What we eat affects us not only in physical ways, but mentally too. On the flip side, how we are feeling mentally can sometimes affect our eating habits as well. As such, understanding how food and depression are linked helps us make wise, conscious decisions about what we consume, leading us to better all-around health.
Foods to Avoid
While there aren’t foods that necessarily cause or prevent a mental health condition, there are definitely some foods that can lead to or exacerbate feelings of depression. For example, foods that are high in sugar or are highly processed can create a glucose rush that creates feelings of energy. However, these feelings quickly subside, leading to a “crash” or feelings of fatigue and even depression. Furthermore, one study in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that people who regularly consume fast food are 51% more likely to develop depression than those who don’t.
Caffeine can act in a similar way, as it can often cause feelings of high energy followed by a crash. It also interrupts sleep patterns which can lead to feelings of irritability, anxiety and moodiness. Alcohol can also have detrimental effects on mental health since it is a depressant. This means that it interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain that cause you to feel down or sad.
For these reasons, it’s ideal to avoid highly processed food, food containing large amounts of sugar, alcohol and caffeine as much as possible and to instead fill your diet with healthier options.
Foods to Eat
Nutrient deficiencies can also create low moods and feelings of depression. So what foods should we eat to boost our mood rather than deflate it? While we often feel that we should avoid eating excess amounts of carbohydrates, research shows that carbs can actually create serotonin in our brains, a neurotransmitter that contributes to positivity and happiness. Therefore, rather than avoiding carbs altogether, choose ones that are complex (like whole grains) and partner them with nutrient-high foods like fruits and vegetables.
If you have consulted a healthcare provider and found that you are Vitamin D deficient, consider implementing this mood-boosting vitamin into your diet. Although you can get Vitamin D from the sun, food that are rich in this vitamin include fortified milk, salmon, canned tuna and egg yolks.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another super nutrient to incorporate into your diet as researchers have recently found that individuals deficient of Omega-3 fatty acids are more prone to depression. Consuming foods such as fish, flaxseed and nuts can all help you meet your quota.
Eating Habits and Depression
Food and depression are also linked in how depression can affect an individual’s eating habits. First of all, food might be used as a source of comfort; those struggling with depression may eat more or eat unhealthy foods to avoid negative feelings of sadness, guilt or shame.
On the other hand, some people living with depression might find that they have no appetite, are unable eat and end up unintentionally losing weight. This can result in increased sensitivity and drastic emotions.
It’s important to be conscious of the foods we are putting into our bodies. Not only do our food and beverage choices impact us physically, but they impact us mentally and emotionally as well. By better understanding the ways that your eating habits affect you, you will be able to make heart and head-healthy choices in the future.
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