iving in this fast paced world and being constantly ‘on-call’ with little or no downtime can certainly have a negative impact on our health and mood. As Hayley mentioned in last week’s blog a cascade of physiological events takes place in the body that triggers changes in mood and our general wellbeing.
So much of our lives seem beyond our control – genetics, the environment, externally imposed stressors – so let’s look at things we CAN control if we really put our stressed out minds to it – diet, exercise, scheduling time out for self nurture.
​For this week’s blog, let’s focus on diet.

There’s more and more research indicating that dietary choices may influence mood and what you choose to eat or drink may well encourage bad moods and mild depression.

In a very interesting study from the University of College London, 3486 participants were studied for a period of 5 years.  They adopted one of two dietary patterns :”’whole food’ (heavily loaded by vegetables, fruits and fish) and ‘processed food’ (heavily loaded by sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products). Their self-reported depression was assessed 5 years later”.[1]

 The results were definitive and the authors concluded that in middle-aged participants, a processed food dietary pattern is a risk factor for CES-D depression 5 years later, whereas a whole food pattern is protective.

Other studies showed similar promises, one in Spain concluded that adhering to a traditional Mediterranean style diet prevented depression [2]

And closer to home, an Australian study recently came to a similar conclusion. The authors concluded that a “traditional” dietary pattern (mostly vegetables, fruit, grass fed meat, fish, and whole grains) was associated with lower odds for major depression and for anxiety disorders compared to a “western” diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer [3]

The evidence that diet affects mental health is certainly becoming more and more compelling.

In another study, a group of people with both depression and heart disease or diabetes were studied for 3 months to see if supervised dietary changes and lifestyle changes including an introduction of exercise would change their health.  The results – 73% of people whose symptoms suggested  clinical depression before treatment were no longer depressed.  They also reported improvements in psychological wellbeing sensing less hostility and perceived stress plus, an improved quality of life as well as less symptoms associated with heart disease and diabetes. [4]

It may be impossible to separate dietary effects alone, but it certainly demonstrates that comprehensive lifestyle changes can be extremely effective to overall health and mental wellbeing.  It’s certainly worth trying natural means such as changing your diet to quell depression before filling the script for an antidepressant. 

So let’s look at the main do’s and don’ts of a healthy psychological state.

Don’t s

  • Gluten – associated with low thyroid function (but that’s another blog)
  • Processed food
  • Grain fed beef and chicken (even free range)
  • Refined foods such as white flours, breads, pastas
  • Highly refined and processed sugar (sucrose and high fructose corn), aspartame, sucralose and saccharin
  • More than 1-2 alcoholic drinks daily

Do’s

  • A diet full of colourful fruit and vegetables, locally sourced and preferably organic.
  • Protein sources from organic eggs, chicken, slow cooked lamb and beef, fresh or activated nuts and seeds and legumes such as lentils, borlotti beans, chickpeas, kidney beans
  • (Many of these seeds and legumes can be sprouted for extra nutritional enzyme punch).
  • Fermented foods such as miso, raw sauerkraut, kefir
  • Good oils such as organic extra virgin olive oil, macadamia and coconut oil (both great for cooking), flax and hempseed oil.
  • Minimal amounts of whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, rye. 
  • No more than 1 glass alcohol daily with a couple of days break a week 

As a nutritionist and herbalist, I firmly believe in walking the walk, so I thought I’d post a typical day’s breakfast to give you an idea of how a healthy diet not only equates to a happy disposition, but is terribly yummy!!!!. 

BREAKFAST

(all organic)
2 poached eggs on seeded rice bread
Home made pesto (recipe on our website)
Avocado
Rocket
Sprinkling of sprouted fenugreek
Good drizzle of flaxseed oil (Stoney Creek or Melrose are tastiest brands)
Good grinding of pepper 

[1] Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ, Ferrie JE, Marmot MG, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Nov;195(5):408-13.

[2] Sánchez-Villegas A, Delgado-Rodríguez M, Alonso A, Schlatter J, Lahortiga F, Serra Majem L, Martínez-González MA. Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 Oct;66(10):1090-8

[3] Jacka FN, Pasco JA, Mykletun A, Williams LJ, Hodge AM, O’Reilly SL, Nicholson  GC, Kotowicz MA, Berk M. Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;167(3):305-11.

[4] Pischke CR, Frenda S, Ornish D, Weidner G. Lifestyle changes are related to reductions in depression in persons with elevated coronary risk factors. Psychol  Health. 2010 Nov;25(9):1077-100.