Is the lockdown over yet?
You’ve probably been asking yourself the same question. Nevertheless, when faced with restrictions such as not seeing our loved ones who do not live in the same house and limited movement, keeping a cheery mood can be difficult.
This got me wondering, do the foods we eat impact how we feel? Research says yes it can!
Food is composed of nutrients, which can affect brain chemistry, and therefore influence our mood. Scientists have long suspected a connection between poor diet and poor mental health.
Anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions have been linked to have increased levels of inflammation in the body. A small amount of inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing, and is actually the body’s normal response to fighting infections, injuries and toxins. However, if the body is in a constant state of inflammation, this will cause our body to go into over drive, and impact our physical and mental health negatively.
Reducing inflammation and stress on the body can significantly improve one’s health outcomes. Good nutrition is important for everyone. Interestingly, there are certain foods that may help combat or promote inflammation.
A study found that those consuming a ‘Western Diet’ (one that is high in red meat and processed foods) presented with higher levels of inflammation and consequent higher rates of depression. However, those whose eating patterns resembled that of a Mediterranean diet (high in fruits and vegetables, low in sugar and high in omega 3s) had lower levels of inflammation.
A diet high in fruits and vegetables may provide the body with the best nutrients to defend itself against inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre and polyphenols. These nutrients can prevent, delay or repair specific kinds of cell and tissue damage. Add a pop of colour to your plate by including a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Four to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily are recommended to keep inflammation and chronic diseases at bay.
Most people know about the relationship between sugar and diabetes or obesity, however far less attention has been given to the impact of a diet high in sugar and mental health. Numerous studies have shown the deleterious effects a sweet tooth can have on our mood. Cutting sugar from our diet may be easier said than done. Even foods that we perceive to be healthy, may be loaded with hidden sugars. These culprits include breakfast cereals, sauces (tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, sweet chilli sauce etc), many flavoured drinks, white bread and rolls and some yoghurts. The best way to keep tabs on sugar consumption is to become familiar with nutritional labels, and to simply not add any sugar to foods ourselves.
Omega-3 fats are found in foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts. We should opt for plant based oils like olive oil or canola oil. We should also reduce our intake of foods high in saturated fats (fats that come from animals), like red meat and high fat dairy products. Rather, choose leaner protein foods such as skinless chicken, or lean cuts of red meat, and include low fat or fat free dairy products like skim milk and yoghurt. It is also crucial to avoid eating too many fried foods, especially those that have been cooked in reheated oil. Reheating oil can create harmful inflammatory compounds.
Small dietary changes can make a big difference in how you feel over time. Unfortunately, no single type of food is a miracle cure, but a healthy diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein can work wonders when it comes to filling you up, energizing your body and just generally helping you feel your best! With all these health promoting properties, a good diet has the ability to lift up your spirits and improve your mood!