A recent study in BMC Medicine has found that changing your diet could significantly improve your mood. The link between food and mood is part of an emerging field of psychiatry called “nutritional psychiatry.” There is growing scientific evidence that what we eat significantly impacts our emotions and well-being.
The randomized, controlled study of 67 participants examined the impact of dietary changes on depression. Researchers provided seven individual nutritional counseling sessions over a 12-week period, encouraging changes in diet through techniques that included motivational interviewing, goal setting, and mindful eating. The group that made changes to their diet had a significantly greater improvement in their depression.
The dietary guidelines recommended 12 key food groups (serving sizes listed):
- Whole grains (5-8 servings per day)
- Vegetables (6 servings per day)
- Fruit (3 servings per day)
- Legumes (3-4 servings per week)
- Low-fat, unsweetened dairy (2-3 servings per day)
- Raw and unsalted nuts (1 serving per day)
- Fish (at least 2 servings per week)
- Lean red meats (3-4 servings per week)
- Chicken (2-3 servings per week)
- Eggs (up to 6 per week)
- Olive oil (3 tbsp per day)
Participants in the diet were told to avoid or reduce these:
- Sweet refined cereals
- Fried food
- Processed meats
- Sugary drinks, soda (no more than 3 per week)
The exact mechanism for how a healthier diet can improve mood continues to be the focus of current research. One hypothesis is that foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats are linked to higher levels of chronic inflammation.
This study focused on people who did not eat healthily to begin with, so changes in mood may not be as significant for those who already eat fairly healthily. Regardless, making healthy nutritional changes can be a useful tool to improve your mood as well as your physical health.
For specific foods to eat, see my previous post on top foods to improve your mood.
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