Understanding the links between your food and mood

Hey! I’m Jo and I’ve just joined the Prodo team within the Operations department, looking at new initiatives across the business from HR to health and safety. I have a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and up until now, I’ve been working as a registered NHS dietitian for over seven years. 

Being a dietitian means everything from helping people develop better relationships with their body and food to giving the clearest, scientific advice to those with health conditions that need to be managed by diet. It's a varied role which is extremely rewarding, and my aim is always to support and guide anyone that wants my input.

Given the exceptional circumstances we’re all in right now, I thought it would be helpful to share some information on the links between our mind and our connection to food. We’re all in a crazy situation, whether working extra long hours as a key worker or learning to adapt to remote - so it's normal that our diets and mental wellbeing are being impacted!

The links between your food and moodImage source: Unsplash

 

The Facts

Are diet and depression linked? Can one directly affect the other?

The jury, and scientists are still out on that one! 

What we do know is that general dietary habits and mood are often linked. Think about the cravings some of us have for fatty or sweet foods after a hard day, or that others may neglect to eat properly when they are stressed. These are facts that we can all relate to in some part!

What is also important to remember is that our physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Therefore if your body isn’t in great condition it can impact on your mental health in a multitude of ways. 

Poor body image can be driven by choosing unhealthy foods which could cause weight gain, guilt or complexion problems. 

Lack of energy or essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre can lead to deficiencies that could make you feel lethargic, washed out, forgetful or irritable. Likewise, you may develop potentially serious symptoms or problems such as digestive abnormalities or clinical anaemia, all of which won’t help you to mentally feel your best.

 

What to do to get Back on Track

Carbohydrates - these give us our energy and regulate blood glucose, so include carbohydrates with every meal. These should fill ¼ to ⅓ of your plate. Choose less refined, more nutritious and fibre packed options such as wholemeal or wholewheat bread, pasta or cereals, unprocessed potatoes and brown or wild rice.

Vitamins and Minerals - these are essential for the smooth running of the body, so try to meet your daily requirements. The easiest way of doing this is to have a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, fortified cereals or drinks, meat, fish, dairy products or meat alternatives and legumes such as lentils or beans. In the winter you may wish to take a Vitamin D supplement. There are also some helpful hints to help with absorption such as taking citrus fruits and avoiding milk when consuming iron rich foods.

Caffeine - can be counterproductive when taken in high quantities, so keep your caffeine intake to a moderate amount and try not to consume it in the evening if it prevents you from sleeping.

Comfort Eating - although there is no scientific link between consuming large amounts of sugary or carbohydrate rich foods and a lift in mood, there is a little room for a treat in everyone’s diet. Sometimes it may just make us feel a little better. Be careful though, and limit yourself to small, periodical treats - remembering to eat a healthy balanced diet for the most part. (Family or sharing size treats are a nono unfortunately)

 

References:
Harvard Women's Health Watch, Food and mood: Is there a connection? Here's what the research says about diet and depression. Harvard Health Publishing. June, 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/food-and-mood-is-there-a-connection

Food and mood: Food Fact Sheet, The Association of British Dietitians. August 2017. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/food-facts-food-and-mood.html

Jo Denizalti
Jo Denizalti

Business Operations Specialist