Even if they are soothing, the high-fat, sugary meals that we frequently want when we are anxious or depressed may not be the best for our mental health.
Your sense of wellness and your mood may both be enhanced by eating well, which entails maintaining a balanced diet rich in vegetables and minerals.
The Science of Food and Emotion
The intimate connection between your brain and gastrointestinal tract, sometimes referred to as the "second brain," is what causes the link between nutrition and emotions.
This is how it goes: Millions of bacteria reside in your GI tract, which has an impact on the creation of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that continually convey information from the gut to the brain. (Two prevalent examples are dopamine and serotonin.)
Consuming nutritious food encourages the growth of "good" bacteria, which in turn has a favorable impact on the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
On the other hand, a consistent diet of junk food might result in inflammation that reduces production. Your brain gets these encouraging messages clearly when neurotransmitter production is strong, and your emotions are a reflection of that. However, if your output is off, your mood might suffer as well.
In particular, sugar is thought to be a key cause of inflammation and also feeds "bad" bacteria in the GI tract. Contrarily, it can also result in a brief rise in "feel-good" neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is harmful to your health. The end effect is a brief sugar high that is quickly followed by a drop in "that's awful for your mood."
In recent years, while individuals all across the world struggled with heightened levels of stress, despair, and anxiety, many ate their favourite comfort foods, like ice cream, croissants, pizza, and hamburgers. Although they may appear soothing, research conducted recently shows that the high-fat, sugar-filled foods we frequently want when we are anxious or sad are unlikely to be good for our mental health. It may be best to stick to whole foods like vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and fermented foods like yoghurt.
One of the most serious public health issues is the spread of processed foods in society. These diets train the brain to choose high-fibre and high-sugar meals over nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables.
We consume a lot of highly addictive processed foods that trigger the dopamine reward and pleasure-related brain areas. You must stop eating unhealthy foods if you want to stop yearning for them. When you eliminate added sugar and processed carbohydrates from your diet, you begin to change the physiology of your brain.
You'll experience fewer mood swings, a more positive outlook overall, and improved attention if you maintain a diet rich in healthy foods.
According to studies, having a balanced diet may even help to reduce the impact of anxiety and depression symptoms. Unhealthy eating habits have been related to a higher risk of dementia or stroke.
Foods That Promote Good Health
What should you order and place on your plate? Here is a brief guide to what to look for when you visit the grocery store next. When eating, you should try to get a combination.
Some research suggests that preservatives, food coloring, and other chemicals may contribute to or exacerbate depression and hyperactivity. According to Sarah Jacobs, holistic nutritional consultant and co-founder of The Wellness Project, "if you have one thing to remember, it's to eat genuine food," which is food that has been minimally processed and has a few good components. Consider wholesome fruits and veggies.
Contrary to sweets, which raise dopamine levels, this specific B vitamin helps make dopamine. It is present in leafy greens, lentils, and cantaloupes.
Your body absorbs glucose, or dietary sugars, more gradually when you consume plant-based foods, which helps reduce sugar spikes and crashes. Fibre-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and carbs that are high in nutrients, such as whole grains and legumes.
Berries, leafy green vegetables, turmeric, and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and black chia seeds, may have particularly high amounts of these anti-inflammatory substances. Dark chocolate has sugar and antioxidants as well, so consume it in moderation.
Probiotics, live bacteria that are good for the digestive tract, are abundant in fermented meals. Examples include kombucha, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. (These foods are also rich in salt; if you have high blood pressure, consume them in moderation or avoid them.)
Serotonin synthesis is aided by vitamin D, which we typically obtain through sun exposure. Mushrooms, particularly reishi, cordyceps, and maitake, are an additional good source. Your doctor could also advise taking a supplement if you are vitamin D deficient. Members of Aetna may be eligible for savings on supplements; specifics are available in your plan's benefits.)
This vital element supports healthy neuron and muscle function as well as the preservation of a constant heartbeat. However, it is also significant in terms of the relationship between diet and mood: a deficiency in minerals can have an impact on your gut flora and cause you to feel anxious and depressed. It is advisable to buy a lot of organic foods like bananas, beans, nuts, spinach, almonds, cashews, dark chocolate, and cacao nibs.
You may feel better if you eat healthily. You don't have to drastically alter your diet, but you might want to give some of these suggestions a shot.
- Eat often. This prevents your blood sugar from decreasing, which would otherwise leave you sluggish and irritable.
- Continue to consume. Even a little dehydration can hurt your mood, energy level, and concentration.
- Consume fat at the appropriate levels. If you want your brain to function optimally, you must consume healthy fats. They can be found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, seeds, oily seafood, avocados, milk, and eggs, among other things. Trans fats should be avoided since they may be harmful to your heart and mood. They are commonly found in cooked or processed meals.
- Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They provide the vitamins and minerals that your body and brain require to function properly.
- Protein should be a part of every meal. It includes an amino acid your brain uses to assist with mood regulation.
- Take care of your stomach's health. Your digestion may act as a mood indicator; if you're nervous, it may speed up or slow down. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and probiotics are all beneficial digestive foods.
- Be aware of how caffeine may alter your mood. When used soon before bed, it may cause sleep disruption, and some users report feeling disturbed and worried. Coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and chocolate are all high in caffeine.
Sharing meals with other people
There are several psychological, social, and biological benefits to sharing meals with others. They provide us with a sense of routine and rhythm in our lives, a chance to reflect on the day, and a sense of belonging. In biological terms, eating while sitting upright promotes digestion. When we talk and listen, we slow down, which encourages us to eat more slowly.
You may have an eating problem if you believe that you are using food as a bad coping method for emotional discomfort or as a means to feel in control.
One way to enhance your mental health is by eating well. Other suggestions include maintaining an active lifestyle, taking advantage of nature, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, and establishing restful sleep patterns.