Food and your mood.
So, I literally live for food. I know, I know… we need food to live… BUT I would have to say my sole reason for stayin’ alive is food. I’m the type of person who is planning dinner while eating breakfast. If you’ve got leftovers on your plate, there’s a high chance I’ll be finishing them off. I’ve given myself the title of Snack Queen. My daily theme song is Annie’s ‘Food, Glorious Foooood’. You get the point, right?
But did you know that what you eat could be linked to how you feel, mentally?
Depression is on the rise, particularly amongst women—women are nearly twice as likely to develop depression than men. In Australia alone, 1 in 5 women will experience some form of depression.
Stats suggest that in America, over 10 million women are suffering from depression each year. Surprisingly, depression is most common in women aged between 40 and 59. I had always assumed depression was more prevalent in young women, but 23% of women in their 40’s and 50’s are taking an anti-depressant.
Depression in women is often related to eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, the rise of social media in today’s society only seems to further fuel these feelings and thoughts. Interestingly, many women in their perimenopausal (the years leading up to menopause) and menopausal years are susceptible to depression related to eating disorders and body dissatisfaction due to hormonal changes.
Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with and combat depression and other mental disorders. One option is to seek professional help—visiting a GP or a psychologist can help to get to the root of the problem and develop a plan to tackle any issues.
Mary E. Pritchard, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Boise State University, suggests that re-evaluating your food choices is one thing to do if you are feeling depressed.
Low-carb and low-calorie diets have often been linked to depression. People on low-carb diets can feel chronically tired, angry, tense and depressed due to their serotonin levels dropping. Nutritionists recommend that between 55-65% of your daily calories should come from carbs. It’s important to get a good intake of complex carbs, which come from whole grain and high fiber foods. Complex carbs increase levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin and in turn elevates your mood. BUT (of course there’s a but)… don’t go and binge on cookies and cake and junk—these are simple carbs that can make you sleepy…zzzzz.
High protein foods—fish, poultry, eggs, legumes—help to increase alertness and energy. Omega-3, which is found in fatty fish, walnuts and canola oil can improve memory and mood. Studies have shown that people with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have reported more feelings of depression and pessimism. But (another but) we don’t need too much fat—only about 20% of our daily calories need to come from fat. Now, before you jump in the car to make a quick Maccas run remember not all fats are made equal! Greasy saturated fats, e.g. that sneaky Maccas run, can lead to depression and dementia. And let's be honest, no one feels fresh after Maccas generally you will feel sluggish, fatigued and just dang fat.
Foods that contain selenium, iron, thiamine, folic acid and B-12 are also great to incorporate into your diet. You can find examples of foods that contain these here.
While the above foods help to boost moods, there are some that can have the opposite effect.
Caffeine is a big no-no if you are feeling down as too much of it can lead to anxiety, nervousness and mood swings. Green tea is a great replacement for coffee or caffeinated soft drinks. Green tea actually contains an amino acid called theanine which is an antioxidant that fights depression and combats stress… pretty awesome huh?
I think it’s actually pretty cool knowing that what you put into your body can affect you mentally, either in a positive or not-so-positive way. If you're feeling down, definitely take a moment to look at your diet and the foods you are consuming.