A recent study by Dr Felice Jacka PhD at Deakin University, Australia, revealed that there is a strong association between what we eat and how we feel. On January 30th 2017, the journal BMC Medicine published her new randomized controlled study called The SMILES Trial.
This groundbreaking research demonstrates for the first time that people with moderate to severe depression can improve their mood by eating a healthier diet. The diet followed in the SMILES Trial was a modified version of the Mediterranean Diet (ModiMed).
The Study showed that people who ate a diet high in sugar, highly processed Meats, refined cereals and fried food were more likely to develop Depression. The studies showed that even though there was no calorie restriction on the ModiMed diet participants reduced their weight by approximately 19%.
Food recommendations from the SMILES Trail
1. FOODS that improve mood:
whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat/ unsweetened dairy, raw unsalted nuts, lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and olive oil. YES
2. FOODS that reduced Mood:
sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meat. NO
3. Drinks that impacted on mood :
included sugary drinks, caffeinated beverages and alcohol. NO
4. The SMILE Study recommended a maximum two sugar-sweetened beverages per week and maximum two alcoholic drinks per day, preferably red wine. Alcohol cause an initial relaxation response but it is followed by a Depressive effect on Mood. Coffee in excess can make you feel tired and irritable. NO
Other links between food and Mood
Other studies on mood have shown an association between foods that contain Tryptophan and helping to stay calm. Tryptophan is converted to Serotonin in our bodies and Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in our nervous system that promotes calmness.
Foods that contain Tryptophan include Turkey, Chicken, Bananas, Milk, Oats, nuts and Cheese. YES
The Group B Vitamins are important in stress management and adequate thiamine (B1), folic Acid and B12 are thought to decrease anxiety and improve mood. YES
Foods rich in B vitamins include Beef, Pork, Chicken, Leafy greens, legumes, oranges rice, nuts and eggs. YES
Highly refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, white rice cause a surge in insulin levels which gives a rapid burst of energy but it is followed by a rapid drop in energy levels. NO
Wholegrain products such as whole wheat bread and brown rice take longer to break down in the body so they release sugar into our bloodstream more slowly which helps keep our blood sugar stable for longer. YES
Foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also thought to improve mood and also reduce our risk of Heart Attack. YES
High levels of Omega 3 are found in fatty fish such as Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Mackerel, Anchovies and Sardines. YES
Lean protein helps stimulate the production of Noradrenaline and Dopamine neurotransmitters which improve mental alertness and concentration ability. Good sources of lean protein are Fish, Lean Meat, Cheese, Eggs, Yoghurt, Nuts and Soy products. YES
A diet high in processed and fatty foods and refined sugar also increases the risk of developing Depression. NO