You don’t need to be a qualified nutritionist to know how different foods can affect your mood. The main reason I developed a love for healthy eating was because of the link I made with it and a healthy mindset from a young age. Everybody reacts differently to various foods, so it takes each individual to experiment for themselves, but overall, my rule of thumb is to eat lots of fruit and even more vegetables, to eat whole grains and legumes in a higher quantity than meats, to eat healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados and to drink alcohol and eat sweets sparingly. Since I’m not a qualified dietician, I can’t write you a meal plan that will boost your mood 100 percent overnight (I don’t think many people have that knowledge either), but I can share some food and information that I have discovered and gathered, which may help you as well as I.
I’ve always had a fascination with how food affects our bodies both mentally and physically. It’s insane to think there are approx. 350 million people living with diabetes in the world from eating too much of the wrong foods; notably meat and dairy. Red meat and chicken are thought to have carcinogenic effects on our bodies (basically as harmful as smoking) because they are full of the toxins that were injected into the upbringing of the animals. I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but making myself aware of the effects of meat is slowly halting my consumption of it. The high level of cholesterol in meat adds to the build-up of fats along the insides of our arteries which can lead to strokes, or heart attacks and cause a decline in mental ability (worse cases include Dementia) because of the blockages cholesterol causes to the arteries of our brains. Keeping in tune with health websites and documentaries gives you a lot of useful and eye-opening information like this, and I strongly suggest you watch What the Health on Netflix to start off. (1)
Leaning more towards mental health, there are tonnes of case studies and opinion pieces posted online going as far to say that the right diet brought certain people out of the darkest abysses of depression and anxiety. I believe that when you find the right health balance for yourself, your sugar levels, hormone levels and energy levels will reach the right equilibrium and this will have positive knock-on-effects for your mind. Some reasoning for the link between good mood and good diet that I found online were that a good diet means more serotonin (feel good hormone) boosting enzymes levels in our bodies, reduced amount of sugar spikes which can cause episodes of depression and anxiety, and the encouragement of a healthy gut which communicates a lot with our brains. (2)
Here is a useful article written on Mental Health Food listing some of these nutritional, mood-boosting foods and what benefits they will bring. In general, Mrs. Dailey – the author – recommends:
Eating right for mental health is pretty simple. You want to eat more real, whole, natural foods and less processed and junk food. The general rule of thumb is to eat a wide variety of food the way it grows from the ground, on vines, bushes and trees. Fruit, nuts, and vegetables in their original, natural, form. (3)
Alas, my first feel good recipe feeds on from my talk of fruits, whole grains and healthy fats and it is my vegan blueberry ‘cheesecake.’ Growing up, this dessert was always one of my favourites – even if my brother and I frequently started to feel sick from eating far too much at my cousin’s house. I’ve seen so many videos online about dairy-free cheesecake alternatives, but I never went for creating my own version because creating one looked like too much effort and looming disaster. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The preparation time for this was probably the same as making soup. The only waiting is for soaking the cashews and letting the dessert freeze a little, but timing it well will make it seem effortless.
This recipe serves six and is:
For the base
- Almonds, x1 ½ cups
- Quinoa, ½ cup
- Agave syrup, x2 tblspn
- Coconut oil, x5 heaped tblspns
For the filling
- Cashew nuts, 185 g
- Rice milk, ¾ cup
- Agave syrup, x2 tblspns
- Coconut oil, x2 heaped tblspns
- Blueberries, ½ cup
- Vanilla extract, 1 tspn
- Place the cashew nuts in a large bowl of water. Cover and leave aside overnight to soak.
- Blitz the almonds and quinoa into flour using a strong blender, and then add both to a mixing bowl. You can use two cups of almond flour instead, if you wish.
- Pour the coconut milk and agave into a mug and place in the microwave for approx. 30 seconds until melted. Slowly pour the liquid into the mixing bowl containing the dry ingredients, while stirring at the same time.
- Line a cake tin with baking paper. Pour base mixture into it. Using the back of a tblspn, flatten the mixture. Start at the centre, moving outwards toward the sides, making sure the edges are even. Leave aside until you finish the filling.
- Drain the soaked cashew nuts and place them into a blender, followed by the rice milk, agave, melted coconut oil, blueberries and vanilla extract. Blitz into a creamy mixture.
- Pour the filling onto the base slowly, spreading it out evenly.
- Decorate the ‘cheesecake’ by dotting it with some additional blueberries. Place it into the freezer for 1-2 hrs before serving.
2) Healthline. (2019). Here’s What These Women Ate to Treat Their Anxiety and Depression. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/best-diets-for-mental-health#10 [Accessed 24 May 2019].
3) Mental Health Food. (2019). Top 10 Mental Health Foods – Mental Health Food. [online] Available at: https://mentalhealthfood.net/top-10-mental-health-foods/ [Accessed 24 May 2019].