Just like you and me, our brains and guts, (feel free to check out Trust Your Guts Part 1 and Trust Your Guts Part 2 for more gut facts), like to be kept happy, otherwise they don’t function at their best. (And in my case, I get VERY cranky!!)
What has leapt out to me, is the numerous articles relating to depression and nutrition. It looks like we need to include the following, to help with low moods:-
Protein and Carbohydrates
Your brain produces chemical messengers, which regulate your moods. One of them is ‘serotonin’. Interestingly, your gut produces approximately 90% of serotonin and if you’re stressed or anxious, this can make the actions of your gut slow down or speed up.
Now, your body needs help, from your food intake, to make serotonin.
In the amino acids, that make up protein, there is one called, ‘trytophan’. Trytophan is converted to serotonin in your brain and gut, but, it is only 1% of the amino acids in the normal diet. Also, the barrier protecting your brain, known as the ‘blood-brain barrier,’ tends to prioritize other amino acids, that go across it.
So, you need to eat carbohydrates, to help drive trytophan across your blood-brain barrier, as well as a decent amount of protein. Therefore, even though more research is needed, it’s possible that not eating enough carbohydrates, can lead to you having low moods.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There is research, that suggests, that omega-3 fatty acids, may help benefit people with depression. Apparently, omega-3s can easily travel through brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. Also, they have anti-inflammatory actions that, may help relieve depression. More research is needed but it looks promising.
Other nutrients, like Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins, play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may also, be linked to depression.
There are studies that report, that selenium, (a type of mineral), deprivation leads to a depressed mood, and high dietary or supplementary selenium seems to improve mood.
Foods to Eat to Help with Low Mood:-
- some fortified cereals
- dark leafy vegetables
- fruit and fruit juices
- whole grains
If you like Italian food, you’re going to like the next bit!
Eating a Mediterranean diet, (moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products; low intake of meat; and high intake of legumes, fruit and nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish), can help to protect against depression. Individuals who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely, had a greater than 30% reduction in the risk of depression than whose who had eaten less of this diet.
Also, studies, that have compared the typical Western diet with Mediterranean and Japanese diets, have found that the risk of depression is 28% to 35% lower with Mediterranean and Japanese diets, than the typical Western ones.
I Love Junk Food But…..
There are studies that show, that junk food has been associated with impaired brain function and a worsening of mood disorders, like depression.
And it can make you angry.
A study of 44 college students, showed that the more calories, saturated fat and salt they ate, the more negative their moods became.
Furthermore, an Oxford University study revealed that excessive consumption of processed, junk food by prisoners, could lead to aggression, irritability and even violent tendencies!
It’s believed that trans fatty acids in junk food, interfere with your brain’s ability to produce and use Omega-3 fatty acids – a nutrient shown by research to lower aggression.
In the past, even though I didn’t eat much junk food like takeaways etc. I ate too much sugar.
I use to eat cake, baked by my other half, every day. Biscuits? Well, I couldn’t just have one or two; I’d have to eat at least half a packet.
On the rare occasion that I go to the cinema, my feet, acting of their own accord, would take me to the sweetie stand and I couldn’t stop myself from filling up those bags. I have scoffed them to the point of nausea before now.
And, I always found room for a dessert going out for a meal.
I use to justify my consumption of junk food by, thinking I’ll run it off the next morning. I didn’t realise that I’d have to train like an Olympian every day just to shift a pound of body weight!
Eventually, I noticed I felt tired and drained; particularly after a sugary snack.
I really wanted to cut down, so I did the obvious. I stopped buying cakes and biscuits etc., therefore I wouldn’t have the temptation in my kitchen.
Obviously, I was miserable at first. But, over time, I noticed that my energy improved significantly. Also, my sugar cravings reduced. I, now notice the difference in my moods when, on the rare occasion, I indulge in junk foods. I feel tired, my IBS is triggered off and yes, I feel irritable!
So, if you want to feel mostly happy and calm:-
Eat and drink regularly, fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, eggs, milk and if you’re a non-vegetarian, lean meats and fish.
Keep hydrated. Dehydration can cause poor concentration, along with a host of other problems.
Limit alcohol, caffeine, sugar and junk foods.
Finally, eat regular meals or you’ll become weak and tired and yes, probably feel irritable!
Sources: furtherfood.com, mind.org.uk, bda.uk.com, brainmd.com, health.harvard.edu, webmd.com, mindbody7.com, healthline.com, mentalhealthdaily.com, mayoclinic.org, thelancet.com