Food, stress and depression

dessert backStress, anxiety, memory loss, depression… These conditions are all linked to an unhealthy lifestyle and a bad diet. It’s well-known that junk food is bad for the body and the heart, and it has been proven to have a disastrous effect on the brain.

By junk food, I don’t necessarily mean McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. In the same category you’ll find chocolate bars, ready meals, industrial bread, white pasta, salad dressing, everything that is labelled ‘low-fat’ or ‘sugar free’, industrial fruit juices, margarine, sports drinks, processed so-called organic food, breakfast cereal, cake, …. the list is endless!

Junk food affects the central nervous system, leading to feelings of irritability, restlessness, low blood sugar and emptiness. A study has shown that junk food eaters were almost 60% more likely to suffer from depression than people who have a healthier diet.


Because these types of food contain zero vitamins, nutrients and dietary fibres; and because they contain too much fat, too much sugar and/or too much salt. To add insult to injury, they are filled with chemicals – the kinds that make you want to eat even more of them! Thank you, food industry.

Ironically, a chocolate bar or a big dish of pasta is what we’ll tend to eat to pick us up when we feel low. Wrong, wrong and wrong; it’s only a short-term illusion! Most people don’t realise the damage this type of ‘comfort food’ can cause to their mental health – and of course, the food industry isn’t going to advertise it.

Do you want to know what else can lead to stress and depression?

  • Too much caffeine
  • Too much red meat
  • Fizzy, sugary drinks
  • Sweeteners such as aspartame (there is strong evidence that aspartame reduces serotonin levels – the happy hormone – in the brain)
  • A lack of the right kind of carbs (so the same way, low-carb diets are very bad for you)

So if you are inclined towards feeling stressed, irritable or depressed …. why don’t you change what’s on your plate?

Here is what you need more of :

  • Omega-3: Oily fish such (salmon, sardines, mackerel), avocados, cashew, walnuts, spinach, chia seeds
  • B vitamin: Eggs, green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains
  • Amino acid to boost your serotonin levels: Watercress, pumpkin, leafy greens, chia seeds, soybeans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, figs, raisins, quinoa and wheat.
  • Wholesome food: Just fill your plate with vegetables, grains and beans! There is no secret, really.
  • Green tea: It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients.

Proteins and Serotonin, a crucial mix to boost your mood.

Have you ever heard about serotonin? Long story short, it’s a mood stabiliser, it also helps bodily functions, such as eating, digesting and sleeping. When your serotonin levels are normal you feel happier, calmer, more focused, and more emotionally stable. On the other hand, research have shown that serotonin deficiency is linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia (serotonin helps producing melatonin, the sleeping hormone).

Serotonin isn’t found in foods though – that’d be too easy right? But what you can do is combining foods high in tryptophan  and healthy carbs, so you can get a good serotonin boost.

Foods high in tryptophan are: nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. And for the meat eaters : red meat, chicken, and turkey.

And for the record, exercising is also key in fighting stress and depression. I’ll come back to that later… but in the meantime keep it in mind!

Does Mens sana in corpore sano, ring a bell?

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