The idea that what we eat and drink has a direct impact on our mood is not a new one. An emerging area of study is nutritional therapy that explores the relationship or connection between brains and guts. While studies are still in their emergent stages, two key areas of research, as identified by Rachel Kelly and Alice Macintosh, are around healthy fats, the omega-3s and healthy microbiome or our gut flora.
Kelly and Macintosh's work led them to devise a list of 10 rules to shape dietary behaviour and help with mental health:
Eat mostly plants. Veggies and legumes are nutrient and fibre rich.
Use plenty of herbs and spices. Particularly turmeric and saffron — the rules aren't called "golden" for nothing.
Go nuts! Kelly points to research that says nuts help with your mood. (And the play on words is irresistible.)
Eating for your gut. That is, managing the bacterial balance in your stomach and intestines — keep that second brain happy and healthy.
Fats are your friend. Healthy fats, like the aforementioned omega-3s, are thought to have a positive influence on parts of the brain linked to depression.
Getting the right balance of protein. Kelly suggests that we throw our lot in with good proteins like fish and lean meat and avoid highly processed meat products.
Avoid sweeteners and additives. Again, highly processed food has been linked to poor mental health.
Keep an eye on your blood sugar. This has all kinds of benefits and is never remiss.
Vary your diet. The average Western diet consists of around 20 ingredients, whereas ancestral humans probably ate more like 150.
Relax and enjoy. We can't forget the benefits of eating as a social and recreational activity — there's a reason pretty much every culture focuses their celebrations around food.
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