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Let’s keep it real, many of us are stressed and many of us have way more time on our hands than normal due to quarantine lockdown-- as a result, many of us are eating for sport. If you are one of the many people stress-eating, you might want to know that most “comfort foods” while temporary appeasing may, in fact, be leading to higher levels of stress. Don’t worry this isn’t a long diatribe demonizing you eating that whole bag of chips in one sitting (we’ve all done it before) but a guide into incorporating more foods in your diet that will help your day to day mood. It’s especially important now to ensure your spirits are up not only to stay sane but because your mood actually influences your immune response.

There are many factors that influence our mood like our environment (which is probably pretty limited right now), our jobs (which we may not have much control over right now), but one of the biggest contributing factors is something you have control-- what you eat! Did you know your brain alone is responsible for consuming about 20% of your calories? With this in mind, (see what I did there ;) ) you should do your best consume with intention. Our brain loves fat! But before you kill that carton of ice cream make sure you’re getting the right fats. 


Eddie Murphy The Nutty Professor GIF - EddieMurphy TheNuttyProfessor StressEating GIFs


Not all fats are created equal. Omega-3 fat sources like chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, wild rice, spinach, berries, and seaweeds some of the best snacks, in fact, studies have shown that they can be more effective than conventional antidepressants like fluoxetine than combatting depression and increasing serotonin levels (the compound responsible for happiness in our brains) [1]. Omega-6s like avocado, peanut butter, and Tofu are not as effective in boosting mood, but and definitely better trans fats and unsaturated fats. Fat sources like refined carbohydrates (sugary foods, processed breads, and fast foods) have been shown to increase the likelihood of developing depression [2]. If you just have to have something sweet opt for some dark chocolate, it will improve your mood in the moment without bringing you down later. 


Other Mood Boosters

After “good fats”, foods containing Vitamin D are instrumental in keeping serotonin levels at optimal levels. We normally get most of our vitamin D from the sun, so you’ll definitely want to incorporate foods like maitake or portobello mushrooms or even a vitamin D supplement until “we outside” again. According to a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a regular intake of B vitamins can also fight symptoms of depression [3]. Nori (edible seaweed), shitake mushrooms, and nutritional yeast are great options for plant-based Vitamin B sources. 


Social Distance Away From These Foods!

We’ve all heard “you are what you eat”, but more specifically we feel like what we eat, and guess how you’ll feel when you eat like crap…? It’s ok to indulge from time to time, live your best life; however if you want to have the best mood you should avoid the following foods as much as you can. Soda and energy drinks are the worst things to consume if you’re having trouble keeping your mood up. In fact, an Australian study found that those who drink more than half a liter of soda per day had a 60% higher risk of developing depression and even were more prone to develop suicide thoughts [4]. Another mood-altering food to watch out for is red meat, especially meat that is not free-range and contains high amounts of hormones. A diet heavy in red meat can double your likelihood of developing depression and increase anxiety levels [5]. Let’s be real, we all probably need or at least want a drink right now and in moderation a little wine can improve mood. Buttt if you’re turning up every day or you’ve done the #seeashottakeashot challenge for days you almost certainly felt the effects to your mood. Excess alcohol or using alcohol to cope can create many mood-related issues like depression, and even bipolar disorder [6]. 

The main takeaway from this is to consciously make healthier swaps in your snacks and keep your consumption in balance. Don’t judge yourself too much for your choices right now, we’re all going through it but if you notice you’re feeling down the first place to focus is your diet--as it's in your control. Stay happy, stay healthy, stay smiling!

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[1]Huang, Q., Liu, H., Suzuki, K., Ma, S., & Liu, C. (2019). Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and Depression. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 8(9), 376.

[2]Gangwisch, J. E., Hale, L., Garcia, L., Malaspina, D., Opler, M. G., Payne, M. E., Rossom, R. C., & Lane, D. (2015). High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women's Health Initiative. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 102(2), 454–463.

[3] Skarupski, K. A., Tangney, C., Li, H., Ouyang, B., Evans, D. A., & Morris, M. C. (2010). Longitudinal association of vitamin B-6, folate, and vitamin B-12 with depressive symptoms among older adults over time. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 92(2), 330–335.

[4] Shi, Z., Ruel, G., Dal Grande, E., Pilkington, R., & Taylor, A. W. (2015). Soft drink consumption and multimorbidity among adults. Clinical nutrition ESPEN, 10(2), e71–e76.

[5] Jacka, F. N., Pasco, J. A., Williams, L. J., Mann, N., Hodge, A., Brazionis, L., & Berk, M. (2012). Red meat consumption and mood and anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 81(3), 196–198.


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