Mood Food – can food really have an effect on your mood or even make you happy?
We often associate certain foods with pleasure, think of your favourite chocolate bar or dessert. However, these positive effects are most likely due to the immediate sensory pleasure and emotional associations or memories linked to that food. In fact, a group of researchers found that a mood boost following eating chocolate lasted for only 3 minutes.
So, whilst we should avoid many processed foods and refined sugars for a short term energy or happiness. There is evidence that eating a healthy, well-balanced diet may lead to a long-term improvement in mood.
A study on young adults showed that eating an extra 2 portions of fruit and vegetables for just 2 weeks experienced improved psychological well-being.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Research has also shown that it can lead to improved mood and a reduced risk of depression. At the other end of the spectrum diets high in sugar, salty snacks, processed and fried foods have been associated with worsening symptoms of depression.
The Mediterranean diet is a well-balanced eating plan with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains and lean protein. You reduce your intake of processed, fried and sugary foods.
So while there’s no specific superfood that will make you happy or improve cognition if you eat it once. There are lots of nutritious ingredients that have been shown to have a positive impact on mood and brain function.
- Salmon is rich in omega-3 and has been shown to the lower risk of depression.
- Dark Leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts and chickpeas contain magnesium, which can boost serotonin, the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for happiness and well-being.
- Zinc deficiency has been linked with depression so include foods high in this mineral such as beans, chickpeas and cashew nuts.
- Blueberries are high in antioxidants and are an important part of the MIND diet. This is an offshoot of the Mediterranean diet shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
And finally, some good news for chocolate lovers!
Although too much sugar has a negative impact on psychological well-being there is some evidence that a small amount of dark chocolate or antioxidant rich cocoa can have a positive effect on your mood!