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3 Ways to Eat Your Way to Happiness

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

New research shows that a poor diet can affect your brain — so much so that part of your treatment for depression in the near future may be a consultation with a nutritionist, Forbes says.

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The latest information comes from a small trial with 67 people with depression. The individuals who changed their diets to include higher amounts of plant foods, fiber and healthy fats and proteins reported feeling happier.

It’s no secret that eating the right foods can give your mood a boost, as earlier research confirms your diet can have a pronounced effect on your mental health. And, it’s true that foods that promote good mental health do so by optimizing your gut microbiome, quelling inflammation, reversing insulin resistance and optimizing mitochondrial function.

In a sentence, what this tells us is that it’s entirely possible to eat your way to happiness. So how do you do this? Here are three keys to using food to change your mood — as well as your overall health:

1. Give up refined and processed foods, including sugar, right now — Research shows that a diet low in sugar and high in fresh vegetables and fruits can help reduce the risk of depression. On the flip side, it also shows that sugar, wheat (gluten) and processed foods have been linked to a greater risk for depression, anxiety and even suicide.

For example, in one study, men consuming more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years compared to those whose sugar consumption was less than 40 grams per day (which is still far higher than the 25 grams per day recommended for optimal health).

2. Load up on the fiber, and make sure some of that fiber comes from fermented veggies — Fiber and fermented foods have all kinds of health benefits, not the least of which is to help your gut microbiome get and stay healthy. Studies show that a compromised microbiome may even be the culprit in neuropsychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder.

It’s quite sobering to realize your diet can be so influential on your mental health, so the emphasis on fiber to “eat with your gut in mind” is something you should take seriously. You can augment your gut with foods like sauerkraut and kefir, as well as raw garlic, leeks, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes and bananas.

3. Choose healthy fats and a few other foods that boost your mood and metabolism — For example, dark chocolate, coffee, animal-based omega-3 fats and the anti-inflammatory spice turmeric (curcumin) all tend to boost your mood. One way to get you going in the right direction is to help your body learn how to burn fat for fuel, as you would with a ketogenic diet. Among the most important fats for brain function and mental health are those omega-3s.

Another thing to remember is that what you don’t eat may be more important than what you do eat. Indeed, while there are many “superfoods” known to lower inflammation, improve mitochondrial function and lower your risk of insulin resistance — all of which are factors implicated in depression — what you don’t eat may actually be more important than what you do eat.

Adding a few superfoods to an otherwise poor diet is unlikely to yield any significant results. So, it’s important to realize that unless you get the foundation right, it’s going to be a continuous uphill battle — and that means making a real effort to eat real foods and ditch the sugar and processed foods if you want to truly eat your way to happiness.

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