We all have a pretty good sense that our diet affects our health in various ways. Increasingly, though, the intricate role that our food choices play in contributing to the occurrence of various diseases, exacerbating or mitigating symptoms and sometimes curing us completely, is becoming clearer and clearer. If you are interested in enhancing your emotional health through holistic means, it is well worth educating yourself regarding the nutritional aspects. While there is no officially established diet that will make you happy and well-adjusted once and for all, there are definitely some solid guidelines that you can follow. Here are just a few considerations for choosing good mood food.
LOAD UP ON ANTIOXIDANTS
Free radicals are molecules that wreak all sorts of havoc on the body and contribute to all sorts of health woes, from premature aging to cancer. The brain may be particularly susceptible to their destructive ways, which could contribute to many different emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, meaning that they are key to overall health. The best way to get the broadest range of these nutritional superheroes is to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables in a range of colors. Some particularly good sources include spinach, sweet potatoes, berries of all kinds, nuts, seeds, broccoli and peppers.
GOOD CARBS ARE YOUR FRIEND
By now we all know the difference between the ‘good’ carbs and the ‘bad’ carbs. The latter raise our blood sugar levels, contribute to inflammation, and do all sorts of other damage. ‘Good’ carbs support our bodies in all sorts of ways. Their high-fiber content promotes digestive health and keeps cholesterol in check. They are also great for our emotional wellbeing because our bodies use carbohydrates for the production of serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical that contributes to all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings. An additional FYI…serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant as well, aiding you in maintaining a healthy weight.
FERMENTED FOODS TO FIGHT ANXIETY
A study conducted in 2014 found that people who consumed larger amounts of fermented foods reported less social anxiety. These types of foods are rich in probiotics, the friendly bacteria that are believed to offer numerous health benefits, from normalizing digestion to boosting immune system function. Many health professionals believe that the health of our guts greatly influences our overall health. Researchers sent a questionnaire to over 700 students asking about their consumption of fermented foods over the last month. To control for other factors that are known to boost mood, they also asked about exercise and overall diet habits. Those who consumed the most “living” foods reported less social anxiety even after the researchers accounted for the other factors. Examples of fermented foods include tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, kefir and yogurt.
PACK IN THE PROTEIN
Protein-rich foods are an important aspect of a diet that benefits emotional health. They aid the body in producing that awesome aforementioned serotonin and help boost alertness as well. When you are in the thick of a lethargic brain fog, a protein-rich snack may produce an immediate improvement in your mood. Healthy choices include yogurt, cheese, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and peas.
EAT LIKE THE GREEKS
The Mediterranean diet has been lauded for its amazing health benefits, and eating in this manner is believed to reduce your risk of a host of health problems, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. It looks like it delivers in the emotional health department as well. A Spanish study involving almost 10,000 men and women found that low levels of folate in men and low levels of B-12 in women were linked to depression. Intake of these nutrients is very high in the Mediterranean diet because of its concentration of legumes, nuts, fruits, dark green vegetables and fish.
This diet is also very rich in healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for brain health, as this area of the body has a particularly high concentration of (very necessary) fat. The link between diet quality and mental health is becoming more and more obvious as researchers are beginning to examine the role of food as medicine and not just fuel. It is important to note that using diet as a means to improve a particular health issue is not something that will generate results overnight. You must be diligent in eating well, and patient. You also want to maximize the benefits of diet by adopting other healthy habits, like exercising regularly and managing stress.