After working with overweight and obese clients for a couple of years it became more and more apparent that there was a link between excess body fat and low mood; often to the extreme of clinically diagnosed depression. On speaking to many clients about this they concluded that the depression or low mood came after the increase in weight.
However, it is nowhere near as simple as feeling a bit sad because you put on a few pounds; it is physically and psychologically more complex than that.
Obesity is a disease where there is excess adipose tissue, the fat cells in the tissue cause inflammation, more fat cells cause more inflammation and inflammation is thought to cause an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Obesity and being overweight also causes social problems for its sufferers; these have a monumental impact on mental health and include discrimination, lower wages, increased cost of clothing, an acute awareness of fitting into train seats or at restaurant tables, more time spent indoors and increased illness.
So, it is clear that having excess body fat is strongly linked with poor mental health due to weight stigma and biological mechanisms; however, the good news is that it is becoming more and more clear that the foods we eat have just as much impact on our psychological health as they do out physical. So we can improve our mood and decrease our risk of depression by including certain foods into our diet.
How can we use food to improve mood?
There are a couple of ways to improve mood through natural means.
Consistency or getting into a routine of positive eating habits will support mood improvements. Eating at regular intervals throughout the day will help balance blood sugars to prevent feelings of extreme fatigue and low mood.
Ideally, start getting into a routine of eating three meals a day and having snack options available if you are hungry. Don't worry too much to start with about portions sizes, just take one step at a time to optimise your diet, but do try to opt for slow-release or lower glycemic index carbohydrates over sugary or fast release carbohydrates as they keep your energy levels and mood more stable. Remember the more natural a food is, the more vitamins and minerals it contains. Good examples of slow-release carbohydrates include oats, wholegrain bread, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta and long grain rice. Fast release carbohydrates such as white bread, bagels and foods with table sugar such as cakes and biscuits in should be limited when possible.
Increasing intake of foods which stimulate the production of serotonin (the happy hormone,) and melatonin (the sleep hormone,) to decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. These foods include eggs, pineapple, salmon, tofu, turkey, nuts and seeds. Sometimes having too much protein in a meal can block the happy hormone effects that starchy carbohydrates may have, so every now and then it is recommended to have something like a warm bowl of milky oats, to boost those serotonin levels. Milky oats would be ideal to have before bed as these would help induce sleep too! Read this article on why sleep is important for exercise, recovery and mood.
Try to think about how foods are nourishing your body and incorporating them into your daily diet. See the lists below and try to incorporate one food from each group into your daily diet.
- Omega 3: salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, eggs, sardines, herring, chia seeds
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, fresh tuna, halibut, sardines, grass-fed beef, turkey, eggs, spinach, chicken
- Tryptophan: turkey, chicken, prawns, cod, yoghurt, milk, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas
- Folate: asparagus, beans, lentils, peas, broccoli, avocado, oranges, sprouts
- Calcium: dairy milk, fortified nut milk, yoghurt, sardines, kale, broccoli, feta, lentils
- Tyrosine: chicken, soybeans, lentils, milk, yoghurt, chickpeas, whole grains
- B vitamins: oats, bran flakes, whole grain bread, salmon, eggs, soybeans, broccoli, peas, aubergine
- Slow-release carbohydrates: long grain rice, whole grains, oats, pasta, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, beans
We often focus too much on the foods that we can’t have to make our diets healthy; however, it is so important to move our focus and make an effort to eat foods that will not only help out body stay fit but our mind too.
As always Team CSN are here to help, call or email us today and we can give you professional, unbiased advice on all your nutrition and supplement needs.