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Monday, 21 January 2019

Good Mood Food

Today is so-called Blue Monday, which is apparently the most depressing day of the year. If I'm honest I find the whole of January pretty blue, especially after the first week when the excitement of Christmas & New Year has died down and all you're left with is a mountain of housework to catch up on, a messed up sleeping pattern and jeans that are now slightly too tight around the waist.

When the January Blues hit it can be so easy to fall into a pit of depression, especially when you have a history of mental health concerns like I do, but there are things you can do to stop this from happening and to help pull you out of these dark feelings. Before you scoff or roll your eyes (as I would have done a few years ago) please open your mind to the fact what we do can impact our mental health dramatically. The food we eat, the people we surround ourselves with and even the way we move all makes a difference.

Good Mood Food is something I strongly believe in, because what we put into our body really does effect more than just our physical health. I've had a long history of chronic and debilitating depression and I know from my own real life experience that transforming my diet to be healthier & more wholesome absolutely transformed my mental health. Before I began eating healthier and regularly exercising my mental health had plummeted and I really was at rock bottom, but then my lifestyle change took hold. I started to eat more fruit and vegetables, I cut out refined sugars and artificial foods from my diet and I was eating in a much more regular way now with 3 proper meals a day instead of skipping breakfast or binging on crisps and chocolate. Almost immediately I felt the cloud that was above my head pass over, I felt lighter and more free, my anxiety levels reduced and I noticed I felt generally happier. It was like some sort of miracle and I was so amazed at the difference in myself, as were my family & loved ones! Who'd have thought such simple changes could have the most amazing side effects?

So, what can we do with our diet to help our mental health?

A healthy macro-nutrient balance between carbs, fats and protein is really important for everyone and the ratios of these will depend on each individual person but we all need to make sure we're eating high quality carbohydrates in our diet. Our brains use the glucose from carbohydrates as fuel, so if you're eliminating carbs from you diet you just won't be able to function properly and you will notice massive drops in your mood. Carbs help to transport tryptophan to the brain, which is the to key to creating serotonin (also known as the happy hormone). My favourite sources of carbs are brown rice, wholegrain pastas, quinoa, potatoes, beans & legumes and fruit!

Don't just focus on the carbs though, fats are very important too! Fearing fat seems to be a popular thing, especially amongst diet plans like Slimming World & Weight Watchers, but fats are absolutely essential for all the functions in the body and without them your longterm health will dramatically suffer. Hundreds of studies have proven there is a link between the absence of foods rich in healthy fatty acids from the diet and the presence of both inflammation and depression in the body. These fatty acids (including omega-3) is thought to lessen symptoms of depression! I personally find that when I'm making a conscious effort to eat more healthier fats from sources like nuts and seeds (walnuts, pumpkin seeds and almonds are my favourite), oily fish and avocado.

As a aside note, if you're a female in particular please don't fear fats! Women need fats to function and to maintain a healthy hormone level, without these fats you're at risk of long-term damage.

Removing excess sugar from my diet was life changing for me, no joke. You see, consuming sugar really does make your mood go up and down, up and down. You suffer from energy plummets, increased anxiety, fatigue, brain fog and even blurry vision. Sugar is a chronic cause of inflammation in the body which massively impacts the brain and has been linked to depression.
I know when I eat large amounts of refined sugar my anxiety in particular gets worse and my mood goes down well. I feel agitated, jittery and my brain just feels as if it's not functioning properly.

We all know eating greens is good for us, but did you know they're great for your mental health as well as your physical health? Greens like kale, Swiss chard and spinach can help to prevent inflammation in the body that's linked to depression. The greens also contain vitamins like A, C, E and K which have been shown to help those happy hormones.

Ensuring you're consuming all the vitamins and minerals our body needs is so important for maintaining a healthy, happy mind. A lack in vitamins can have a real impact on our mental health and cause us to feel lethargic, anxious and down. Filling your plate with rainbow foods can help to combat this! Now, when I say rainbow foods I don't mean a packet of smarties....I mean plant-based foods. Each colour food holds a different vitamin, so filling your plate with as many colours as you can means you're getting a variety of vitamins in every mouthful. I like to include at least 3 different colours in every meal and I aim for as many varieties of fruit & veg a week as I can.

Depression and anxiety are two depilating & crippling health conditions. If you need someone to talk to call Samaritans on 116 123 (UK)

Live Happy, Live Healthy


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