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Meet Patricia - Linking Mood with Food

March is Nutrition Month. We spoke to Patricia Borsato, a personal chef and author of the Mood Foodie Guide. She has worked with SSO in facilitating the Mood Food program that works to help people discover and understand food’s power to contribute to, and improve brain functioning. Patricia gives us tips on what foods to incorporate in to our diets and which ones to avoid to achieve better mental health. 

1. What made you interested in food and how food relates to mental health?

I really love food. I’m Italian, in my culture there is a lot of celebration around food. It’s always been something I’ve been interested in. Mental illness runs in my family, so when I was in culinary school learning about how food affects the body, I started to wonder if food could improve my anxiety. I started researching how food can affect mood and it was a big light bulb moment. I wanted to find out if food could give me optimal mental health since I had tried everything else except altering what I was putting in to my body.  Now I am passionate about sharing that knowledge with others. 

2. If someone is living with mental illness and wants to eat better, what are some simple steps they can take to get started?

The first step is to figure out your current relationship with food. Think about what you’re consuming from the minute you get up in the morning until you go to bed, write it all in a journal so you’re able to see any patterns. For example, you wake up in the morning and notice you’re anxious, what foods do you reach for? How do you feel after you eat? Do you like or dislike this feeling? It’s not about changing your current eating habits but understanding what is and isn’t working for you and figuring out the next steps. 

3. What do you find is the most difficult part of changing a diet?

The most difficult part of making changes to a diet is believing that you have to make a change in your diet. People are constantly told that you have to do certain things in order to feel better and no one wants to be told what to do. For me, I found that it was hard to give up certain foods that were part of my childhood, my Italian heritage and to give them up would be like betraying my grandma or my mom. Knowing that you have to make a change and resisting can be the hardest part. 

4. What are the top 3 foods people can add to improve their mood?

The brain is made up of three major components, fat, water and protein so if you want your brain to be revved up like an engine, it needs to be well oiled. The top three food categories that should be part of your diet are:

Fats – avocadoes, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and butter
Protein – sources like beans, quinoa or any kind of meats
Water – herbal teas, vegetables like zucchini which is made up of 90% water, broccoli, cucumbers, celery, carrots that have high water content

5. What are the top 3 foods we should avoid?

Processed food – anything that doesn’t come from the earth, anything in a box or a bag that includes additives and preservatives.
Refined foods – foods that have been altered in some way that have been boiled down, grinded down or stripped of their natural nutrients.
Refined sugar - we are exposed to natural sugars in moderation but refined sugars contain no vitamins or minerals

6. How have you seen food help your clients?

I’ve seen drastic changes from people. For a lot of them, just knowing that they have the power to make changes to their mind and body can be transforming. People email me saying the impact on their mental health is out of this world and they’ve also lost weight. It’s been really good to see.

Find out more about Patricia here.