Quite randomly I have recently been reading up on how what you eat can impact your mental health, or so called Good Mood Food. I wasn’t looking for this information but just stumbled upon it and I have found some interesting things that I thought was worth sharing with you. So here we go.
Good mood food
A few months ago I was wandering around Anthropologie in Guildford and came across this book called “The Happy Kitchen” by Rachel Kelly. The recipes looked good and I liked the title so I bought it. It wasn’t until I got home and started reading the introduction that I realised what a gem I had found.
Rachel Kelly has been suffering from anxiety for a long time and suffered two major depressive episodes. She gradually became interested in nutrition and started experimenting with good mood food. She then went on to do further research and chatted to doctors, therapists, cooks, psychologists, academics and dieticians. She then found Alice Mackintosh, a nutritional therapist.
The rest of the story is the book they co-wrote which gives you the golden rules for a happy kitchen and super tasty recipes to keep anxiety and depression at bay. Because the good news is, some foods are natural anti-depressants. Having the right diet can actually support your efforts to keep a healthy mind. This was good news for me because I am a foodie and cooking is one of my favourite hobby.
The other thing I like about this book is how Rachel has organised it. Each chapter is meant to target a particular symptom. For example there is an entire chapter with recipes designed to help you get better sleep. This is crucial as we know the importance of a good night sleep when fighting depression.
In each chapter there is a ‘Feeling Fragile’ option which is a quick recipe for when you are not feeling like cooking. I love that she offers this and this shows that she knows what she is talking about as it is hard to get motivated to do anything when you feel low. I remember that back in Denmark I was feeding myself with whatever was the easiest option. I rarely had the energy to cook, which in itself was a clear sign that I was depressed. I could no longer care about food and I was barely eating. Knowing that I had to eat I would buy whatever was the easiest thing to warm up and involved the least possible preparation. And guess what? This type of food actually makes you feel worse…
And because she thought about pretty much everything, she also put together some meal plans.
Rachel, thank you.
So having read in “The Happy Kitchen” all the benefits that Rachel got from meeting Alice, I decided to go and see a nutritional therapist myself. This was less about getting advice on what food to eat to stay clear from depression as I already had that advice thanks to Rachel, but it was about how to lose weight in a way that would be consistent with it.
As you know I stopped smoking over a year ago (How I quit smoking and why it has helped me fight depression) and like most people who quit smoking I put on a little bit of weight. Nothing crazy, just a dress seize, but enough to have to store away my beautiful and expensive wardrobe and buy a new one. And I really didn’t like doing this because I love my beautiful and expensive wardrobe. Beautiful clothes make me feel good about myself. I am shallow like that and I’m fine with this too.
So, over the last few months I have tried a number of tips that I found online and sadly nothing worked. I went from eating proteins only to becoming nearly vegan… and over 8 months I lost… 2kgs… Rather disappointing. So, feeling unhappy about it and frankly quite confused by the various advice online I thought it was time to go and speak to a professional about it and booked an appointment with a lovely and experienced nutritional therapist, Melanie Simcock.
We had a good chat and discussed at length my objectives, my habits, what I currently eat and Melanie created an action plan tailored to me. One of her suggestions was to try the famous 5:2 diet but to fast only 1 day per week instead of 2. The reason for that is that I do not have a lot of weight to loose.
So I went ahead and bought the book ready to get things started. My appointment was only a week ago so obviously I cannot yet discuss any results with you at this stage but what I wanted to share with you was what I found out while reading “The Fast Diet” by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer.
I assumed this was just a book about the latest trendy diet. Well this is a good example of why you shouldn’t make assumptions. Half of the book discusses the benefits of fasting. And there are quite a few. Apart from the obvious sustainable weight loss, my favourites are:
- Fasting increases your longevity
- Fasting switches on repair genes
- Fasting is good for your brain and increases abilities to learn and remember, fighting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Fasting help fight cancer, diabetes and chronic inflammations such as asthma, eczema and psoriasis
- Fasting is good for your mood
So how does fasting make you more cheerful?
Well. It is all about something called BDNF, which stands for Brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is an important protein that influences brain function and the nervous system. Dr Michael Mosley talks about studies in rodents that have shown that rising levels of BDNF have an anti-depressant effect.
Dr Michael Mosley has discussed the subject at length with Professor Mark Mattson of the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore who believes that within a few weeks of starting a two-day-a week fasting regime, BDNF levels will start to rise, suppressing anxiety and elevating mood.
I could not believe my luck when I read this section. Not only I am going to slim down, but this diet will also help me fight depression. I have never been this motivated and excited to start a diet. I am writing this post on my first fasting day. I am allowed 600 calories today, split between breakfast and dinner. You are supposed to try and get a 12 hour window between your 2 meals of the day. So far I have eaten 90g of smoked salmon a breakfast which was hours ago. I am starting to feel properly hungry but just thinking about all the benefits of this exercise help keeping me on track.
I shall report back in a few months!
Try these simple hacks and let me know how you get on
Do you have other tips on good mood food? What works well for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.
Further resources on good mood food
And remember, happiness is a choice, and you are in charge!