Have you ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat?” This might typically make someone think in the terms of how their body is affected by different foods, but it absolutely applies to how the mind is affected, as well. Food is so crucial not only to our physical health, but our mental health, too. If the sustenance that we put in our bodies is less than ideal, then that will certainly manifest in how we feel.
While there are a ton of factors involved when it comes to conditions such as anxiety and depression, one’s diet can undoubtedly be one of those factors. If you do find yourself struggling with such conditions, The Southlake, TX psychiatry team at Dr. Messina & Associates is trained with the best means of overcoming depression and anxiety so that you do not have to take it on alone. We are going to go in-depth in today’s article about the connection between food and the effect it can have on mental health, so keep reading to find out more.
As we have just stated, the food someone eats can definitely play a part in the overall quality of their mental health. The brain never stops working, and it needs consistent fuel to not only allow us to do our normal day-to-day functions, but also all of the functions that are keeping us alive that we do not even typically think about. If we are regularly consuming meals that are high in vitamins and minerals, our brains thank us for it in many ways. Most of us have likely been in the position after a week (or more) of less than perfect eating habits where we ended up feeling bogged down and not ourselves in several ways. This is a clear example of how the foods we eat affect the state of our minds, and why many begin to crave foods that are high in nutritional value after a period of not eating the most beneficial cuisine.
Eating unhealthy foods that are heavily processed, high in fat, high in sugar, and just generally not very nutritious will deteriorate any individual’s state of mind after enough time. Food that is high in sugar and saturated fat plays an inflammatory role in the brain and can therefore cause it to function in a way that is not ideal. The food that is heavily processed typically creates a spike in our blood sugar levels and a momentary sense of satisfaction. It becomes a vicious cycle, and it makes our brains dependent on eating this way. Existing anxiety and depression can worsen as time passes, which will likely make one even less motivated to consume the nutrient-dense food that is needed to function optimally.
There have been studies done that correlate diets that are well-balanced in their vegetable, fruit, fish, nut, and legume content to lower the severity of depression symptoms in individuals. The connection between the health of the gut and the brain is also being studied a lot more extensively now, as it is believed that there is even more of an association among these two
entities than was once thought. While the food we eat can directly affect how our brain performs, the state of our mind can affect how well our digestive systems operate, too. The brain and digestive system have quite the symbiotic relationship that we are discovering more about every day.
While every individual is different, there are several things that are great to consume for a more positive mental health state. As it was mentioned earlier, diets that consist of things like fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, grains, legumes, and unsaturated fats have shown to have the best correlation with how well one feels mentally. Antioxidants also play a huge role in the health of the brain. There are numerous types of food and supplements that have shown to benefit our brains the most, such as:
We have known for a while now that omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon, certain seeds, or as supplements, play a huge role in the brain’s functionality. We are not able to produce omega-3 on our own, and it is essential for our survival. Omega-3 fatty acids are able to protect the brain from oxidative damage and keep it running smoothly.
Food such as beans and lentils are high in protein and fiber, which is fantastic fuel for our precious brains. These items are extremely beneficial to our digestive tracts, making them some of the best possible foods to consume.
Our brains run on complex carbohydrates, quite literally. Food such as brown rice, quinoa, and certain vegetables like potatoes are perfect when it comes to fueling the brain and satiating hunger that will have a longer-lasting effect than highly processed and fatty foods or snacks.
While all vegetables are wonderful for the body and mind, leafy greens are especially ideal. Greens such as kale and spinach are very high in antioxidants, something that gets rid of free radicals in the body and reduces the negative effects and inflammation that they generate.
Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt are high in their probiotic content, therefore being superb at keeping the gut microbiome in tip-top shape. We know there is some sort of connection between the brain and stomach, so it only makes sense that the best foods for the digestive system are great for brain function, too.
It is no surprise that the quality of food that is consumed can affect one’s mental health, but still so many do not make the connection and continue to neglect this very important aspect of life. If you find yourself struggling with severe anxiety or depression, see if changing up your diet has any benefits, and definitely reach out to a trusted mental health professional that can assist you in working through these conditions and can help you along the healing journey.
Dr. Messina & Associates specializes in anxiety and depression in children, adolescents, and adults and continues to provide psychological and psychiatric services in-person and online.