You’ve probably heard the expression “you are what you eat” a number of times before. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that if you eat apple pie for every meal, you’ll actually turn into a scrumptious slice of the fruity tart—Sorry! Instead, the phrase is meant to suggest that the food you eat has a bearing on your state of mind and health.
And although the platitude may have grown “stale” by now (no pun intended), it’s no myth! Studies have shown that what you’re putting inside your body can really impact your state of mind. That’s why it’s so important, whoever you are and whatever your background, to feed yourself the nutrients that your body needs to function at its best.
This advice is even more beneficial to those who struggle to regulate their moods. In people with mental disorders, the food you eat might have a greater effect on your mood than you think. Think about it like this: If your brain is deprived of nutrients, or if free radicals or damaging inflammatory cells are circulating the brain, it makes sense that the diet would have some pretty major consequences for your mental health.
In fact, the foods you consume can play a major role in increasing the frequency, depth, and duration of depression or anxiety attacks. If you grapple with mental health problems, or even if you’re just feeling generally downcast, eliminate the following foods from your diet ASAP!
Diets high in refined sugars are harmful to the brain. This includes not only the obvious sweets but also your favorite processed foods, like white bread, cereal and pasta.
Sugary foods are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. This process may cause an initial ‘high’ or energy boost, but its effects will soon wear off (as the body produces insulin) and it’ll leave you feeling tired and down. On top of that, researchers have found that when blood glucose levels are elevated, levels of a protein that encourages the growth of neurons and synapses drops. That means that eating sugar messes up your brain and has some unpleasant repercussions.
Sorry, but these fellas are no better. Aspartame, a common ingredient found in diet products, blocks the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In the brain, serotonin impacts levels of mood, anxiety, and happiness; so it comes as no surprise that it may be linked to mental illnesses.
You might’ve already heard that alcohol is a depressant. But what does that really mean? Well, a few different things. Alcohol can lower your levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which help regulate mood. Alcohol also temporarily cuts off the effects of stress hormones, which impairs the brain and nervous system. And if that’s not enough, alcohol disrupts sleep, which is connected to mental well-being and alters thought processes.
According to a study published in PLOS ONE, consuming artery-clogging trans fats can increase your risk of depression by as much as 48 percent. Trans fat is especially prevalent in fried foods. Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially contribute to depression.
Watch out for saturated fats, found in animal products such as deli meats, high-fat dairy, butter, etc. They can clog arteries and prevent blood flow to the brain, which might trigger poor mental health.
Caffeine does all sorts of wacky things to the brain. First off, the caffeine in your coffee, soda and tea have a disruptive effect on sleep, making it more difficult to go to bed and to stay asleep. Dysfunctional sleep can really harm your mental state. On top of that, caffeine is the worst for an anxious brain. Small amounts of the stimulant might cause a slew of nerve-wracking side effects. Caffeine can also worsen the absorption of key mood-balancing nutrients, like vitamins B and D.
Even though soy is packed with protein, it’s also filled with trypsin and protease inhibitors—enzymes that make the digestion of important nutrients for mental wellness difficult. Soy is also high in copper, a mineral linked to anxious behavior.
Now that we’ve ruled out all the good things in life, you might be wondering what you can eat for good mental health. Instead of reaching for the grub we’ve named in this article, opt for foods rich in selenium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin B, zinc, and protein. You’ll be shocked at what a difference healthy living will make in your mood!