You Are What You Eat – How Different Foods Affect Your Mental State by Megan Earp

Food. We all love it. From McDonald’s French fries to gooey, cheesy pizza, we all imbibe (overly) on these delicious concoctions. But, did you know that the very food you eat (and love) can actually negatively impact your mental health?

Some foods are linked to depression and anxiety

Research shows that foods that are highly processed or packed full of sugar can cause a person to feel depressed or even anxious. The food that is consumed directly impacts the brain and the body, causing negative reactions.

Poor nutrition has been linked to the increase in depression and anxiety, and the following five foods (though there are more) are the source:

  • Gluten – Gluten causes inflammation and a recent study has suggested that it can cause adverse effects and can lead to depression. Gluten has also been linked to seizures, headaches, anxiety, nerve damage, ADHD (symptoms), as well as 200 other conditions.
  • Dairy – who doesn’t love ice cream or a nice, cool glass of milk? But, did you know that dairy (in some people) can actually cause depression? It is actually one of the top reported problematic foods.
  • Fried Foods – though delicious, fried foods can actually increase your risk of depression and anxiety. Studies have proven that the “Western” diet, which is high in saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids, has actually been a risk factor in the development of depression.
  • Sugar – Sugar is highly problematic, not just for depression and anxiety, but also heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. In the American diet, sugar can be found in almost every food item, from Ketchup to milk and more. Looking at labels for the sugar content is imperative, and it can, in fact, impact your mental health greatly. Depression is, according to research, predicted to become the leading cause of disability in high income countries by 2030.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine is another substance that can impact your mental health. Coffee, tea, pop, and other products with caffeine have a negative impact on your brain. Caffeine is also highly addictive and when consumption stops, it can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, shaking, and sweating. Caffeine, according to research, suggests that caffeine can immediately facilitate the release of serotonin and dopaminergic transmission – these two chemicals contribute to depression. Also, caffeine is known to increase anxiety in individuals who already have a pre-existing diagnosis.

These foods/products have been proven to cause reactions to mental health and people who suffer from various diagnoses have been encouraged to limit their intake or to eliminate it all together.

The American diet has been criticized many times, stating that it’s a “carnival mirror” where everything is backwards. Red meat and fatty foods take center stage while the good food, like vegetables, fruit, and whole grains are sitting in the wings, left out. Again, the American diet is full of sugar, salt, caffeine, and even cholesterol. It’s no wonder depression and anxiety are on the rise. We are what we eat – it’s that simple.

Which foods can help combat depression and anxiety?

So, how can we go to war against the average American diet? It’s simple, increase the good food, decrease the bad food. Here is a list of the good food that you should be consuming daily, and foods that are known to help combat depression and anxiety:

  • Omega-3 – The American diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon, herring, sardines, seaweed, and more. These fatty acids have been shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, and others.
  • Whole Grains – Complex carbohydrates release glucose slowly and can help a person to feel fuller for longer and provides fuel for the brain. These can be found in oats, wild rice, beans, and more.
  • Lean Protein – Protein helps to produce serotonin, which is “nature’s Prozac” and allows the body to communicate effectively with the rest of the body. Lean protein can be fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and beans. These proteins have been known to help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Leafy Greens – As Popeye said, “They’s nothin’ like spinach to give a man strength.” This is totally true, as spinach can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other leafy greens are romaine lettuce, broccoli, and turnips. These foods can also help with insomnia, fatigue, and more.
  • Berries – Nature’s candy! Berries are good because they contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants that are needed. They include fiber, potassium, and digestive enzymes. Berries are quite versatile and can be used yogurts, cereal, or smoothies! Berries include mulberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.

There are many more foods that can help to boost your mental health, but the bottomline is that, you are what you eat. A healthy diet can do wonders in combating symptoms from all ranges of disease. Taking the time to look at labels and ingest foods that are good for you will be imperative for your mental health. So slow down when you are that store, look at labels, and purchase foods that are good for you and your body (and mind) will thank you. And remember some foods are linked to depression.

For more information, or for someone to talk to if you are feeling down, please contact us or call us on 8888701775.

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