Counselling, medication and exercise are all common treatments for combatting depression. However, increasingly, research shows that food can really affect mood, both beneficially and adversely. It is therefore very important to understand which foods to include in our diet to help us to feel good and also those to avoid!
Many of us turn to classic comfort foods such as chocolate, cakes and crisps when we feel down but science suggests that to life out mood and stay happy we should eat a balanced diet that is packed with nutrient rich foods. Ultimately, say the experts, eating for a healthy body means we are also more likely to achieve a happy mind.
Indeed, many studies show a strong link between food and mood: typical western diets that contain a lot of processed foods are associated with a greater incidence of depression, while diets rich in wholegrains, fish fruit, veg, beans, nuts and seeds mean the condition is less likely.
Carbs head up the mood food list and have the power to make us feel blissful or blue, depending on the type we eat. Sugary, processed and refined carbs- the main type found in doughnuts, sweets, biscuits, sugary cereals, white bread and white rice – have a high glycaemic index (GI), which means they break down quickly, causing a rapid and sharp rise in blood sugar levels, which gives us a quick ‘feel good’ energy burst. But the blood sugar level may then quickly drop again, leaving us tired and miserable and wanting another carb hit to perk us up again.
Solution -swap high GI foods for low GI foods like wholegrain bread and cereals, porridge, brown rice, wholegrain pasta, fruit, veg and beans. As well as containing more hunger busting fibre, the low GI cabs bread down slowly in the system causing a smaller and more controlled rise and fall in blood sugar, with less impact on our mood.
Eating regularly is also very important as skipping meals results in low blood sugar levels causing irritability, tiredness, poor concentration, cravings and hunger. By the time you’re feeling ‘hangry’ only quick fix sugar carbs will often do which then sets off a roller-coaster ride of mood highs and lows.
Solution – have 3 meals a day with healthy snacks in between.
Even mild dehydration can affect your mood making your feel grouchy and tired. Fluid needs vary according to your size, activity levels and the weather but guidelines say that women should have about 1.6 litres per day and all fluid counts, except alcohol, – water, juice, squash, tea and coffee.