Diet and your mental health: the link between what we eat and how happy we feel
We don't tend to equate our mood with what we put in our mouth, but the mental health impact of an unbalanced diet is very real.
Lifestyle, and in particular a balanced diet, is one of the pillars of positive mood and mental health. People with heart problems, diabetes, and other physical illnesses are educated about the importance of nutrition.
However, individuals with mental health problems or mood disorders are often left in the dark about how a balanced diet, quality sleep, regular physical activity, and the reduction of stimulants like alcohol, tea, and coffee, can change their condition quite dramatically.
It's an accepted fact that the chemistry of antidepressants and other drugs transform our state of mind. If pharmaceuticals can be so effective at targeting the stress management part of our brain, then it makes sense that our brains equally respond to the (frequently artificial) chemistry of food.
Here are three top tips to ensure that your happiness won't suffer at the hands of your diet:
1. Depression and omega-3s
Most people associate depression and low mood with a prescription for antidepressants. But these medications are often poorly tolerated and are not always effective. Research has shown that omega-3 fish oil supplements are successful in treating certain types of depression. A Canadian study found that a mixture of 1050 mg of the fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 150 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) has been particularly helpful in people suffering from major depression.
2. Vegetable oils
Scientists have found a significant link between low mood, menstrual tension, and many mass-produced vegetable oils. Many nutritional experts now strongly recommend using cold pressed oils such as olive, sesame, sunflower, or coconut, as a replacement. The natural fats found in oils produced in this manner are necessary for brain function, metabolism and hormonal balance.
3. Give the margarines and spreads a miss
Estée Lauder, the doyenne of skincare, famously feasted on butter each day to keep her skin supple. Healthy fats also have far-reaching returns as an essential ingredient for the regulation and production of sex hormones. Some butter on a slice of homemade bread might help your mood (and body) in more ways than one, but ensure your butter is grass-fed. This ensures what's going on your toast is a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins A, D, & K2, as well as heart-disease preventing CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Look out for it at farmer's markets, health food shops, and artisan supermarkets.