Dr. Michael Greger has two videos that suggest some of the research behind plants' power to help stabilize our mood. In Improving Mood Through Diet, Dr. Greger explains that unlike animal products, plants have no arachidonic acid, a substance that produces inflammatory compounds. These compounds have been postulated to inflame our brain, contributing to stress, anxiety, and depression. In one study, those following a vegetarian diet reported significantly less mood variability than those eating a diet that included meat. In another video, Fighting the Blues with Greens, Dr. Greger shows research suggesting that plant foods contain phytonutrients which inhibit the enzyme associated with depression.
While scientists are still looking for the precise explanation of how plants help us deal with stress, historians can prove that it is possible for our health to improve even under extremely stressful circumstances. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., relates that Norwegian rates of heart disease plummeted when animal products were forcibly removed from their diet under the ravages of WWII. Dr. John McDougall explains that diet-related health conditions improved all over Western Europe during that time of extreme deprivation and stress. He notes that as meat and dairy products became unavailable--forcing the population to rely on starches--the "common diseases were vanishing." Although wartime privations can hardly be compared to the happy stress of our modern holiday season, the basic lesson here is that stress alone doesn't wreck our health; diet plays a significant role. A simple low-fat, whole-food plant-based diet can help our bodies cope with stressful periods of life.
When the stress starts building during this festive time of year, we should consider simplifying . . . and start with our dinner plate! As we eat simple, whole plant foods, free from added oil, we'll find an increase in our energy, mental clarity, and restful sleep. All of this will help our body's ability to handle stress. That's how plants say, "Happy Holidays!"