To put it simply: food is medicine. If you eat the right things at the right times you feel full of energy.
'One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.'
Eating certain foods really can help keep bad moods at bay. Basically, the science of how food affects our moods is based on this equation: Dietary changes bring about changes in our brain structure, chemistry, and physiology, which lead to changes in behaviour!
Senior lecturer in clinical studies at Monash University in Melboutne, Dr Craig Hassed says using food to regulate a person's mood, is becoming more common. "When feeling down, food activates the pleasure centres in the brain and gives some short-term relief."
The idea is to focus on feeding you body and brain the raw materials needed to create the right hormones and neural transmitters. That said, it's okay to treat yourself occasionally. Putting a dash of indulgence into the stew is the secret to success. Just make sure that 80 per cent of the food that goes into your body is right for you.
Our mental wellbeing all comes back to our diet, with studies showing that food can be used to stabilise our mood. We're all heard the expression 'you are what you eat'. When the starving brain is fed what it needs, it can begin to function normally.
Eat your greens
Leafy greens art nature's antidepressants. They're an excellent source of folic acid, a lack of which has been linked to depressed mood. Depression caused by folate deficiency is rare, but studies show that upping your intake can help to alleviate unhappy feelings.
Walnuts work wonders
Walnuts are second only to flaxseed in terms of vegetarian sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. An increased intake of Omega 3 has been shown to be very helpful in fighting depression and bipolar disorder. Like many nuts and seeds, walnuts help balance your mood and get rid of brain fog. Eat a handful each day to reduce your risk of depression or ease the symptoms.
Pomegranates for power
Drinking a glass of pomegranate juice helps to balance out the rise in glucose levels that follow a high-fat or high-calorie meal. In simple terms, that means you reduce the risk of an energy slump after eating. "Feeling lethargic dampens your mood," says psychotherapist Vicki Ford. "If you can ramp up your energy, your mood will improve."
Seeds of change
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and aid sleep. "A seed contains all that's necessary to start growing a new plant," says Farah Cleret, a nutritional clinician, "so it's little wonder they're tightly packed with essential nutrients."
Crunch down on cashews
The cashew nut is a handy snack to munch on and valuable food for depression by boosting your mood. It is rich in B vitamins, especially thiamine, and is therefore useful in stimulating the appetite and the nervous system. It's also full of riboflavin which keeps the body active, cheerful and energetic.
Bananas contain tryptophan, which the body uses to make the happiness hormone serotonin. They're also packed with potassium, levels, which can be depleted by stress. The vitamin B6 they contain will help to regulate blood sugar and thereby stabilise mood.
Eat oily fish
Studies have found that societies that eat lots of fish have lower depression rates, possibly due to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 changes brain chemicals in ways that boost mood. That is probably why the Japanese, who eat the most fish, are the least depressed.
Dietitian Susie Burrell says every one can benefit from including more fish into their diet. "Its been shown that people who have clinical depression has lower amounts of the long-chain polyunsaturated fats which are found in Atlantic salmon and deep sea cold fish."
Hot chilli peppers can give a person a thrill that is more than purely sensory. According to Dr. Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who has done extensive research on reactions to hot peppers, the capsaicin, the hot substance contained init, can induce in the brain a rush of endorphins that can temporarily elevate mood. Dr. Rozin explains that when a person eats hot chillies, the capsaicin 'burns' the nerve endings of the tongue and mouth, causing them to send false pain signals to the brain. In response, the brain tries to protect the body from perceived injury by secreting natural painkillers or endorphins. This gives a lift in the mood and the person experiences a sense of wellbeing.
Gulp down garlic
Researchers studying garlic for its effects on blood and cholesterol noticed that those who ate garlic experienced a definite lift in mood and had a greater feeling of well being. They experienced notably less fatigue, anxiety, sensitivity, agitation and irritability. The power of garlic as a mood elevator can be attributed to its richness in selenium and its antioxidant activity.
Cardamom is one of the most popular spices and is often referred to as 'Queen of Spices'. It is one of the most valued spices in the world and is known for lifting a person's mood. Powdered seeds should be boiled in water, add some honey and enjoy as a herbal tea.
The root of asparagus is beneficial in the treatment of depression. It is highly nutritious and is used as a herbal medicine for mental disorders. It is a good tonic for the brain and nerves. One or two grams of the powder of the dry root of the plant can be taken once daily.
Brown rice is another winner. This complex carbohydrate contains B vitamins B1, B3 and folic acid all of which helps regulate mood. It has the advantage of being low on the GL (Glycemic Load) listing, and so helps prevent blood sugar swings and the mood swings that often accompany them.
The three big no no's if you want to avoid falling into a low, are sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Too much alcohol can cause deficiencies in the vitamins needed for good mental health, and while sugar and caffeine give you a quick lift, they can leave you feeling down when their effects wear off.
A number of studies prove that eliminating the big three, helps in maintaining a stable mood. People who had not responded to conventional therapies, reported having more energy within weeks of eliminating sugar and caffeine from their diet. Eventually, almost 60 per cent also experienced improvements in mood.
Why eat brekky?
Breakfast means just that: break the overnight fast. Eating breakfast allows you to restock the energy stores that have run out overnight and begin the day with a tank full of the right fuel. According to some researchers, regularly eating breakfast not only leads to improved mood, but better memory, more energy throughout the day, and feelings of calmness.
Susie Burrell says having regular meals is the biggest priority. "Eating every three or four hours is vital, because it's when people go for really long periods without eating they tend to have that drop in energy and the drop in blood sugar which can mke them feel tired, hence effect their mood."
Seeking solace in a handful of chocolate chip cookies is a quick solution, usually regretted by the time we're swiping the crumbs from our mouth. Studies have found that people reach for junk food when their mood is negative, but tend to prefer healthy foods when in a positive mood. This can be a real trap, with emotional eating being symptom of low serotonin.
It's hard though to stop your cravings all the time, but here's a tip on how to be strong:
Studies have shown that cravings last for 5 to 10 minutes only and then you can easily get rid of them. So next time you feel like you have to eat that big slab of chocolate mud cake in your fridge, go and get busy for 10 minutes and then see if the craving is still there.