Can your diet improve your mental health?
This is something both Matt and I are great believers in. A healthy diet not only has an effect on your physical health but can play a big part in your mental health too.
A well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and nutrients is associated with a feeling of positive well-being. Mediterranean diets for example filled with vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats like olive oil have been seen to reduce signs of depression.
The food choices you make can affect your mood and mental health. One of my favourite examples of this is complex carbs. These contain soluble fibre which causes slow absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and increase serotonin, the “feel good” chemical, both of which decrease mood swings. So be wary of anyone that tells you to remove carbs from your diet! It’s about eating the right carbs in the right amounts too.
The same thing is true when it comes to “diets”. If you are on a low-calorie diet where meals consist of 300 calories and you are doing any sort of training/exercise this may not be enough to fuel your body! One of 2 things is going to happen:
- You will be starving hungry but manage to resist your cravings, you will be low on energy, probably close to passing out in your gym session, making it counterproductive and you will feel pretty miserable.
- Between meals you will be more likely to snack on rubbish. When you eat a sweet snack like chocolate or a sugary doughnut you get a spike of energy followed by a crashing low. Sugar highs and lows are just one of the many ways food can affect how you feel.
You may also be given a “diet” that reduces the amount of meals you eat a day. Again this isn’t sustainable in the long run, you are hungry for hours making you feel rubbish and not able to focus on anything other than your stomach making rumbling noises! You then get to mealtime and you’re so hungry that you pig out on anything you can find putting your calorie count through the roof. You may as well have just eaten a normal amount of meals and not put yourself through the stress!
Eating regular meals and snacks at the same time every day helps keep blood sugar levels steady. Eating at regular intervals also helps to ensure your body has a continuous source of fuel which assists in keeping your mood stable.
So what is “good mood food”?
Protein:– helps slow absorption of carbs into your blood and increases Dopamine and Norepinephrine, improving your mood and energy for several hours after eating. Best foods to add more protein to your diet are eggs, poultry, seafood, tofu, low-fat greek yoghurt.
- Vitamin D – helps relieve mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder. Found in sunlight, low-fat milk, egg yolks and soy milk.
- Vitamin B12 and folate (Folic Acid or Vitamin B9) these are said to ease depression. They can be found in such foods as broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, oranges, dark leafy greens, cottage cheese, lean beef, salmon.
Fibre:– Complex carbs whole wheat breads, pastas, flour, barley, potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa.
So what are “bad mood foods”?
We should aim to limit our intake of refined or simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pizza dough, pastries, white flour and sweet desserts to name but a few. The simple sugars in junk food will make you feel great at first for sure but you will once again be on the blood sugar rollercoaster.
There is a clear relationship between food and state of mind. When you combine strategies for eating regularly with foods that may have a positive effect on your well-being you can plan meals that may make you feel better and avoid any that may bring your mood down.
I’m not saying depression can be fixed by eating well or eating unhealthily will cause depression but it certainly has a huge impact on how you feel day to day.
Mix healthy eating with exercise to release lots of endorphins can boost happiness and many people have seen huge improvements in their mental health. We are big believers in how food can help improve your mood and well being. At fitchef we create and deliver prepared meals that are healthy and delicious, so you can relax and be happy. Healthy doesn’t mean bland and boring so take a look at the type of meals we serve.
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