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The Impact of Diet on Mental Health

Yes, food really does affect your mood.

When you think about what effects your mental health, the typical answers are stress, self-esteem, and relationship issues, to name but a few, however, we often underestimate the impact that food has on our mental health. When you consider the science behind it and the growing evidence that food has a greater effect on our mental health than we give credit for, I think we could all check what we are fuelling our bodies with.

There is no doubt that what we eat has an impact on our mental health, this link has been proven repeatedly. A review of studies looking into the issue of diet and mental health found that regular consumption of a Western diet (a diet consisting of highly processed and sugary foods) increased the risk of depression (O’Neil et al., 2014). Moreover, a poor diet is proven to impact biological mechanisms that are commonly associated with depression such as impacting the immune system and altering the levels of certain brain proteins potentially leading to depressive symptoms (O’Neil et al., 2014). This further strengthens the link between diet and mental health.

Moreover, some of the factors that contribute to poor mental health, such as stress, have been proven to influence food preferences. For example, a study by Kandiah, Yake, and Meyer (2006) found that when participants were not exposed to stress they made healthy dietary choices 80% of the time compared to when participants were exposed to stress, which they made healthy food choices only 33% of the time. This highlights an issue, the fact that something like stress can lead to poor mental health, yet when we experience stress we tend to eat unhealthier options, also negatively impacting our mental health. Therefore, healthier dietary choices could break this cycle as evidenced by Ansari, Adetunji, and Oskrochi (2014) who found that when fruit and vegetables weren’t consumed on a regular basis, there was a greater association with experiencing more depressive symptoms for both males and females.

Although there is little research on a diet that has been proven to reduce the likelihood of depressive symptoms and promote better mental health, there have been studies conducted on specific foods. For example, the following foods have all been linked to better mental health when in their raw form; carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit (Brookie, Best & Conner, 2018).

I hope you found this an interesting read,

Jazzy B ❤

References:

Kandiah, J., Yake, M., & Meyer, M. (2006). Stress influences appetite and comfort food preferences in college women.  Nutrition Research, 28(1), 118-123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2005.11.010 

Ansari, W.E, Adetunji, H., Oskrochi, R. (2014). Food and mental health: Relationship between food and perceived stress and depressive symptoms among university students in the United Kingdom. Central European Journal of Public Health, 22(2), 90-97.

O’Neil, A., Quirk, S.E., Houseden, S., Brennan, S.L., Williams, L.J., Pasco, J.A., Berk, M., & Jacka, F.N.(2014). Relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: A Systematic Review. The American Journal of Public Health, 104(10).

Brookie, K.L., Best, G.I., Conner, T.S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1). doi: https://doaj.org/article/956172bb66c747b1a3efbf9a4a4d9023

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