Most people know that what a person eats has an impact on their physical health. What sometimes gets forgotten is the impact food has on a person's mental health and overall wellbeing. Choosing the right foods and taking care to avoid less than healthy foods can have a huge impact on how you feel.
Eating more than your recommended intake of calories can lead to you being overweight. This is easily done when eating foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional benefits. Sugary and fatty foods are the biggest culprits. You know the sort of thing: donuts, chips, ice cream and cakes. Unfortunately, being overweight puts a person at a greater risk of developing depression. A person with depression feels down all of the time and has a sense of hopelessness. Depression is also prevalent in people with Type 2 diabetes. It is believed that Type 2 diabetes doubles a person's chances of developing depression. Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition which a person is at risk of developing if they are overweight or obese and eat an unhealthy diet.
Having said that being overweight increases a person's chance of being depressed, there has also been found a link between being depressed and later becoming overweight. However, by choosing certain foods you can reduce your risk of both developing depression and becoming overweight. Foods that are good for our physical health are also good for our mental wellbeing.
Aim for a balanced diet that does not restrict any food group. Cutting carbohydrates is not a good idea as it is likely they help produce serotonin a chemical in the brain that helps boost mood and increases resilience. Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found people on a low carbohydrate diet experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those on a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. Other foods found to increase serotonin levels include: nuts, tofu, garlic and capsicum. These foods are also high in zinc and magnesium and feelings of depression and anxiety can arise if you are deficient in these nutrients.
If you want to eat yourself happy, try to eat whole foods. Whole foods are food items that have not been processed or refined. Consider things like nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit and vegetables. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found people who ate whole foods over the previous year reported fewer feelings of depression compared to people who ate more refined foods.
Eating foods that contain folate can improve mood. Such foods include spinach, beans and citrus. Spinach and citrus are also high in vitamin C, which can help protect your immune system during times of stress. In fact fruit and vegetables generally are a source of antioxidants which can reduce the risk of depression and decrease stress. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants. However, it is high in fat so needs to be eaten in moderation.
Remember to enjoy your food, think carefully about your food choices and know it is benefiting both your mind and your body.