“As the food, so the mind; as the mind, so the thought;
as the thought, so the act”- Sai Baba
In recent years, the link between healthy eating and mental health has become quite popular. Knowing what foods should and should not be eating is totally confusing, especially if the advice seems to be changing all the time. However, evidence suggests that along with affecting our physical health, what we eat can also affect our emotions or mental well-being. In recent years, it has been shown that diet can help in the development, prevention and control of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders. Changes in dietary preferences in response to our temporary state of mental functioning - such as "comfortable eating" in times of low mood, or a change in diet from stress - are common in humans. In addition, the relationship between nutrition and chronic mental illness is compounded by barriers to healthy eating. These unequal barriers affect people with mental illness and include health and financial issues, as well as dietary effects affecting mental health.
From the Researcher's Eye:
Studies examine the effects of diet on gut microbiota (substances in the intestinal tract), neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change structure, wiring and functioning), oxidative stress (cellular injury) and chronic inflammation.(1) Indeed, epidemiological research has shown that adherence to healthy or Mediterranean diets - high consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes; moderate consumption of poultry, eggs, and dairy products; and only occasional consumption of red meat are associated with a reduced risk of depression. However, the nature of this relationship is complicated by the power of potential between food and mental health.(5)
A list of Healthy Habits:
A healthy diet can have a protective effect. In fact, many of us believe that nutritious food is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. Here are some positive changes you can make to improve your eating habits to support your mental health:
1. Eat regularly. Avoid foods that cause your blood sugar to rise and fall quickly, such as sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks, and alcohol. Choose a little refined products and eat whole grains more. When your blood sugar goes down you may feel tired, irritable and depressed. Regular eating and choosing low-energy foods will help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Instead of eating a large lunch and dinner, try eating small portions in small gaps throughout the day on regular basis. (4)
2. Add protein to each meal. In animal proteins, there is the essential amino acid tryptophan, which will help release serotonin (a neurotransmitter). It is a good hormone that will keep our emotions happy. It also helps to keep you full for a long time. (3) Sources of protein: lean meat(Chicken), fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soy products, nuts and seeds.
3. Vegetables and fruits contain many minerals, Vitamins and fiber we need eat to keep us healthy physically and mentally. Eating breakfast starts the day well. A variety of fruits and vegetables every day means that you will get a good range of nutrients. Fresh, frozen fruits, vegetables, cans, and juices (all calculated per day. As a general rule, one portion is about a small, small dish or small glass.(2)
4. Caring for Our Gut - Sometimes our gut can show how we feel. If you are stressed or anxious this can make your stomach move slower or faster. To digest healthy food you need a lot of fiber, fluids and regular exercise. Healthy foods in the gut include: fruits, vegetables and whole-grains, beans, pulses, organic yogurt and other probiotics. It can take your gut time to get used to the new eating pattern, so make small changes to give yourself time to adjust. If you feel stressed and think it affects your gut, try relaxation techniques or breathing exercises. (4)
5. Eat healthy fats - Our brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to stay healthy. So instead of prohibiting all fats, it is important to eat right one. Healthy fats are found in: fatty fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs. Try to avoid anything that is included in the list of 'transferable fats' or 'less hydrogenated oils' in the list of ingredients (like other store-bought cakes and biscuits). They can be tempting when you feel down, but these types of oils are not good for your mood or physical health over time. Include omega-3 rich foods, such as fatty fish, in your diet and achieve and maintain a healthy weight.(1)
6. Staying hydrated - If you do not drink enough fluids, you may find it difficult to concentrate. You may also start to feel bloated (which does not put anyone in a good position). It is recommended that you drink between 6 and 8 glasses per day (Except - for any type of illness). Water is a cheap and healthy way. Tea, coffee, juices and smoothies are all calculated in relation to your diet.(2)
7. Caffeine Management - Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but can also make you feel anxious and stressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it before bed), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop. If you are drinking tea, coffee or cola, try switching to decaffeinated versions. You can feel better very quickly if you drink a little caffeine or avoid it altogether. (3)
Good Food - Good Mood:
While a plate of fried oil or a spicy sugar may temporarily alleviate some discomfort, long-term happiness is rarely doled out at a drive-thru. Fortunately, there is plenty of food with proven emotional boosting benefits that can help you feel happier and healthier with every bite. So, before you get into the topic at the head of another value meal, add these foods that make you happy on your menu.
1. Beans are a magnesium-rich food that helps boost the happiness hormone, serotonin. These are rich in antioxidants and are loaded with other nutrients like iron, fiber, copper, zinc and potassium. (2)
2. It's hard to beat the amazing Beet. Beets contain betaine, which supports the production of serotonin in the brain, elevates your mood along the way. Beets also have a strong amount of folic acid in them, which stabilizes emotional and mental health, and enhances your happiness to enjoy it with every bite.(4)
3. Chamomile tea not only provides better sleep but also improves your mental performance during the day, too. Who hasn't felt a little worse for wear when they're running low on sleep.(5)
4. Red Wine is not only good for your heart health, but drinking a glass of red wine is associated with a reduced risk of depression. Red wine is also a good source of 'Resveratrol', a pigment found in grapes linked to the reduction of belly fat and improved mood.(1)
5. The delicious taste of Dark Chocolate is not the only reason why you feel warm and uncomfortable. The treatment of cocoa also gives you instant emotional boosting and concentration, and improves blood flow to your brain, helping you feel healthier and stronger. Cocoa flavonols can boost your cognitive performance, making it easier to keep killing it at work. Cocoa is the chocolate ingredient that does your body good, so pure dark chocolate is your best bet if you want the benefits of arousing emotions and to get rid of extra belly.(3) Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Make sure that when you indulge in your inner chocoholic, you opt for the best black chocolates.
6. Pumpkin seeds are like little cloths of happiness. It is one of the leading dietary sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps stimulate the production of serotonin in your brain. Tryptophan can also have a calming effect, making it easier to hit the hay at night and wake up feeling refreshed.(1)
7. Honey, unlike table sugar, it is rich in beneficial compounds such as quercetin and kaempferol that reduce inflammation, keep your brain healthy, and prevent depression. This taste has a very small effect on your blood sugar levels than normal sugar, so it will not send your body into fat storage mode as white sugar can do, or lead to other unpleasant sugar cracks that can make you feel like you are exhausted. Honey has antibacterial properties, which help you to prevent infections that can make you feel blue.(4)
8. Replace that sweet latte with a cup of Green Tea and you will be improving your physical and emotional health at the same time. Not only is it naturally occurring caffeine in green tea can give you energy, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, found in green tea has been linked to emotional development.(1)
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health conditions worldwide, making them the leading cause of disability. Even in the worst of cases, symptoms of depression and anxiety affect the well-being and function of a large number of people. Therefore, new approaches to managing both clinical findings and lower anxiety are needed. At the same time, it is important to remember that the causes of mental illness are many and varied, and they often present and insist on a balanced diet. Therefore, the increased understanding of potential connections between food and mental wellbeing should never be used to support automatic assumptions, or stigmatisation, about an individual’s dietary choices and their mental health. Indeed, such discrimination can be a real way to increase the risk of poor mental health. Creating environments and developing ways to promote healthy, nutritious foods, while reducing the consumption of well-processed and refined foods can provide benefits beyond the known physical effects, including improved mental well-being.
1. Yau YHC, Potenza MN. Stress and Eating Behaviors. Minerva endocrinologica. 2013;38(3):255-267.
2. Singh M. Mood, food, and obesity. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014;5:925. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00925.
3. Mujcic R, J Oswald A. Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. Am J Public Health. 2016 Aug;106(8):1504-10. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260.
4. You Are What You Eat: How Food Affects Your Mood. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. February 3, 2011. Accessed May 10, 2018.
5. Jun S Lai, Sarah Hiles, Alessandra Bisquera, Alexis J Hure, Mark McEvoy, John Attia; A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014;99(1):181–197