- Consuming comfort foods lead to an initial pleasant sensation but ultimately cause discomfort in the brain, while leafy greens and plant-based foods can enhance mood and lower the risk of depression.
- High sugar, refined flour, or saturated fats trigger inflammation that is associated with depression, while diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains fights inflammation.
- Shifting the perspective of healthy eating is essential. The health and mood-enhancement benefits of consuming salads and fresh produce needs to be highlighted.
- Gradual dietary modifications, reducing consumption of depression-causing processed and refined foods, and increasing intake of whole, plant-based foods can help enhance mood and overall health.
- Incorporating nutrient-rich foods like dark, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, fatty fish, and spices like ginger, turmeric, and black pepper can help combat depression and inflammation.
Experience a break up? Endured a tough day at work? Or simply too tired to make dinner? When looking for a pick-me-up, why not reach for a salad instead of the traditional comfort food?
Truth be told, leafy greens are a superior solution to enhance your mood compared with a bowl of ice cream or mac and cheese. “Comfort foods may provide an initial pleasant feeling, but they ultimately lead to discomfort for the brain,” noted Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist and cuisine expert.
Mood, Diet, and Brain Chemistry
Indulging in ice cream or high-carb meals sends tryptophan to the brain, an amino acid crucial for the production of serotonin, a hormone known for its feel-good effect. However, that pleasant sensation can become addicting and lead to cravings for foods that negatively affect mood and increase blood sugar levels. Foods high in sugar, refined flour, or saturated fats can trigger inflammation, which is associated with depression.
In contrast, research indicates that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains fights inflammation and lowers the risk of depression. Eating 100 grams of fruits or vegetables daily can reduce the risk of depression by 5%, according to an extensive study.
Shift Your Perspective on Healthy Eating
Nevertheless, salads and fresh produce do not commonly generate instant satisfaction, resulting in a weak association between them and positive feelings. “Doctors often don’t underscore the mood enhancement benefits of eating a colorful salad,” opined Naidoo. This mindset needs to shift.
Michel Lucas, a professor, claimed that the reason people don’t consume healthful foods for mood enhancement is that they “do not often eat for health.” He indicated that because eating is both a social act and linked to emotional and cultural memory, comfort foods don’t necessarily have to be healthy.
Recommended approaches to new culinary experiences include trying a broader array of fresh, whole foods, and experimenting with different cooking styles. Emphasizing the natural flavors of food through the use of varied spices can provide a deeper appreciation of each bite.
Progressively Adopt a Plant-Based Diet
Adhering to a diet mainly composed of whole foods and plant-based sources is ideal to maximize the intake of mood-boosting foods. An occasional indulgence in less healthier options isn’t a problem; what matters is the daily dietary practice.
Naidoo advises initiating dietary modifications gradually. Start by reducing consumption of foods driving depression, like processed and highly refined foods with minimal fiber, including junk food, fast food, and foods with artificial sweeteners and added sugars.
Incorporate Nutrient-Rich Foods
Then, integrate fiber-rich, folate-loaded foods, which are known to combat depression. Foods with high amounts of this essential nutrient include dark, leafy greens, fruit, nuts, beans, peas, fish, among others. Particularly, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus are especially abundant in folates.
Many spices, such as ginger, turmeric, and black pepper, counter within-body inflammation, as do omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and flaxseed.
However, don’t expect immediate results. “If you incorporate this into your lifestyle, cook with garlic on a daily basis, add a sprinkle of spice, include more vegetables, beans, seeds, and nuts, over time, you will start to recognize the difference,” Naidoo concluded.