When we make healthy food choices, we feel accomplished knowing that our bodies are benefiting from our decision. But did you know that our mental health is also equally as effected by the foods we eat? Studies have found that the severity and duration of depression may be affected by nutrition. Poor appetite, skipping meals and eating lots of sugar-laden foods were found to be risk factors for depression. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have also been linked to multiple mental health issues, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.
These findings are hardly surprising, given that your brain accounts for roughly 20% of the calories consumed by your body on a daily basis. We often forget that the brain is an organ, just like the rest of our organs. Your heart, lungs and liver all require the appropriate fuel to function efficiently. Without this fuel, problems such as heart disease, liver disease and respiratory problems can arise. The same is true for your brain.
A neurotransmitter is a chemical that carries messages around the brain and body. Serotonin is an important chemical that helps regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Serotonin is produced in the stomach and as such is highly sensitive to what is ingested into the body. Research has found that individuals who take bacterial supplements containing good bacteria (probiotics) had lower anxiety and stress levels. You may have also heard the saying that fish is considered “brain food”. Fish contains omega-3, which helps lower your risk of depression, dementia and heart disease.
Unfortunately, unhealthy foods can also effect brain functioning and influence mental well-being. This means that there’s some bad news for coffee drinkers! Although there are benefits to drinking coffee and tea, there is a relationship between caffeine intake and anxiety. The same goes for alcohol, which can act as a depressant and increase feelings of anxiety and irritability.
Remember, moderation is key to physical and mental health. By ensuring to maintain a healthy balance between healthy food, snacks and exercise, you can still treat yourself!
Written by Shane MacSweeney