While most of us know that what we eat can have a direct impact on our physical health, it is harder to imagine how the foods that we eat can influence our mental health. Nevertheless, because mental and physical health are so intrinsically linked, diet can indeed play a role in how healthy our minds are.
The Importance of a Good Diet for Mental Health
The food we eat can have a direct impact on how we feel. For example, if you are eating too many processed foods you are unlikely to be getting the nutrients your body needs for normal, healthy functioning.
The brain and body need a variety of foods to stay healthy. This includes a mix of food groups. Include healthy fats as well as fruits and vegetables in your diet as this will mean you are getting the nutrients you need. Eating regularly will help to prevent sugar spikes and drops. Keeping your blood sugar stable is important for mood and mental health.
While everyone has different reactions to foods, in general it is best to include foods such as fruit, vegetables, and wholegrain breads, pastas, and rice. This is because they are more likely to keep blood sugars stable.
Hydration is also particularly important for mental health as it can improve brain function and clarity. When you get dehydrated, you are more likely to struggle to concentrate, which can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
How Does Processed Food Affect Mental Health
Processed foods tend to have elevated levels of salt and sugar so eating too much of them can result in inflammation in the brain and body. This can then cause problems with mood. Processed foods tend to cause fatigue and lead to poor concentration and attention. They can also decrease reaction time.
Studies have found that consuming ultra-processed foods is linked to a higher risk for depressive symptoms. It is thought that as well as the excess salt and sugar that these foods contain, the processes used to make them include things like chemicals and emulsifiers. These can affect the gut and cause an imbalance in the brain. Those who have a diet high in ultra-processed foods are more likely to suffer with depression and anxiety.
Changing Your Diet
If you eat a lot of highly processed foods, then introducing more fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats can help. Processed foods are typically those that contain more than five different ingredients. Avoid regularly eating things like chips, candy, cakes, cookies, and ready meals.
You might find it difficult in the beginning as your body will be craving the sugary snacks and drinks. However, if you reach for healthy snacks when hunger strikes, the cravings will pass and your mental health will ultimately improve.
The experts at mental health consulting firm Horizon Health say that you should stay hydrated and avoid excess alcohol, as alcohol can have a harmful impact on mental health.
The Impact of Diet on Mental Health – Conclusion
If you have been struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression, it may be that your diet is to blame. If you cannot find a reason for these feelings, having a look at what you are consuming might provide some insight.
Most of us are not aware that what we eat can have a negative effect on not only our physical but also our mental health. By eating a diet high in processed foods, you could be increasing your risk of depressive symptoms. Try avoiding the junk and introducing healthier foods such as fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains into your diet and you might see a marked improvement in your symptoms.