A poor diet can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause health problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, and many more issues. But did you know that your diet can affect your mood? The old saying “you are what you eat” is true in more than one way. After we eat foods that are unhealthier for us we typically “feel bad” both physically and emotionally. This seems to be especially true for women. You might have even said to yourself, “I shouldn’t have eaten that.”
Eating unhealthy foods is okay in moderation, and food should be a pleasure. However, there is no reason healthier foods can’t be enjoyable too. Food may also affect mental health status in some ways. Diets typically high in fat,(especially fried foods) sugar, or calories, can cause people to feel tired or sluggish, can cause headaches or a general sense of “feeling down.”
Depression is common and serious, and like any other illness, it should be taken seriously. Give it the urgency of care that you would provide for physical pain. While diet or supplements cannot treat mental illnesses such as depression, border personality, anxiety, etc., they can help deal with underlying issues.
Getting help is very important, and there should not be a stigma around any mental illness. Make sure you consult with your doctor.
Nutrients are food for our brain.
The brain controls the body, so we need to fuel it for success. Eating a variety of healthy foods such as an assortment of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low- fat dairy, healthy fats, and whole grains are an excellent way for our brains to get the nutrients it needs. Cravings may also be due to changes in mood. When we are stressed, we typically want carbohydrate-rich foods. This is because carbohydrates help the brain release serotonin, a hormone that helps make us happy and has a calming effect. Eat healthy carbs because they are the primary fuel source for the body. Protein foods help to increase alertness by increasing hormones tyrosine and dopamine. Eating a variety of all foods helps the brain have plenty of nutrients to nourish it.
Specific deficiencies can contribute to depression, and these should be addressed with your physician. Thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency can lead to weakness, depression, and irritability. Foods with high amounts of thiamin are legumes, fortified grains, and seeds. It also helps to maintain the supply of energy for muscles and nerves. Folate (vitamin B9) helps to support the production of red blood cells. A deficiency in this can lead to depression, fatigue, poor sleep and a reduced ability to concentrate. You can find folate in legumes, fortified grains, and dark leafy greens. Do not start any dietary supplement without discussing it with your physician, and remember, getting vitamins from the food we eat should be the first choice.
There have been exciting findings with depression and timing of meals and snacks. Rates of depression are higher in people who restrict food frequently or skip meals. Ideally, space your meals and snacks about every 3-4 hours. Try a balanced, healthy meal or snack with foods you enjoy, and pay attention to how it makes you feel afterward.
Need ideas? Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for different healthy recipes and resources for the whole family.