I recently attended a Food and Mood Event hosted by the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand.
There were many interesting speakers, but Professor Felice Jacka of the Food and Mood Centre in Melbourne was particularly compelling as she presented the evidence from her team. Research into Nutritional Psychiatry is evolving, but all of us can benefit from improved mood with the Mediterranean diet- studies show this reduces depression by 30%. This is huge- if the Mediterranean diet was a pill, we'd all be prescribed it! The traditional Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables and legumes, and also includes fish, grains and unsalted nuts, with meat and dairy in moderation. There is also good evidence for probiotics, omega-3 and fermented foods for improving mood.
Mental Health issues are a leading cause of global disability. At the same time, research shows that 95% of adults and children are not eating enough vegetables, fruits and legumes. The research strongly suggests that nutrition plays a major role in mood disorders.
Plants protect us against inflammation and oxidative stress, and promote a healthy microbiome. The connection between the microbiome and the brain is fascinating and we are only just starting to understand that the microbiome is a metabolic organ in itself. An unhealthy gut causes and unhealthy brain and vice versa. Two thirds of the immune system is also housed in the gut, and acts as a bridge between the gut, the brain and rest of the body. Maintaining a healthy gut is a vital foundation to our overall health. The food we choose to put into our gut communicates with our immune system ,our neurotransmitters, and many other biological systems- even our DNA. Insulin resistance also plays a role in mood, and affects the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and neurotransmitter production- the so-called 'happy hormones'.
If you are interested in reading further, take a look at www.foodandmoodcentre.com.au and start eating that Mediterranean Diet today.