There is a powerful link between what we eat and the way we feel. The type of food we eat can have an influential effect on our emotions. We have a firm grasp on `we are what we eat' but science is only just turning its head towards understanding that our food can affect our mood.
Whilst researching for this book I spoke to many people, friends, colleagues, family, etc., of whom at least 70 per cent said,
Do you really think that the two are linked?' orSurely food can't make you feel depressed - surely not?' The idea that food and mood, but particularly depression, are linked is met with reticence and disbelief, but the figures that are coming out prove otherwise.
From my own personal experience, I know that when I have a day of bad-mood food: a picnic (which may include crisps and other salty foods, barbeques and white bread with not much fibre and lots of sugary snacks), or food `on the run' (sandwich and a coffee), or by grabbing a processed meal and throwing it in the oven, I can feel depressed, down and miserable the following day. Conversely, when I have a day of balanced meals, wholesome, loving foods and little or no sugar, I will feel great the following day - fully alive, buoyant and with a spring in my step.
For decades so much advice from the experts has covered eating healthily for general good health, especially for the heart and obesity, but there is little informed data pointing towards a diet to make you feel happy. Yet the World Health Organisation states that by 2020, on current trends, depression will become the number one health problem, overtaking heart disease and obesity. The British Medical Association reports that 10 per cent of the population in the UK are depressed at any one time and that's just according to the numbers of people who register with the doctor for antidepressants. There has been a 253 per cent rise in antidepressant prescribing in the last 10 years yet, according to a paper published in the British Medical Journal in July 2005, placebos can be as effective as antidepressants in some cases. The question is: where else can we look to find a way to beat depression?
Food, like a lover's touch, can comfort and seduce us. Paradise is a perfect meal, shared with those we love, preferably whilst lazing under a leafy shade on a warm summer's day. Food is traditionally the way the matriarch of the family feeds us, making us feel loved and cherished and even improve our eyesight (no need for costly eye laser surgery . Some of our happiest memories are meals shared with family and friends; adults laughing and children playing around a table laden with our favourite foods. The very thought can stimulate those feeling-good emotions.
The current understanding about the happiness/food connection starts with the `emotional chemicals' and how they affect the brain. The very act of eating food gives us the right brain chemicals that make us feel warm and satisfied. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Their function is to send messages from one nerve cell to another within the brain and they influence thought, functions and feelings. These chemicals are made in the brain from the food we eat and are highly sensitive to the type of foods that are eaten. In fact, they get all their nutrients from the food we eat, so if we don't eat the right foods, our brain can't help but underperform.