Are you ready to eat your way happy? Here are some whole-foods approaches that could improve your health and your mood.
1. Eat like the Greeks.
One longitudinal study looked at several thousand people to see if there was a correlation between depressive symptoms and diet over time. After seven years, they found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet (essentially veggies, fruits, whole grains and fish) were less likely to show depressive symptoms compared to those who didn't eat the diet.
2. Eat your protein.
Taking amino acid supplements has been found to reduce symptoms of depression and mental disorders because they aid in the formation of neurotransmitters in the brain. The good news is that your body automatically produces most of the 21 amino acids required, and the other nine are easily found in common proteins in a well-balanced diet.
Lean meats like beef, ham, and pork are abundant in amino acids, as are poultry and seafood. Eggs and dairy are also high in protein and amino acids, and there are some excellent plant sources including quinoa, soy, soybeans, tofu, beans and nuts.
3. Supplement with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s are the "essential fats" found in some fish, grass-fed beef, and eggs yolks. A decline in omega-3 consumption has been linked to depression. (Want to learn more about these essential fats and how to be sure you're getting enough? Start here.)
4. Eat carbs.
Paleo and other very low carb diets may be popular, but before you quit bread forever, keep in mind that a diet too low in carbohydrates can exacerbate depression. This is because carbohydrate-rich foods release serotonin and tryptophan, which help regulate mood.
If you're going to eat carbs, focus on the "low GI foods" (this includes most vegetables and fruits, whole grains, etc.). These foods keep us fuller, longer, and don't spike blood sugar as quickly.
Go easy on "high GI foods" (which include candies, sugar, and white bread). These spike your mood rapidly, but what goes up must come down ...
5. Get more folate.
Want to know a surprising way to cheer up? Eat more leafy greens, which are loaded with folate. One study found that many adults diagnosed with depressive issues have low levels of folate.
So how should you eat?
It's pretty simple: eat real food.
Real food means eating plenty of fish like salmon, mackerel and herring, which will give us Omega 3s that we need.
Real food means that we’ll eat tons of veggies like dark leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale), which give us folate.
Real food means we’ll be getting good quality grass-fed beef and good chicken, which give us all the amino acids necessary to build neurotransmitters optimally and keep our energy levels stable throughout the day.
Follow these food rules and you’re well on your way to consuming a “whole foods” happiness diet every day. Of course, please consult your health care practitioner first.