Why porridge oats are a great mood food and can ease symptoms of depression

‘You are what you eat’ is a familiar cliché but what does it mean?

Food and cooking has become a passion, a pass time, a luxury, something we indulge in, obsess about and even avoid. When people plan their weekly meals, they might consider the effects of their choice on their weight, on their finances, the convenience and of course the pleasure they’ll derive from eating it.  But rarely will they consider the affect the food has on their own mood, overall health and well being.

This is a mistake as many physical and emotional health benefits are derived from food and if we fail to consume the foods that are essential for maintaining our basic body functions, then quite simply we will malfunction.
Our immune systems will be affected and we become more susceptible to disease, infection and poor mental health.

We probably take better care of our cars with regard to what we put into them, than we do our own bodies. Yet the principle is the same. We need to ensure that we what we consume ensures optimal performance and care.

There are many foods that offer great health benefits but one food which is particularly effective in easing the symptoms of depression and maintaining a balanced mood is porridge made from oats.

Depression is an ever increasing problem with at least 1 in 4 people experiencing some form of depression at least once in their lifetime. Often depression follows a major life event that is traumatic, such as death, divorce loss of employment, debt. But that’s not always the case.

The symptoms of depression can be wide ranging, from loss of appetite to eating excessively, with disturbed sleep patterns, feelings of hopelessness, being tearful, feeling detached and so on.

These symptoms can also result from being deficient in vital vitamins and minerals and as such a diagnosis of depression might be made when in fact the problem relates to our diet.

Porridge oats are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals that are known to effect how we feel. These include: zinc, vitamin B6, iron, folic acid, calcium and magnesium to name a few.

It is reported that a single serving of porridge oats (approx 156g) contains 41% of the required daily required intake of zinc.

If the body is deficient in zinc, it can lead to loss of appetite, tiredness and subsequent feelings of depression. Certain other foods affect how zinc is absorbed by the body. These are caffeine, fizzy drinks, chocolate and even large amounts of bran.

Porridge also contains vitamins B5 and B6 which along with other B-complex vitamins promote mental and emotional well-being. We cannot store B complex vitamins in our bodies and so a daily intake via food is vital.

Vitamin B6 is believed to promote the production of serotonin which is a chemical released by the brain thought to regulate mood. If Serotonin production is low, in turn we might feel low. If Serotonin production is high this might induce feelings of well-being and a more relaxed state which can aid sleep.

Porridge oats are also a complex carbohydrate with high amounts of soluble fibre. This results in a slow energy release avoiding the highs and lows that can result from eating other foods with a fast energy release.

Bananas are another slow releasing complex carbohydrate with high levels of vitamin B6 so if you were to have porridge made from milk with mashed bananas before bedtime, this would provide an excellent sleep inducing night time snack.

Meanwhile, porridge oats for breakfast is a great way to start the day.