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E-motion: Food and Mood

Does what we eat impact our mental well-being?

I found two bumper stickers at the Stone Barns Harvest Festival a few weeks ago. One said, “WE ARE WHAT WE EAT.”  The other said, “WHO’S YOUR FARMER?”

Do you know your farmer? I think most of us here in Scarsdale more likely know the owner of our favorite local restaurant. We have some great places to eat. I tried out the Little Thai Kitchen this week. Maybe my decision was out of sympathy for it being stranded in the midst of the Popham Bridge construction.  Maybe it was because a friend recommended it as the best Thai food around.

The place wasn’t crowded. We were the only ones dining in. I started wondering about my friend’s recommendation. And then I realized we weren’t the only ones getting to eat their delicious food. This little place did a brisk take-out business, seemingly linked with the arrival of evening trains.   

I can’t say I know the farmer who grew the eggplant, peppers and basil in my meal, but they sure were delicious and fresh.

“WE ARE WHAT YOU EAT.” Think about that sticker’s message for a minute. It makes a lot of sense, but if you are like me, it’s not the main thing I’m thinking about when I sit down for a great meal. I do try to eat healthy foods though, and I hope you do too. We hear a lot about what foods are good and what foods are bad for our physical health, but less how foods connect to our mental health.

Growing up, I often heard, “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes.”  But, I never heard, “Eat your avocados, they’ll keep you happy.”  Could it be true that what we eat matters for our mental health as well as our physical health? Are food and mood connected?

Seems pretty clear the answer is yes.

I found a study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry about researchers who looked at this area of  food and mood. They studied what kind of food people eat and symptoms of depression. 

They found two different diet types in their study. One group had a pattern of eating whole foods (including plentiful vegetables, fruit, whole grains and fish).  The second group had a processed foods pattern (lots of sweets, fried food, food high in fat and heavily processed food). Can you guess which group had higher levels of depression? You guessed it, the one with the processed foods diet.

So, with the research in mind, let me remind you we have a great source of fresh food here in Scarsdale — our local farmers' market! It IS possible to “know your farmer!” The market is held May through November in the parking lot next to the train station taxi stand from 9-1:30 p.m. on Saturdays. And it’s held rain or shine!

You can find locally-produced fresh foods, including organic produce. The products are homegrown and homemade from around the Hudson Valley. Maybe shopping the farmer’s market is already on your weekly schedule. If not, consider adding it as a family or community event to your schedule. It’ll be fun, tasty and good for your mental well-being. 

National Food Day is Oct. 24, 2011. Check it out at http://www.foodday.org/why-eat-real/

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