Your food can literally make you happier, or depressed. A new Spanish study involving more than 15,000 people has found a diet loaded with fruit, vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and olive oil and with low levels of processed meats could help keep depression at bay.
Nutritionist Linda Foster said: “There’s more and more research indicating that diet can influence brain chemistry, with this latest study adding weight to the idea we can eat ourselves happier.”
Along with regular exercise, sticking to the right diet can help ward off the depression. Changing your diet can altering the hormones responsible for controlling our mood, specifically the so-called happiness hormone, serotonin.
Foods that naturally boost serotonin levels, such as bananas, can lift our mood. Conversely, foods that interfere with its production – such as junk food and alcohol – can increase levels of anxiety and depression.
The key to eating towards happiness is to have enough of the right mood-lifting foods at regular intervals. Here are some simple rules:
Cut down on booze and coffee: Alcohol and caffeine interfere with production of the happy hormone serotonin.
Stay hydrated: Not drinking enough water can affect you. The recommended amount is half your body weight (in lbs) in ounces. eg a 200 lb person should drink 100 fluid ounces of water a day.
Eat little and often: Smaller, regular meals help keep your blood sugar steady which can ward off dips in mood.
Eat the right carbs: White carbs can spike blood sugar levels so switch to wholegrains such as granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice to provide enough tryptophan but avoid mood dips.
Cut back on junk food: People who regularly eat high-fat foods, processed meals and sugary snacks are almost two-thirds more likely to suffer from depression than those who choose fruit, veg and fish.
Eat good fats: Your brain needs fatty oils – especially omega-3s and 6s – to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, eat the right ones. Oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado are all great sources of healthy, mood-boosting fats.
Feel-good fitness: Research shows that exercising for just 45 minutes, three to four times per week, releases mood-boosting endorphins in the brain which can be as effective at treating mild to moderate depression as the anti-depressant Prozac. Cycling, swimming or even a brisk walk all work well.