portion of the time.
Our gut is known to be one of the main regulators for our immune system. It also controls neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that are linked to depression. It makes sense, then, that food with high levels of these neurotransmitters and vitamins would have a positive effect on our mood.
Good Food for Your Mood
- Foods high in sugar or that act as stimulants can be hard on our moods. If you’re feeling low for some time, avoid sugary, caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Reach for a cup of green tea, instead. Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that helps combat the effects of stress and promotes relaxation.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, especially berries, which have a high level of antioxidants, which protect against cell damage.
- Ensure you get sufficient protein from beans, lentils, and fish, which are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help relieve depressive symptoms in some studies.
- Spice it up: Turmeric can boost your mood and have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body that can prevent various kinds of diseases.
The Mediterranean Diet
Many researchers find that a Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish, and whole grains, and low in red meat and unhealthy fats, can have significant positive impacts on your mood. A recent study in the Netherlands examined the diet patterns of 1634 individuals and found that people who ate according to a Mediterranean diet had significantly less or no depressive and anxiety symptoms, compared to people with a poor diet.
Change of Diet = Feeling Happier?
Of course, there are no magic tricks for addressing depression. Every person reacts differently, especially in certain phases in your life, e.g. after pregnancy when the body and hormones change. If you feel depressed, it may be difficult to even think about food, much less eat anything at all. Especially when we lack energy and motivation, it can be a challenge to change our eating habits. Once you begin to change your eating habits, it may be easier than you had anticipated. And isn’t it well worth the effort of trying a new approach to food, if the end result may be that you feel better?
More Advice on Food and Mood
Always find a balance: Variety is the best diet! The best way to approach food is with variety, without overdoing any one ingredient or type of food (even those that are thought to be good for you).
Stay natural: Don’t eat preserved foods (i.e., most foods that come in a package), choose good quality and, when possible, organic, especially if you eat meat. Following a healthy diet can help improve your mood just in the knowledge that you’re doing something good for your body and the environment.
Of course, healthy eating habits are not the only way you can or should treat depressive symptoms—if you’re feeling low much of the time, it might be time to take further action. The Moodpath app can help you figure out if you’re experiencing clinical depression and what the next steps are to seek help.