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Nutritional Psychiatry - Can Plant Based Foods Beat Stress?

Your brain is working hard, 24/7, even while you sleep. It powers your thoughts, movements, breathing, heartbeat and dreams; and just like any other engine, your brain needs fuel to keep working. It makes sense therefore that the quality of that fuel can affect your brains performance.

Unfortunately, just like a car, if you put inferior fuel in, you can damage your brains performance. Processed food and diets high in refined sugar produce oxidative stress. For example, multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function, and a worsening of mood disorders such as depression.

You’ve probably heard about free radicals – produced when the body uses oxygen, they damage cells and are the root cause of many chronic health problems, ageing and disease.

A good diet can nourish the brain just like a premium fuel protects a car’s engine, providing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants are our main line of defence from free radicals, and we get
them primarily from a diet high in a broad spectrum of fruit and vegetables.

How Do the Foods You Eat Affect Your Mood?

What you eat can impact your mental health and mood in several ways. Two of the main methods of action involve blood sugar levels and serotonin production.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate sleep patterns, appetite and mood. 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract; so your digestive system isn’t only digesting food, it’s playing a role in guiding your emotional state also.

From a blood sugar perspective, if you are eating foods that release glucose too quickly into the blood stream, the body produces an amount of insulin to quickly push excess glucose into muscle and fat cells. This leaves you with a dip in blood sugar that can make you feel lethargic and irritable.

So, What Can You Eat to Feel Happier and More Energised?

One food group that helps to boost serotonin production AND help to keep your blood sugar stable could hold the key…fibre.

Complex carbohydrates that contain soluble fibre, such as those in plant based foods, can slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and increase serotonin levels.

Most of us don’t eat enough fibre. In 2015 the government published new guidelines recommending that the populations fibre intake to 30g per to adults. In 2012-14 our average daily intake was only around 20g, so we’ve got some work to do! Try adding some of these top high fibre foods to your diet; Oats, beans, pears, peas, lentils, artichokes, broccoli, raspberries, blackberries, avocado, bran flakes.

In Season This Month…

Carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, beetroot, rocket, spinach, swede, pumpkins, cabbage, onions, kale, apples and pears.