The saying “you are what you eat” is taking on a whole new dimension now that researchers are studying the correlation between food and mood. The link between what we eat and how we feel is now a proven fact, and scientists are starting to tease out exactly what the impact is of different dietary choices. Let’s look at some of the latest studies linking diet and mental health, and some of their ramifications as well.
Better Diet, Better Mood
In an article that was published in Utah News, eating fruits and vegetables was found to reduce one’s risk of depression by 11% according to one study. In comparison, those who ate more processed foods and consumed sugary drinks were at greater odds of being diagnosed with depression.
The DASH diet, in particular, was correlated with lower depression risk and weight loss. The Mediterranean diet is similar, and it is also correlated with a lower risk of depression. The study involving the DASH diet suggests that changes in diet could be as effective as medication to prevent depression. The results aren’t as clear when it comes to consuming more omega 3 fatty acids or minerals like selenium and zinc. The role of fiber in regulating mood is also unknown.
Studies have found that a diet high in calories and/or saturated fats is correlated with depression. However, it isn’t a matter of avoiding specific foods. Instead, studies have found that any diet high in legumes, fruits, and vegetables led to a lower risk of depression.
A greater variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes was actually found to be more effective than stricter diets. It isn’t clear if the greater variety of foods ensured that people received a sufficient amount of nutrients like ascorbic acid and magnesium or other factors were involved. Studies did find that the benefits of the healthier diet were universal – you could see these benefits regardless of age or sex, so it isn’t too late to start eating healthily.
The Stress-Food Connection
When you’re stressed, your body craves sugar to provide a quick source of energy. The end result is that people who are stressed eat more sweets, and they may over-eat those sweet treats in an effort to feel better. This is called emotional eating or stress eating.
Mindfulness has been found to be a solution to emotional eating. By learning to eat slowly without distraction, people were less likely to binge eat or engage in emotional eating.
Diet and Mental Health
While mental illnesses are not caused by your diet, your diet can impact your mental health. For example, those with schizophrenia are at greater odds of developing diabetes. A 2014 study of students in New Zealand found that poor mental health was associated with a low-quality diet, which can lead to a vicious cycle. Poor diet can contribute to poor mental health and poor mental health could make it harder to eat well.
There is no doubt that a healthy diet contributes to a healthy mental state, and a poor diet certainly contributes to problems like depression. It’s clear that our food habits have an undeniable effect on every aspect of our lives.
I DO feel better mentally when I eat good for my body. Part of it, I think, is I know I am doing good for me. I definitely feel less sluggish.ReplyDelete