The Foods You Eat Can Influence Your Mood

By Jayne Reynolds, BCHN, Sycamore & Sage Nutrition
Categories: General

When you’re feeling down, what’s your go-to?
Binge-watching a beloved series, connecting with a trusted friend, catching some z’s or reaching for comfort foods? Each can provide a temporary mood lift. But did you know that adopting a certain way of eating not just during tough times can lower your risk of developing depression? And, get clinical trials have discovered it can even help alleviate bad moods after they’ve set in. Intriguing,

Let’s delve into the fascinating realm of “nutritional psychiatry,” which offers a new way to safeguard your mental health. One dietary pattern that consistently stands out for its link to lower depression rates is the Mediterranean diet. Based on the traditional eating habits of the Mediterranean region, this diet is abundant in fruits, veggies, olives, olive oil, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins such as chicken or fish while limiting red meat and dairy.
But here’s the exciting part - recent research from the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia shows that eating in line with the Mediterranean diet may not just prevent depression, it could also help improve symptoms of depression that have already surfaced. In their clinical trial called SMILES (Supporting the Modification of Lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States), participants who followed a modified Mediterranean-style diet experienced a significant reduction in their depression symptoms after 12 weeks. In fact, those who made the most significant dietary changes saw the most substantial mental health benefits, with an impressive 32 percent of the diet group going into remission, compared to just eight percent of the befriending group. This means that adopting a Mediterranean-style diet can lower your risk for depression and improve existing symptoms too. A true game-changer!

So how can food affect your mood?

Food is often referred to as “fuel.” But what and
how you eat profoundly affects almost every aspect
of your physical and mental health. On a basic level,
calories provide fuel to give us energy to move, think, digest, breathe and more. Proteins also form the building blocks of all your neurotransmitters.
These are chemical messengers for your brains and
nerve cells to transmit messages to each other. Essential vitamins and minerals from whole foods
combine with protein to form neurotransmitters.
Fiber and some starches feed your friendly gut microbes. These have their own nervous system,
communicate with the brain and make their own

Eating delicious foods for your moods:
The Mediterranean diet includes fish, chicken,eggs, beans, lentils, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. It also includes some nuts and olive oil, as well as drinking plenty of fresh water. It’s a holistic style
of eating that involves enjoying a meal with others
something else that’s great for your mood.

Put these ideas to work for you with these simple
• Keep your blood sugar stable with meat or plant-based protein at every meal.
o Choose seafood, lean poultry and legumes over red meat.
• Enjoy more fruits and vegetables.
o Choose fresh or frozen over canned because they retain more nutrients.
o Choose lots of colorful foods (spinach and other greens, peppers, cauliflower, pumpkin and
lemon, for example).
o Choose unsweetened fruits and 5 vegetables over juices.
• Get some fermented and probiotic-rich foods.
o Examples of fermented foods include plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi and more.
o When shopping, look for brined foods in the refrigerator section (not on the shelves at room temperature); they still contain live active cultures.
• Cut down on added sugars.
o To reduce sugar intake, try using less and substituting with berries or cinnamon.
o Avoid artificial sweeteners as they have a lot of serious side effects.
• Avoid pro-inflammatory foods as often as you can.
o Highly processed foods high in trans-fat, saturated fat, refined flour and sugar are linked to higher levels of inflammation and depression.

The connections between what you eat and how you feel keep getting stronger. Eating whole foods can help prevent depression and may even alleviate some of its symptoms. The benefits go beyond better moods! They can also reduce your risks for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. If you are experiencing severe depression or other mental health issues, you may need additional help beyond food. See your licensed healthcare provider for additional treatment or management options.

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