Everyone emphasises on the need to eat healthy to stay healthy. Sure, a well-balanced diet can keep a lot of diseases at bay. But, have you wondered that our food choices can also trigger happiness? A new study suggests that what we choose to eat influences our emotional being too. Umadevi Naidoo, director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston said, “Research shows that what you eat does impact your mood.”
A study that has been published in the European Journal of Nutrition concluded that when people suffering from depression scored high on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (eating a diet based on nuts, whole grains, produce, and omega-3 fatty acids), the chances of their depression symptoms recurring for an 11-year period went down.
About 16 other studies were analysed and published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Covering about 446,000 people, they echoed that people consuming a healthy diet (veggie-based or one rich in fibres) had lower chances of experiencing depression symptoms. While it’s difficult to trace till what extent our food choices influence our moods, patterns are emerging from various studies.
Have you got the guts?
It’s a common phrase that roughly translates roughly into “are you brave enough (to do something)”. Why so? Because our gastrointestinal system is connected to your brain and influences emotions.
When the microbiomes of 2,000 adults were studied, those showing symptoms of depression were found to have lower levels of ‘good’ gut bacteria. This study was published in the journal Nature Microbiology. Thus, our microbiomes (the good and bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract) are specifically important.
“We know that the good bacteria in your gut produces a lot of neurotransmitters implicated in mood, like norepinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA),” said Drew Ramsey, MD, and author of “Eat Complete” based in New York.
The problem with processed foods
Studies have already shown that binging on packet foods and colas leads to higher risks associated with cholesterol, obesity and other health issues. According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, people consuming ultra-processed foods had a 33 per cent higher risk of being depressed compared to those who ate minimal amounts.
“These foods tend to be lower in essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins that play a crucial role in brain health,” said Samantha Heller, RD, a nutritionist in New York. According to Consumer Reports, these highly processed foods are also low on fibre, which means that your microbiome and mood tend to be at stake.
Tips to eat healthy:
While there’s no concrete connection between healthy food and good mood, practising healthy eating is always a good idea-
- Go vegetarian: Natural produce rich in greens has proven to be effective for improving health time and again.
- Avoid sugary and oily foods: Check the ingredients of food items you buy. Try substituting milk chocolate with dark chocolate.
- Eat more whole foods: Consume a diet rich in grains and avoid going for packaged foods.
- Adopt the Mediterranean diet: It’s an excellent combination of nuts, fruits, vegetables among others and helps in preventing heart disease, diabetes etc.
- Practice mindful eating: Focus on your food. Feel connected to it. If required, calm down before your meal time and take a few deep breaths.
- Pick colourful ingredients: Pick colourful produce and arrange it in a pretty way. It helps in stimulating appetite.