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Mood and food

It has been known for an awfully long time that the food we eat influences our mood. This affects everyone but holds particular relevance to the millions of people who suffer mood disorders such as bipolar.

Whether we are tuned in or ‘mindful’ to the influence certain foods have on our mood is another question. For example, when I used to grab a coffee first thing in the morning, I got an immediate rush of energy and alertness. I used to think I couldn’t start the day without it. However, one hour later I was always left craving more and spend the whole morning up and down like a yoyo. Since swapping my coffee for a green or mint tea, I start the day on a much more even keel with much improved concentration.

There are numerous diets recommended to help stabilise mood however, most have a common theme throughout. Here are some of the key recommendations when it comes to helping stabilise mood and addictive-like eating behaviours:

Numerous studies have found health benefits from increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, reducing the incidence of depression. Food sources include wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, Pacific halibut and Atlantic mackerel.

Refined sugars cause havoc to your insulin levels and mood. After 7-10 days of cutting out refined sugars you will notice you crave sweet foods less often, and any foods you do it, will taste so much sweeter than they used to. Swap sugar, honey and agave for fruit and stevia. 

This is common sense however, there are certain vitamins and minerals that you need to pay particular attention to. Eating a varied, balanced diet packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates and lean sources of quality protein is where you ultimately need to get to. However, in the short term, focus on increasing your magnesium intake to benefit sleep quality and stabilise mood (food sources: pumpkin seeds, spinach, soybeans, cashews, black beans), B vitamin intake, which is linked to depression and mental health problems (food sources: fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy) and Vitamin D which is also linked to depression (food sources: fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, cheese).

Another non-negotiable when it comes to managing depression or bipolar disorder. Carbohydrate cravings come with the territory and ditching processed and refined carbohydrates in favour of wholegrains and whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, oats, quinoa and brown rice is essential. Great snack choices include sliced apple with nut butter, hummus and vegetable sticks, oatcakes with cottage cheese and Greek yoghurt with berries and seeds.

It’s no great surprise that reducing your intake of this stimulant will help balance mood. Try replacing your coffee with tea, which contains around a quarter of the caffeine content. There is a huge range of herbal teas on offer, which contain trace amounts of caffeine but also have the additional benefit of helping to reduce sugar cravings. Stock your cupboards and hide the Nespresso machine.