Believe it or not, the food you eat actually has an impact on your mental health.
The first few bites of that overly sweet dessert (the one that has three layers of chocolate separated by a sugary cream and topped with more chocolate) we love so much are fantastic, savory, and leave us wanting more.
It is that “more” that seems to change how we feel.
Let’s take a closer look at these foods that impact your menbtal health.
5 Foods That Impact Your Mental Health
If we had just stopped at the first few bites we wouldn’t be feeling so full, so disappointed, so depressed.
It’s true. The foods we eat can take us from happy and content to tired and depressed. We have a huge boost of feel good chemicals to a crash of “why did I do that?”
Knowing which foods contribute most to our mental health can help you determine which foods you really need to be careful with and stick to eating them in moderation. No, you don’t have to eliminate these items from your diet, but you do have to be in control of what you eat.
Why does something so bad for you have to taste so good?
But sugar really is bad for both our physical and mental health when used in abundance.
It makes our blood sugar levels go up and down, which means it does a number on the dopamine chemicals in the brain. When you eat sugar, it boosts dopamine in the brain and triggers that “I feel good” signal. And you do feel good, until you crash. Then you start craving more sugar so you can feel good again. Sound a lot like addiction?
That’s because sugar is totally addictive. Inflammation in the body and the brain associated with the intake of sugar has been shown to decrease mental health. When there is a lot of inflammation in your system then all areas are irritated and not functioning properly. Eliminating sugar from your diet will increase the body’s ability and the brain’s ability to operate at its full potential.
Gluten is usually related to the gut only. Most people with gluten intolerances report intestinal problems or gastro-intestinal problems.
But if there is an imbalance in the gut, there is also an imbalance in the brain, says Dr. Zielinkski. Many reports suggest gluten can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders even in people who do not have gluten intolerance.
The reason is because gluten interferes with the reactors in the brain which cause us to be anxious or depressed. Limiting your gluten intake is easier than you think. There are many gluten-free foods being offered in groceries all over the country and even online.
Try substituting a little at a time rather than going cold turkey from gluten. This will also help your body make the adjustments it needs.
Many researchers talk about a gut-brain connection and claim that what hurts us in our guts hurts us in our brains.
Dairy has been proven to be one of those items. It has been shown to lead to depression and can even cause a mania and depression cycle that is similar to bipolar.
Anxiety has also been linked to the consumption of dairy products because people who are lactose intolerant, consuming dairy will irritate the gut and necessary calcium amounts are not consumed. A lack of or reduced amounts of calcium in the system can lead to anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.
Take Velveeta Cheese for example. It is a processed cheese product that is not actually cheese. That’s right. It’s a whole bunch of ingredients and some of them are hard to pronounce. There should never be that many ingredients in a product. Processed foods like this have been shown to increase mental health disorders when compared with those who did not eat processed foods.
The less processed a food is, the better. Choose fresh over processed.
Processed means preservatives that can lead to poor health. Poor health can lead to poor mental health. There are dozens of research studies connecting diet to mental health and none of them say eating processed foods is the way to go. Just being mindful of the ingredients in your foods can improve your awareness and help you make better food choices. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t buy it.
Ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant and left feelings like you had been drugged?
That may be due to the MSG (monosodium glutamate) that is used in many foods, not just Chinese, but it is mostly found in Asian dishes. It is actually a toxin that can cause health problems. And just because a label says the item does not have MSG in it, doesn’t mean MSG can’t be found within other ingredients. Very tricky.
Many manufacturers of foods hide ingredients within other ingredients.
Meaning, a food could still have MSG but it may be listed within the ingredients of “seasoned salt” rather than be listed as its own ingredient. And that is all within their legal rights. So it is up to you to read the ingredients and to read the ingredients within the ingredients.
Okay, so now that we have taken away sweets, processed foods, gluten and all of those yummy grains, MSG and even dairy, what is left?
I know you may be thinking not much is left but the opposite is true.
There are so many good things left to eat that actually improve your mental health.
Salmon and other fish have a lot of vitamin d and omega 3 fatty acids, which have been proven to reduce inflammation in the body. As we learned, inflammation in the body can lead to inflammation in the brain, leading to mental health disorders.
You don’t have to stay away from sweets and all of the other things you love.
But instead of buying them processed with the ability to sit on a shelf forever, make them from scratch yourself using fresh ingredients, not processed ingredients. Making foods from scratch do not include the chemical preservatives that are now being connected to poor health. While your foods made from scratch may not last more than a few days, you can still enjoy the foods you love but in a healthier way.
Now is the time to put your mental health first. Being aware of the foods that contribute to your overall well-being and to the ones that don’t is a great first start!