We have just had the Holly-day season, the time for joy and junk food! And now we had Easter. But before scoffing too many Easter Eggs, have you considered that you may not be so joyful if you do? A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that consuming too much of those processed foods can leave you feeling the moody blues.
Long term impact of processed foods
A study conducted over five years by British and French scientists on 3,486 London office workers showed that there is a link between diet and depression. Following a diet history survey which measured diet intake through a questionnaire that asked how much of 127 different food items the participants ate over the past year, the participants were split into two groups: the ‘whole foods’ group and the ‘processed foods group’. Five years later, the scientists assessed those participants for self-reported depression. The study revealed that those in the processed foods group had a 58 per cent higher risk of depression. Factors such as smoking and body mass were controlled and people that were already showing signs of depression when their diets were measured at the start were removed from the test group. Yet this did not affect the results! The basic conclusion of this study was that processed foods are a risk factor for depression five years later, while whole foods can protect against it. This suggests that there is only a real risk after a long sustained period of consuming processed foods. Whilst this may be true when it comes to medical depression, what about the immediate effect of food on our moods?
Food to instantly change your Mood
I certainly believe that what we choose to eat can very quickly impact our mood. Of course there is our subconscious thought after eating food. You may feel guilty for treating yourself, or you may have the world’s most nutritious salad and feel uplifted for eating so healthily. As well as these voluntary thoughts, it is clear that food may affect our brain chemistry. Studies have shown that the high content of antioxidants and folate found in a whole food diet can positively impact your mood. I have listed some of my favourites that seem to be capable of this…
The primary health benefits of eating fish are attributed to its high content of long chain Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Mackerel and sardines are two of the best. Higher intakes of fish can also reduce the risk of suffering from depression.
Many of us have now heard that the high quantities of flavenols in cocoa can increase blood flow to the brain, and can reduce tiredness and mental fatigue. Try to go for the least processed chocolate though. I love to use organic dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content. Also look out for raw organic cocoa nibs (broken pieces of cocoa bean), which are an inexpensive way of getting the benefits of cocoa, and can be easily eaten straight, or added to any meal or smoothie. If you find the darker stuff too strong then try to use it alongside other foods. Perhaps try combining coconut milk and/or bananas, or berries with melted dark chocolate. Organic, dark chocolate Easter Eggs anyone?
I personally do not think you need to spend all of your hard earned money on marketed ‘superfoods’ and supplements. Although fresh fruit and veg may not be what it used to be, nature still has plenty to offer us. Just try to stick to natural and organic where possible. Please share your thoughts and favourite ‘mood foods’, so we can all walk around with a smile on our faces.