It has not been until recently that the link between food and mood have come into play. Research and evidence now suggests more than ever that diets high in saturated fats, added sugar, refined grains and gluten play a tremendous role in increasing the odds of depression and mood swings. Some research on diet has gone as far to suggest that a diet high in processed food can contribute to conditions in children such as autism and other learning difficulties. The overconsumption of sugars and refined starches contributes to cardiovascular disease both of which have been linked to mental illness. The detrimental effects of a diet low in nutrition can cause severe impairment on one’s nervous system. A diet that lacks vital nutrition such as omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins can greatly impair and hinder the nervous system, weakening the brain’s neural connections and decreasing serotonin levels. Research has indicated that those with depression tend to lack particular nutrients found in plant based nutrient rich foods. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. Considering that 90% of serotonin is developed in the gut, it shows us the significant role diet truly plays in influencing our emotional wellbeing. Most of us are unaware of the vital role diet plays not only in enhancing our physical wellbeing but also our emotional. Research is beginning to recognise the vital role what we eat can have on our mental health, which makes sense considering the greatest concentration of serotonin is found in our intestines. Artificial food additives, gluten and genetically engineered ingredients can significantly diminish healthy gut bacteria causing the gut to become overrun by bad bacteria starting a whole cycle of health issues that can severely impact on some of the bodies’ most vital organs and one of the great culprits is refined sugar and processed fructose, which not only promote chronic inflammation in the body but also disrupt the gut and immune system causing absolute havoc on the brain. In-spite of the current health trends, a great deal of adults and young people still have little to no awareness as to how greatly food impacts on our mood.
The physicians committee for responsible medicine reports ; According to a study published in nutrition journal, individuals on a plant based diet reported fewer symptoms of depression to those who ate a diet high in mostly processed foods and meat. In a report by the physicians committee for responsible medicine, they point out that previous research linked depression to inflammation in the brain as well as chemical in-balances of neurotransmitters. A diet high in plant based foods can help restore balance to neurotransmitters as well as protecting the brain and body from inflammation, since upping our intake of plant based foods means our diet becomes rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals which help repair damage and decrease inflammation in brain cells along with the rest of the body. The article also points out that many suffering from depression have elevated levels of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which are neurotransmitters which help regulate our mood. High levels of monoamine oxidase lead to low levels of these specific neurotransmitters leading to mood in-balance and depression. Phytochemical quercetin, found only in plant foods, works a little like a natural anti-depressant by inhibiting the levels of monoamine oxidase, increasing the amount of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. Foods high in phytochemical include fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, herbs, tea and spices. The best source of quercetin is found in onions, kale, leeks, grapes, parsley, sage, bilberries, lingonberries, blueberries, apricots, celery, buckwheat, citrus fruits, broccoli, apples, sweet potato, red wine, and Chinese herb ginkgo biloba.
The brain uses the amino acid ‘tryptophan’ to produce serotonin. This is found in leafy greens, sunflower seeds, watercress, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, broccoli and peas. This is an amino acid used to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter largely responsible for well-being. Tryptophan can be found in animal products however, the body will struggle in converting it to serotonin, and if the amino acids we obtain from meat are absorbed with those that we retrieve from plant based sources at the same time, the competition between the two can prevent tryptophan from entering the brain causing low serotonin production. High-protein meals therefore can lead to more amino acids in the blood stream causing greater competition for this particular amino acid to enter the brain. Research claims that a diet high in protein that comes from animal foods can limit serotonin production. Therefore a more successful way to obtain the ideal levels of tryptophan in the brain would be to focus on plant proteins as well as complex carbohydrates which include whole grains and legumes. In Naturopathic Dr Nigma Talib’s “reverse the signs of ageing” she writes of the recent research that has come to surface regarding the link between our gut and emotions and that it is now believed that certain pathogens in the gut produce substances that can trigger symptoms of anxiety and possibly even depression in those that carry these pathogens. She note the link between her patients with digestive issues and low moods and anxiety.
What about animal products? A type of fat found only in animals acts as a precursor to inflammatory chemicals in our bodies. This chemical and others, are produced when we eat chicken, eggs and other animal products, leading to an increase in inflammatory mediators which circulate round our bloodstream, causing a great deal of inflammation and an overreactive immune response. When this reaches the brain, disturbances to our mood is caused with anxiety, stress, hopelessness and depression. It was reported that individuals who avoid foods high in arachidonic acid found in animal products or eliminated animal products from their diet entirely not only benefited with their physical health but also mentally. Equip with greater knowledge as to how greatly such a diet can stimulate our emotional well being, and with the alarming rise in depression, people may be encouraged to change their eating patterns by reducing meat and the number one food contributes linked with that which triggers lower moods, and instead rely on a plant-based diet alongside other wellness ventures, to combat emotional lows. We could relieve ourselves and an overly strained health care system by beginning with a change in dietary habits and resorting to eating a pant based diet rich in antioxidants and polyphenols which act as a natural, economic and harm free means to supporting our wellbeing, oppose to the heavy reliance on medication.
About the author
Jwaydan Moyine is a classically trained Film Composer, Pianist, Cellist, Singer/Songwriter, and a Writer and Entrepreneur. She founded Earth Children to bring awareness to matters regarding the Environment, Animal welfare, Sustainable living, Organic gardening, Wellness & Conscious living. She is heavily involved with activism for animal welfare in the UK and Egypt and child welfare in Syria, Thailand and Romania. She resides in Berkshire Running an organic food farm, an organic skincare company, Writing, bringing awareness to matters regarding the Planet, Plant based nutrition, Cruelty free living & the necessity of adapting to Veganism for the sake of Sustainability, Animal welfare and our health. You can find out more on what she is doing over at the Earth Children Facebook Page!
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