How Diet Affects Mental Health

How Diet Affects Your Mental Health When you think of diet and nutrition it is most commonly associated with physical health but recent studies show a link between a poor diet, defined as one high in processed foods and sugars, and symptoms of depression.

It has also been found that foods high in sugar and fat contribute to addictive eating. Both sugar and fat trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain that addictive drugs do. We have a tendency to overeat these types of foods, especially during times of high stress, to incite that same pleasure center.

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The “Western Diet”

Researchers are beginning to find evidence that this type of diet could also have an impact on the mental health of adolescents, as well. When comparing teenagers who ate a typical Western diet, one high in fat and sugar, to those who didn’t, there was an 80 percent increase in the presence of depression in the Western diet group. They also found that the risk of an Attention-Deficit Disorder doubles in the same group.


The Developing Brain

The research on how diet affects your mental health is still relatively new; however, some important trends have been identified. We have come to understand the importance of a healthy diet on the developing brain. Staying away from processed foods can help the brain flourish into making strong connections that it needs to thrive. There is also an understanding that certain vitamins have a role in creating optimal brain growth. Vitamins such as omega-3s and zinc bolster a protein in the brain that is linked to increasing connections in brain cells. Also, good bacteria are critical to the health of your brain and may contribute to your mental state. A probiotic enriched diet lines the gut with healthy bacteria that, in turn, reduces inflammation and may improve mood and cognition. Low-sugar and probiotic enriched diets are also promoted as part of the treatment in schizophrenia to reduce its symptoms.


Optimize Your Diet

To optimize your diet to improve your mental health, it is important to look for foods that include zinc, B-vitamins, Omega-3s, and iron. All of these vitamins and nutrients play an important role in promoting mental health and helping to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The overall findings from researchers have overwhelmingly proven that a diet that is high in sugar and unhealthy fats can negatively affect our mental health.


Looking for more information? Here are a few studies you can dive into…

Source: Miller,Kelli.2015.”Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health?” (update: Aug 20, 2015; accessed: Jul. 7, 2019).

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