You’ve heard the adage ‘you are what you eat.’ Well, the latest research supports this wholeheartedly. What you eat has an influence on your mood, as well as your long-term mental health.
In this article we explain the link between food and your wellbeing, as well as provide practical evidence-based findings to help you select food that’s best for your body and brain. Here we go!
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
There is a growing body of evidence to link a healthy diet (high intake of fruit, veggies, whole grains, fish and reduced meat consumption) with a decreased risk of depression. Other studies have found a Mediterranean diet to reduce depression by 32%.
With a strong correlation between food and mood, the question begs…why is this so? Recent research has linked gut health with brain function – a significant find. In simplistic terms, there is healthy and unhealthy gut bacteria which can affect how we feel. Healthy gut bacteria have been found to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a natural mood stabiliser, controlling wellbeing and happiness. A lack of serotonin can contribute to depression.
So, what can we take away from these studies? Here are some key evidence-based food tips.
FOODS TO BOOST YOUR MOOD
With a growing body of evidence to suggest food choices can influence our mental health and wellbeing, we’ve assembled key research-backed tips and tricks to guide your food selection and behaviour:
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods (e.g. berries, spinach, avocadoes, broccoli, grapes, dark chocolate etc.) have been associated with a reduced risk of depression.
- Whole foods (e.g. fruit, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, meat, fish and eggs) are the key to increasing your mental wellbeing. Some studies have shown preservatives, additives and food colourings can exacerbate depression – so steer clear from highly processed foods (basically anything in a box, bag or jar).
- Foods high in fiber (e.g. fruit and veggies) assist your body absorb glucose helping you feel fuller for longer. This can help you avoid sugar rushes and crashes.
- Fermented foods (e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kombucha etc) are incredible for your digestive tract and gut.
- Red meat is best eaten in moderation. 3-4 times per week is fine, but mix up your protein intake with oily fish, seafood or poultry.
- Become more reflective when eating. Think about how different foods make you feel, not just as you eat them (or soon after) but the next day. Experiment by eating ‘cleaner’ and see how that makes you feel, both physically and emotionally.
MOOD FOOD INSPIRATION – OUR TOP TIPS TO EAT BETTER
We know eating unprocessed foods can be hard, especially in this day in age. So, here are a few suggestions to inspire your healthy eating choices:
- Consider eating high-protein foods, for example legumes, beans and lentils, as a substitute for meat. That’s what we specialise in! Check out our mung bean salad with ginger and soy or our spiced chickpea and roasted capsicum salad. They’re high in protein and high in flavour!
- Australian Guidelines indicate we should be eating 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of veggies per day. Whether you get them fresh, frozen, canned, juiced or dried, they all contribute towards meeting this goal. Why not check out our veggie burger patties – they’re super delicious!
- If you love coffee,1-2 serves per day is still okay. But you may wish to consider drinking caffeine in the morning (not in the afternoon or evening) or switching to decaffeinated versions. You may feel noticeably better.
- Check out our super healthy school lunchbox ideas to ensure your kids are also eating mood-boosting foods that make them feel good.
READY TO TAKE OUR MOOD FOOD CHALLENGE?
We encourage you to think more deeply about your food choices. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you taking control of what you eat, or is food controlling you?
- Do you think you’re meeting the Australian Guidelines for fruit and veggies per day?
- Do you feel aware of your body? Do you notice how food makes you feel?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions above, we have a challenge fit for you!
Simply pick one tip or ‘mood food’ listed in this article and integrate it more regularly into your life. It’s that simple. Then let us know how you went, either via email or by commenting on our Facebook or Instagram pages. We’d love to hear from you!