If we were aware of how everything we eat affects our mental health , perhaps then we would make better choices and buy those foods that help us feel better. What’s more, we would probably put aside habits that harm us and, little by little, we would introduce those that do us good. It’s not about eating “miracle” or “superpower” foods. This does not work like this, since no food by itself can prevent depression nor are there any that cause it. What’s more, the diet, by itself, will not make your mood positive. But if you generally eat well, healthy, exercise, take care of yourself, etc., you are adopting habits that contribute to being well. Of course, you can also indulge yourself from time to time, because that also gives us mental health. Dr. Xavier Fàbregas , a psychiatrist specializing in addictions and mental health, and medical director of Mas Ferriol, talks to us about how dietary habits influence our psyche. Diet affects Your Mood and Mental Health
How does diet affect mental health?
It must be clear that there is a relationship between food and mental health. For example, there are unbalanced diets that could lead to neurological problems. Nonetheless, our weight obsession leads to eating disorders.
So, they are linked to a body image issue that causes diets and bad eating to avoid weight gain.
There are also restrictive diets that have proven to be good for combing diseases…
There are diets that restrict some group of nutrients, such as the ketogenic diet, and which are thought to help treat some disorders, such as epilepsy . It’s unclear if this works.
Research has been done, but it hasn’t been verified or done with enough scientific rigor to suggest that deleting a food component or making a modification can make a major difference.
In any case, it’s a topic that needs additional research.
Can sugary foods make ADHD symptoms worse?
We know that there is a greater tendency of patients suffering from this disorder to sugary drinks, in the sense that it is probably a brain that is overactive, that needs more energy, and the glucose that we get from sugar is the most direct way . We could say that by taking sugary products, the ‘engine’ is kept running. But there is no evidence that it worsens the symptoms, rather it is probably a consequence. What is true is that if you give less energy to a hyperactive person, you can also reduce the risk of lack of control. Therefore, reducing sugar in the diets for children with ADHD can be a good measure, in this sense, but it does not mean that they have to be restricted one hundred percent, but to ensure that they do not eat only this type of product.
Are there foods or ways of eating that prevent depression or anxiety?
There are some substances, such as chocolate, that have components that can help a little to elevate the mood. Therefore, we tend to eat those foods when we feel bad. For several reasons: We get a reward because chewing on something nice reduces anxiety a bit . When a smoker quits, they eat more, often excessively, to relieve withdrawal anxiety.
Hence, while quitting smoking, choose low-calorie snacks, sugar-free sweets, and vegetables to avoid overeating when anxiety surges.
But, sweets like chocolate aid us on bad days.
After a breakup, we can enjoy ice cream boats, but we shouldn’t consume solely them. In small doses, nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, which are rich in Omega 3, can also be beneficial. They can also be beneficial to prevent depression , but they should be eaten in large quantities. They are supplements, but in themselves, they are not sufficiently effective treatments.
On the contrary, are there diets that cause it?
When a person goes on a diet, it is likely that they have a problem with their body image . The diet plan seems to be the only way to reverse this discomfort effect with our own body. If not advised by an expert, these diets are often unbalanced to get to summer or fit into that wedding suit in a month.
These diets damage our mood because we continually feel “punished” and afraid of failing to lose weight. Hence, frustration can aggravate discomfort.
Body image concerns need holistic treatment.
And ultra-processed foods, do they have any implications?
Diet and mental health:
The gut produces 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in depression, anxiety, and inflammation.
Hence, anything that inflames the digestive tract reduces serotonin, which might cause or maintain melancholy or anxious thoughts. We know that ultra-processed foods, cause inflammation in the intestine and, therefore, reduce the ability to generate, transport and dispose of these levels of serotonin.For this reason, it is crucial to stress the necessity of avoiding or decreasing refined foods and choosing simpler ones. The more real and natural they are, the less they will affect the reduction of serotonin in our body.
In conclusion, how should we eat to take care of our mental health?
The Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy, protects against several cancers and diabetes, and is the best for mental health. It is a diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, oily fish and a lower consumption of red meat. But we should not just limit ourselves to understanding the Mediterranean diet as a set of foods that we consume, but rather as a way of eating, since it is more of a lifestyle in which social relationships are strengthened around a table. This social contact combats very important aspects for mental health, such as loneliness and isolation.Welcoming family, friends, employees, or neighbors requires cleaning the house, decorating the table, cooking delicious food, and getting ready, which increases self-esteem and mental health. Diet affects Your Mood and Mental Health