There is a lot of information available today regarding the connection between food and longevity. However, did you know there was a connection between food and happiness too?
Honestly, you may want to get in a comfy chair right now and read this one!
In a world where over 350 million people suffer from depression, making depression the leading cause of disability globally, especially amongst women , this topic concerns me, and it should concern you as well.
Because about 90% of my readers on Sweet n’ Savory Life are women (thanks ladies) and with that in mind, along with the facts that I am about to share with you, I take this topic serious. Why? Because the reality is we can do something about depression, anxiety, and stress. It just takes education.
Today I want to share with you that truly there are links between what you eat and how you feel.
So how have you been feeling lately? How about right now?
Let me just take a small slice of your time with 7 points that will set you on the right path to happiness starting with discussing what is on your plate.
Surely if science is cluing in on the link between food and your mood, you should as well, right?
#1- Consider six sobering facts.
(a) Depression is estimated to become the second leading cause of morbidity worldwide by the year 2020 .
(b) Depression has major consequences – personal, professional, and social dysfunction, along with premature mortality, and suicide .
(c) Women are apparently twice as likely to become depressed .
(d) Only 1/4 of people with depression have access to treatment, and only about 60% (+/-) of those treated demonstrate any clinical benefit .
(e) There is a known low response to treatment, low adherence to use of medication, and subsequently high depression relapse rate .
(f) There are potential side effects of anti-depressant medication, and thus a need for adjunctive treatment .
In light of these realities and the importance of your mental/emotional well-being, perhaps you should…
#2- Consider What is in Your Cabinets or Pantries. Believe it or not, your cabinets, or pantry should never contain more food than your refrigerator. I know this sounds weird as seemingly 90% of homes (that is not a valid statistic by the way) have cabinets that are packed with pastas and various other simple carbs, but let me be very honest on one point – the more processed the food is, the less beneficial to your health and happiness it will be. Regardless of what the label says, if it is not absolutely fresh, it is not the absolute best.
That Means: You do not necessarily need to pitch everything in your cabinets, or pantries. Please don’t misunderstand me. All things must be moderation. And then again, some things are still important in there like your: spirulina powder, chia seed, flax, almond meal, walnuts, etc. Those are all important to mental/emotional health too! Nevertheless, the greatest proportion of our food should not be in our cabinets. All too often we make the mistake of thinking that gluten-free non-gmo pasta + organic vegan cookies = healthy. Simply put, these never should replace natural, fresh, whole foods.
#3- Consider What is in Your Refrigerator. Okay! I suppose that I can be brief with this one. If you understood what was explained above, then this is fairly simplistic. Your refrigerator should have more food in it than your cabinets and pantries (unless you have lots of essential oils, seasonings, coconut oil, etc.), because the nutrients necessary to create a healthy body and mind will mostly (see that I didn’t say wholly, but will mostly) be in your refrigerator!
That Means: You have a refrigerator with less (or no meat) and processed foods, but rather an abundance of fruits and vegetables. You will support your mental health and happiness with mood boosting foods like: citrus fruit, melons, berries, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, bell peppers, or tomatoes . Seeds and nuts are awesome too!
#4- Consider the Label. Now this one is very important. Often when we are trying to work on any health goals we set, we forget to read all labels even if they say “gluten free”, “vegan”, “raw”, “paleo”, or “organic”. Those are nice sales words, but when it comes to healing physically and emotionally/mentally, you must read your labels. The reason is because it is clear that sometimes we can act counterproductive to our health without even knowing. We want health and healing, but we mistakenly “slip up” and it works against the very internal environment we are trying to create. So read your labels. That is important anyway (general rule… if you can’t say it, don’t buy it…at least until you research it) because we should choose the healthiest and cleanest foods possible. But, for this specific quest you must avoid some foods that will work against you, while consuming that which will accent your health and happiness goals.
That Means: “Recent research has focused on the role of nutrition in the management of depression. We know that the production of neurotransmitters needs adequate amounts of nutrients. Among these nutrients, we mention amino acids (tryptophan, tyrosine, and glutamine), minerals (zinc, copper, iron, magnesium), and B vitamins (B6, B12, folic acid)”. Most of those nutrients interesting are found in the Mediterranean diet…surprising huh?
Furthermore, “In a 2009 study, the final phase included 3,486 adult men and women between 33 and 55 years of age who were categorized as having either a “whole food” (rich in fish, fruits and vegetables) or “processed food” (rich in processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, pies, condiments, fried food, refined cereals and high fat dairy products) dietary pattern. After adjusting for gender, age, energy intake, marital status, medication, other medical conditions etc., participants with the highest intake of ‘whole food’ were the least likely to be depressed compared to those with the lowest adherence to this dietary pattern, based on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies- Depression Scale (CES-D scale). Therefore, a diet rich in processed food may increase the risk of depression” .
#5- Consider Gluten (Possibly). If you read my article Five Reasons Why I Went Gluten Free, you know that gluten can be the culprit in almost anything going wrong in your body, even depression! That is right, researchers from over 30 years ago have studied and revealed a reliable link between depression and celiac disease since the 1980s. Check it out, “depressive psychopathology is a feature of adult celiac disease and may be a consequence of malabsorption” . Furthermore, gluten may be the culprit in non-celiac gluten sensitive persons as well .
That Means: If you are suffering with unexplained/unresolved depression, you may try ditching the gluten (that is wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and perhaps oats). Please be sure to speak with a licensed physician or dietitian you trust first though.
#6- Consider Balance. Sometimes depression is linked to a lack of balance in life. Perhaps you have the perfect diet, but still can’t manage to pull it all together? I have been there. You feel like you’re doing everything right, but still get hit with with storm clouds over your head. In this case, please consider your life balance. Are you living the way you want? Are you burning the candle at both ends at your job? When was your last real vacation or fulfilling day off? Are you taking on unnecessary stress or baggage? When was your last “you time” date? Obviously these questions can only be answered by you, but you must do something about life balance issues before they get out of control.
That Means: Get on a regular sleep and exercise schedule, read uplifting material, plan a meaningful vacation, connect with your faith, listen to inspiring music, eat well, go have a ladies (or guys) night out, and if all else fails, read number 7.
#7- Seek Professional Help. I never want to end an article by seemingly downplaying quality medical professionals. These individuals are highly skilled in providing care for your physical and mental health. With that said, I have a few reminders for you – a small disclaimer. Firstly, before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, consult with a licensed health care professional (e.g. your family physician, your dietitian, your physical therapist, etc.). Secondly, if you have been suffering from unresolved depression or an unhealthy eating disorder for any amount of time and feel hopeless, or like you want to self-harm/commit suicide, please stop and realize that there is help! Consult with a local licensed medical/mental health professional (e.g. your physician, a nurse practitioner, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, etc.).
That Means: Don’t just take the information that you find online and attempt to “self treat”. Do research, eat well, find credible help, and above all, allow yourself to be happy!
Remember that you are worth it!