Food and Mood

Have you ever been too stressed to eat? Or do you find yourself eating when you are depressed? Quite often we may not be aware of what we are feeling when we eat, let alone how these feelings might affect our food choices.

Keeping a food diary for a short time can help you highlight any of these points, enabling you to make those connections between your eating behaviour and your emotions.

Sometimes it’s not our emotions that influence our food choices, rather our food choices that influence our emotions. For example, missing a meal may lower your blood sugar levels and/or energy levels which can make you feel depressed or even stressed.

There are plenty of nutritional supplements and diet plans available, however these can be costly and questionable. Some very simple and effective things that we can all implement to help promote the most positive mental state don’t need to cost the earth. These include;

  • Drinking more water
  • Reducing caffeine
  • Cutting out/reducing processed sugar
  • Trying to eat 3 regular meals each day

Certain foods can aid a healthy mind. For example, eating oily fish at least twice a week to boost Omega 3, can help fight off depression.

Sali et al (2011) found that using multivitamins and herbal supplements may help to improve levels of alertness, as well as lower depression, anxiety and stress levels. They found that elderly women at risk of memory decline may benefit from supplements, and a particular bark extract (Pinus Radiata) can improve cognition in elderly men.

In another study, Wolfe et al (2011) found differences between the effect of dietary protein on men and women. They found that increased protein in the diet protected men from depression, but increased the risk of depression for women.

The mineral Chromium has been found to be beneficial in maintaining blood glucose levels as well as reducing symptoms of depression (Brownley et al, 2013). Chromium has also been found to enhance cognitive function in some older adults at risk of neurodegeneration (Krikorian et al, 2010). Foods high in chromium are such things as wholgrains, green beans, wheat germ, bran cereal, raw onion, broccoli, potatoes, amongst others.

So what does this mean for you?

Firstly, it can be useful to contemplate your existing relationship with food, whether there is anything that you might like to change or not. If you feel that actually, there are some things you would like to change, what experience have you had with dietary change in the past, and how might that effect future changes? Using the simple techniques listed above may help improve your mood without too much effort, but before making any serious changes to your diet or lifestyle (including taking supplements) it is important to discuss this with your G.P or pharmacist, as some supplements may interact with existing medications.