Most of us have felt elated when we eat great food. When some of us are feeling depressed we turn to great food (often junk) that helps elevate our mood and makes us feel happy. The same goes for sweets. For example, a slice of chocolate cake or a doughnut makes us feel elated. However, if experts are to be believed, the momentary ‘rush’ that sugar provides is short-lived.
For the longest time, scientists, health, and fitness experts have tried to understand the effects of what we eat on our physical bodies. This understanding has negated the effects that food has on the human brain. This disconnect makes us believe that our mental health (brain) is not a part of the body. This is a misconception that needs to be changed as soon as possible.
In this resource, we are going to examine the linkages and connections between what we eat and how it affects our mental health. This will help us shed light on many aspects related to understanding stresses, anxieties, depression and even eating disorders. For a more comprehensive understanding of eating disorders, please visit website for more details.
Food and Mood: Understanding the Science behind it all
Did you know that medical science considers your gastrointestinal tract as your ‘second brain’?
Now let us come to the part that helps us understand how food affects the human mood.
The GI Tract contains billions of bacteria that help in digestion and processing food that we eat. The bacteria in the GI Tract emits neurotransmitters that travel all the way from our gut to the brain.
Science says that when you eat something healthy, think of leafy vegetables, fruits, lean protein, etc. the bacteria send healthy and positive signals to your brain.
On the other hand, when you eat a lot of sweets or junk food items, the production does not happen. Rather, what you get is inflammation, that prevents these positive signals.
The brain on receiving the positive signals immediately starts producing happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which in turn starts influencing your emotions and feelings.
Sugary items and junk food on the other hand do not result in any hormone production. This is why if your normal and healthy diet goes for a toss, you can see its results on your mood. Specifically, you experience mood swings, irritability and are cranky most of the time.
Which Food Items you should make a part of your Healthy Life?
Now let us get one thing straight. Changing food habits is not as easy as it sounds. This is why most of us tend to miss our New Year resolutions of eating healthy, cutting down on sugary carbonated drinks, and fast food.
However, if you are willing to put in the effort, this section will help you identify food items that can help you stay positive, focussed, and happy-
1. Food that is Natural and Real-
First things first. While this is something that should’ve been commonsensical, the fact of the matter is, that it is not. Almost all the food that we eat is processed, contains artificial preservatives, colors, and other toxins. Nutritionists point out that individuals should try to eat as many fresh and natural food items as possible. Go organic if you can manage and afford to.
2. Food that contains Antioxidants-
As human beings, our attempt should be to eat food items that help promote our body’s natural defense mechanisms. One way to do that is to consume food items that are rich in antioxidants. You can go for a lot of leafy green vegetables, turmeric, different types of berries, as well as fish that is rich in Omega 3. This will help provide your body with the necessary balance.
3. Food that is rich in Magnesium-
Firstly, what is magnesium good for? Well, magnesium helps to improve muscle and nerve function. It has been found to aid proper heart health. A deficiency of magnesium in the body can result in the onset of anxiety. Some credible sources of magnesium that you should look to eat are dry fruits like cashews, almonds, as well as dark chocolate, beans, and fruits like bananas.
4. Food that has Fibre-
Most of us know that fiber-rich food items are great for our digestion systems. However, they are great for something else. Medical experts point out that fiber-rich food items are great in absorbing sugar from your body. This prevents the sudden sugar rush that you experience. Fruits, grains, vegetables, and beans are all good and credible sources of fiber-rich food items.
5. Food that helps with Vitamin D-
Lastly, while we know that sun and sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D, there are food items like mushrooms that can help us with our requirements for the same. One reason why every doctor tends to give Vitamin D supplements is that it is a natural ingredient that boosts Serotonin levels. Make sure that as you start getting older, you get enough Vitamin D.
Stress, Depression and Food Intake
If you have seen any weight loss programs on TLC, you might recount how all the obese candidates on the show would gorge on junk food and sugar items.
While the same made them extremely fat (from a physical standpoint), it also affected their mental health and their willingness to live.
How does our brain react when we eat fast food and sugar?
You need to know that when you eat any of the items, the same results in causing inflammation. This inflammation takes place all over your body, we well as the brain.
When the brain suffers from inflammation, it is unable to produce natural hormones. Positive hormones counter feelings like anxiety, stress, and depression.
Whenever we are depressed, we mostly tend to cut down on our food (undereat) or overcompensate (overeat). When we eat less, the food is not able to help us with enough energy. This in turn makes you feel tired and fatigued.
When we overeat repeatedly, we gain weight, feel slow and force our body’s digestive system to overwork and stretch. This is the major relationship between mental health and food.
The Bottom Line
Eating is all about habit. If you have an unhealthy food habit, it will be more difficult to break than you might want to imagine. Conversely, if you want to start eating healthy, the same will take a lot of effort, commitment, and discipline.
Make sure that you are increasing the intake of vegetables and fruits in your everyday diet. Additionally, you also need to work on staying hydrated throughout the day and removing toxins from your body. Healthy eating starts to show on your body, as well as the mind.