Eat your way to a happier life
For decades, our culture has focused on the connection between healthy eating and physiological wellness – most of all, related to weight. But out of a pandemic that made mental health a hot topic, you might also be gaining an awareness that the foods you eat can seriously affect your mind.
Research published in The British Medical Journal says the human diet plays a major role in how both our body and our brain are feeling. Poor nutrition can lead to experiences like depression, anxiety, aggression (there’s a reason the word ‘hangry’ exists!). But improving your diet, and knowing the right foods to eat, may help your mental health.
Registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counsellor Rachel Engelhart, says certain foods can support your body’s processes that are responsible for positive moods and strong energy levels. Here’s Engelhart’s list of the greatest good-mood foods.
Seafood like salmon, mackerel, and canned tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are ‘healthy fats’ with benefits throughout your body from your heart to your eyes – and your brain.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and have the ability to cross into the brain, having a direct effect on mood-regulating molecules and neurotransmitters there,” says dietitian Kelsey Lorencz. Research has consistently linked low levels of omega-3s with mood disorders like depression and anxiety – and, according to a review published in Frontiers in Physiology, most of us don’t get enough omega-3 fats in our diet.
“The bacteria in your gut can actually produce feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine,” says Lorencz. Research has identified a particular bacterium that may have a strong impact on triggering these chemicals: it’s a strain called Lactobacillus. One study published in the journal Nature found that feeding our gut with this good bacteria – found naturally in foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi, doesn’t just keep the blues at bay, it can increase our resilience in the face of stress.