In a 2010 study, researchers compared 60 vegetarians to 78 omnivores, giving them questionnaires that assessed their mood. They found that vegetarians scored better. A larger study, this one including 620 people following vegan diets reported less anxiety and stress, compared with omnivores or lacto-ovo vegetarians.
In a Spanish study there seemed to be a particular benefit from fruits, nuts, and beans. People eating these foods were less likely to lapse into depression. Similar findings came from a meta-analysis of four prior studies examining a Mediterranean diet pattern. It was associated with about one-third less risk of depression, compared with more omnivorous diets.
In a study of approximately 50,000 individuals in the United Kingdom, those consuming more vegetables and fruits reported substantially better mental well-being and life satisfaction. Other studies have shown similar results: there is something about a plant-rich diet that seems to improve mood and reduce the risk of falling into depression.
Dairy products contain casomorphins-mild opiates that are released as milk is digested. Casein is the main protein in milk. If you could look at it under a powerful microscope, it would look like a string of beads each “bead” is an amino acid. As casein breaks down in your digestive tract, individual “beads” are released into your bloodstream. But casein also releases short strings of “beads” each string is made up of just a few amino acids. They, too, pass into your blood and reach the brain, where they attach to the same receptors that heroin or morphine attach to. These are casomorphins.
That is right. Milk contains traces of opiates. Presumably, mother nature built these traces into cow’s milk as a way of calming the calf. However, in adult humans, they may have some untoward effect.
How could shifting to a plant-based diet be a mood-booster? One way may relate to inflammation. Inflammation affects more than your joints. When tennis star Venus Williams developed Sjogren’s Syndrome, and autoimmune inflammatory condition causing fatigue, chronic pain, and other symptoms, she threw out all animal products and used an entirely plant-based diet to tackle the disease and get her career back on track.
Foods for better Moods
- Avoid animal products. You will want to avoid meats, dairy products, and eggs.
- Favor high-fiber foods. That means beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Keeps oils low. It pays to use non-oil cooking methods, like steaming and baking, and to use oil-free dressings on salads.
- Have plant-protein-rich foods, like tofu, tempeh, or beans, especially at breakfast.
- Avoid sugar and chocolate. For many people, these foods seem to lead to irritability and depressed mood.